The Record-Review – The official newspaper of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

 

Governor signs redistricting legislation amid ‘gerrymandering’ charges

By DON HEPPNER
Proposed redistricting map of the newly created 37th State Senate District.
 

The final redistricting lines for the New York State Assembly and Senate have been drawn and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the legislation on March 15. Area residents will become part of new congressional, state Senate and Assembly districts.

The towns of Bedford and Pound Ridge remain together in the newly formed 18th Congressional District, served by Republican Nan Hayworth in what had been the 19th Congressional District.

The nonprofit, nonpartisan group Common Cause New York said that it was pleased to see that the special master included many of its suggestions for congressional redistricting. “The master accomplished in days what the Legislature could not do in months,” Alexis Grinell, spokesperson for Common Cause, said. “The master produced a fair map which prioritizes communities of interest and reflects the regional makeup of New York State.”

However, state Assembly and Senate redistricting has drawn criticism from both legislators and nonpartisan groups, among them Common Cause and the League of Women Voters of New York State.

What had been known as the 89th Assembly District, served
Greg Ball is the incumbent state Senator in the 40th State Assembly District. Newly drawn lines are shown here.
 
by Assemblyman Robert Castelli, is now the 93rd Assembly District. Pound Ridge will remain in the 40th State Senate District, now served by Greg Ball, and Bedford will be in the newly created 37th Senate District.


‘A disservice’ to the people?

The 37th Senate District has changed radically. The district currently includes Ossining, New Castle, North Castle, Harrison, Rye, White Plains, Scarsdale, Mamaroneck, New Rochelle and the City of Rye. Bedford was added to this district, while new lines exclude Ossining, with its heavy Democratic enrollment.

“Drawing district lines for political advantage is a disservice to the people and a travesty of the reapportionment process,” said current District 37 State Senator Suzi Oppenheimer.

Ms. Oppenheimer is not running for reelection.

“Districts should be drawn logically around communities of interest, and there is no logical basis for placing Ossining in a district that historically has included only Rockland County,” Ms. Oppenheimer said. “These latest maps underscore what I have long believed — that the time for an independent redistricting commission should have been now, not in 2022.”

Barbara Bartoletti, legislative director of the League of Women Voters of New York State, said that she believed the reason Ms. Oppenheimer is not running is that she is “not happy” with the new balance of the district lines.

A three-judge panel drew lines for the congressional districts in the state, since the legislators didn’t tackle the task in a timely fashion.

“It gets worse every 10 years, and it is worse this year than it ever has been in the past,” said Ms. Bartoletti. “I have seen this process over and over again, and it is a horrible process.”

By signing legislation implementing the new redistricting lines, Gov. Cuomo reversed his pledge made late last year to veto the districts that some government watchdog groups say are gerrymandered to protect incumbents, and others say are unfair to black and Latino New Yorkers.

According to Ms. Bartoletti, the only event that could change the state district lines would be a court case initiated by Brooklyn’s Senator Martin Malave Dilan against the legislative commission that drew the lines. Mr. Dilan is asking the New York State Supreme Court to disallow a newly created Senate district. If the court disallows the district, the lines could change to achieve proper apportionment in all the Senate districts. A decision is expected in the next few weeks.


Bipartisan commission planned

In exchange for Gov. Cuomo’s signature, Ms. Bartoletti said that the state Legislature agreed to change the New York State Constitution to create a bipartisan commission to handle redistricting after the 2020 census.

The proposed commission would comprise an equal number of members in the majority and minority parties in the Legislature. Currently, the majority party in the Assembly and the majority party in the state Senate did redistricting via the New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research, or LATFOR.

The future bipartisan commission proposed by Gov. Cuomo and approved by the Legislature would also include two individuals who are not associated with either party.

“I think the process is ridiculous and it is flawed,” Mr. Castelli said on Monday. “I was and still am in favor of an independent redistricting commission. The type that I signed the pledge for with Ed Koch.”

He said that his district was not changed “dramatically” for the worse, since he was already representing a district that he described as gerrymandered. The Town of North Salem was added to Mr. Castelli’s district, and election districts were swapped in White Plains with Assemblywoman Amy Paulin. “There was no need to do that,” Mr. Castelli said. “They did it anyway. It made no sense. I asked why. I never got a straight answer.”

Mr. Castelli said that he testified before the LATFOR commission and he told the members of the commission that he hoped they would redistrict in a fair and impartial way.

He said that he signed the pledge initiated by Ed Koch to vote for fair and independent redistricting, and he voted for the newly formed commission proposed for 2020.

“While it is better than what we have, it is a far cry from the truly independent commission that we all hoped for,” Mr. Castelli said. “But I did vote for that bill because it was step in the right direction.”

To make a change in the constitution, two consecutive legislatures must vote in favor of the change, and then the change would be subject to a statewide referendum.



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Bedford Village

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Bedford Hills

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Katonah

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Mount Kisco

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Cross River

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March 23, 2012