It’s official: Southold, Riverhead stay in same Assembly district

03/15/2012 3:57 PM |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Assemblyman Fred Thiele.

A newly revised set of New York State Assembly district maps was passed by the State Legislature late Wednesday and signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo this morning.

The new maps reconnect Riverhead with Southold, but place Shelter Island in the South Fork’s Assembly district.

An earlier proposal would have placed both Southold and Shelter Island in the South Fork district represented by Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor).

Southold and Riverhead political leaders, and eventually Mr. Thiele as well, said the North Fork’s voice should not be divided in the state Legislature.

The new proposal will also swap the East End district numbers. What’s now the 1st Assembly district, represented by Dan Losquadro and currently comprising Southold, Shelter Island, Riverhead and northeastern Brookhaven, will become the 2nd District. Mr. Thiele’s South Fork district would become the 1st.

New Assembly, state Senate and congressional districts must be in place in time for the upcoming fall elections. They must be approved by both houses of the state Legislature and the governor.

“I look forward to representing the new 1st Assembly District. 98 percent of the district includes areas I already represent,” Mr. Thiele said in a press release. “Shelter Island, which will be added to my district, was part of my county legislative district in the late 1980s. I am pleased that the redistricting task force listened to public opinion and kept Southold in the current district with northeast Brookhaven and Riverhead, as I had requested.”

Mr. Losquadro echoed this sentiment.

“This was a critical issue for the future for the North Fork and all the communities represented within my Assembly district,” he said in a release. “I would like to thank my fellow elected officials from the county of Suffolk and the towns of Riverhead and Southold, who joined with me to speak out against this proposed inequity. This effort truly resulted in a victory for the residents, who now will continue to have their interests and concerns best represented before the state.”

Mr. Losquadro said Wednesday that he would vote against the changes as a protest against the Democratic Assembly majority’s shutting out minority input on the proposal. He added he was only voting against the proposal because he believed it would pass.

Mr. Losquadro also said he’s supporting a constitutional amendment that would guarantee equal representation on the committee that draws up the district lines. He said he believes that amendment, which will be ready later this week, will have the support of the State Senate and Governor Andrew Cuomo.

“Despite my no vote objecting to the process, the second set of maps are going to pass,” he said. “I simply cannot support the process.

“I think the revised maps are good for the East End, and for the North Fork they’re very good,” he added. “If it hadn’t been for residents stepping up, this wouldn’t have happened. I am so happy that we prevailed in the most egregious of the shortcomings in the initial plan. But parts of the plan are still very lacking.”

Redistricting occurs every 10 years to reflect changes in population statistics gathered during the U.S. Census.

byoung@timesreview.com