03/12/12 1:06pm
03/12/2012 1:06 PM

COURTESY MAP | This map shows the new First district, which will include the southeastern Brookhaven, the South Fork and Shelter Island. Riverhead, Southold and northeastern Brookhaven would be represented in the Second Assembly District, according to this latest proposal.

A newly revised set of New York State Assembly District maps puts Riverhead back in the same district as Southold and places Shelter Island in the South Fork’s Assembly District.

An earlier proposal released by the state last month 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 would rename Assemblyman Dan Losquadro’s (R-Shoreham) district, which currently includes Southold, Shelter Island, Riverhead and northeastern Brookhaven, from the First to the Second Assembly District. Mr. Thiele’s district, currently the Second Assembly District, would be renamed the First Assembly District.

“I look forward to representing the new First Assembly District. 98% of the district includes areas I already represent,” said Mr. Thiele in a release issued Monday. “Shelter Island, which will be added to my district, was part of my county legislative district in the late 1980’s. I have continued to work with Shelter Island on many regional issues and look forward to representing them again. Further, 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 was not immediately available for comment.

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

byoung@timesreview.com

02/10/12 12:00pm
02/10/2012 12:00 PM

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | Assemblyman Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham) speaks against the proposed redistricting maps of the 1st and 2nd districts of Long Island at today's public hearing held in Hauppauge by The New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportion

Shelter Island’s first-term Assemblyman Dan Losquadro (R-Riverhead) on Thursday spoke against a state redistricting proposal that would shift his district to extend from Riverhead to the west and remove both Southold and Shelter Island from his constituency.

Shelter Island, Southold and the South Fork towns of Southampton and East Hampton would become a new First Assembly District, absorbing the current Second District that currently covers the South Fork and is represented by Fred W. Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor).

Speaking at a hearing on the redistricting plan, which was developed by a bi-partisan legislative panel to redistribute districts statewide to address population growth reported in the 2010 U.S. Census, Mr. Losquadro said Riverhead should not be cut off from the North Fork and the South Fork should not be lumped into the same district.

He said he worried that Southold residents would have to take two ferries or drive more than an hour around the forks to see their assemblyman. The redistricting plan “diminishes the voices of the Town of Southold,” he said.

Common Cause, a non-profit, non-partisan citizen-advocacy group, charged that some of the proposed new Assembly districts on Long Island had been gerrymandered in what its spokesperson called “a game of follow the Democratic voters.”

Common Cause presented an alternative redistricting plan. Among its features is a separate assembly district that would keep Riverhead, Shelter Island and the North Fork together and not include the South Fork.

02/09/12 12:30pm
02/09/2012 12:30 PM

JOHN GRIFFIN FILE PHOTO | Marc Alessi is one of four former Assembly members we reached out to this week for their thoughts on the current redistricting plan.

Four former members of the state Assembly who at one time represented the North Fork have added their voices to those opposing a redistricting proposal that would once again unite the North and South forks — without Riverhead — into a single seat.

Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) would become Southold and Shelter Island’s new representative if a redistricting proposal released Jan. 26 by a state legislative committee takes effect. Riverhead would be part of the new 2nd Assembly District and incumbent Republican Dan Losquadro would be the incumbent.

The once-a-decade redistricting, which is to be in place by this November’s election, would change the boundaries of the 1st and 2nd Assembly Districts. The new district boundaries were suggested by the state Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment.

The last time the five East End Towns (Southold, Shelter Island, Riverhead, Southampton and East Hampton) were represented in the same district was when John Behan, a Montauk Republican, was in office.

Mr. Behan won an Assembly seat in 1979. About three years later, the North and South forks were split into separate districts. At that time, Southold native Joseph Sawicki was elected to the newly created 1st District seat to represent the North Fork.

Mr. Behan continued to serve the South Fork as 2nd District representative. Mr. Thiele, who worked for Mr. Behan at that time, took over his Assembly seat in 1995.

In an interview this week, Mr. Behan said the only positive aspect of the redistricting plan is that Long Island would gain another seat in the Assembly. But overall, he’s against lumping the two forks together. Before his district was split, he said, some of his constituents had to take two ferries to visit him at his East Hampton office.

“To me, it’s like going backward to 1979,” he said.

Pat Acampora, the former Republican assemblywoman who represented the 1st District from 1993 until 2005, agrees that combining the two forks is “a bad idea.” Removing Riverhead from the East End district, she added, is “insulting.”

“We have a lot of older seniors and they are usually the ones that are coming to talk to you,” she said. “Why would we make our constituents cross two bodies of water to visit their representative?”

Marc Alessi, a Democrat who represented the 1st Assembly District from 2005 until he lost his seat to Mr. Losquadro in the 2010 election, said he also disagreed with splitting Riverhead Town from the East End.

“The North Fork is one community and Riverhead Town is a part of it,” he said. “Having two representatives for one community can get confusing.”

Mr. Sawicki, a Republican who represented the North Fork for 11 years before leaving the state Assembly in 1993, said he also disagreed with separating Riverhead Town from Southold Town and lumping it together with its western neighbor, Brookhaven Town.

“Taking Riverhead out of the mix is the real sin of this plan,” he said. “They should always be together … You can’t just cut the North Fork in half.”

Ideally, Mr. Sawicki said, he believes the five East End towns should become one district because they have the same concerns about most state matters, including farming, fishing and transportation.

“If we drew an Assembly district as a Peconic County, it would really give the East End its identity,” he said.

The redistricting process occurs every 10 years to coincide with updated population data. Based on figures from the 2010 census, each Assembly district should include about 129,089 residents. Mr. Thiele’s district is currently 13,744 residents over the average.

The new district would have a population of 128,929 residents, 160 fewer than the average.

Until they were split in 1982, the two forks had been in the same district for over 200 years.

A public hearing on the proposed redistricting will be held Thursday, Feb. 9, at 11 a.m. in the auditorium of Suffolk’s William H. Rogers Legislature Building in Hauppauge.

The state Legislature votes on the final district lines, which then go to the governor for approval.

jennifer@timesreview.com

02/08/12 4:37pm
02/08/2012 4:37 PM

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Assmeblyman Dan Losquadro was joined at Southold Town Hall Wednesday by a host of North Fork officials opposed to East End redistricting.

State Assemblyman Dan Losquadro has rallied the forces in response to the Assembly redistricting proposal recently announced by a committee of the state legislature, which would place Southold and Shelter Island in the same Assembly district as the South Fork.

Mr. Losquadro was joined by nine Southold and Riverhead town leaders on the steps of Southold Town Hall Wednesday afternoon at a press conference urging residents of his district to protest the new proposal.

He urged residents to send comments to the New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research (LATFOR) or attend a public hearing on the proposed changes, to be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow in the auditorium of the William H. Rogers Legislative Building of the Suffolk County Legislature in Hauppauge.

Mr. Losquadro said when he first saw the new district maps two weeks ago, he knew his district would have to shrink because it had more people in it than any other district in New York State. But he was shocked at how the committee chose to shrink the district.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think they would split the North Fork in half,” he said. “And Southold and Shelter Island are the two areas I did worst in [in the last election]. If I was doing this for political reasons, it would be pretty stupid.”

Mr. Losquadro said, from a representational standpoint, it makes no sense for Southold residents to have to take two ferries or drive around to Bridgehampton to meet with their new State Assemblyman, Fred Thiele, who represents the South Fork. Mr. Losquadro’s office is in Riverhead.

Riverhead and Southold towns “share a special unity,” said Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter at the press conference. “We know it doesn’t make any sense. We need to ask them to restore the First Assembly District… People from Southold are used to going to Riverhead to see their Assemblyman.”

Riverhead Councilwoman Jodi Giglio added that she believed the farming interests of Southold and Riverhead, which she said make up the largest agricultural area in the state, would be best served by one Assemblyman.

County Legislator Ed Romaine said that he believes redistricting should be done in a non-partisan manner and he has suppported non-partisan redistricting at the county level.

“At least keep the commonalities of interest together,” he said. “This kind of gerrymandering is not what we want.”

Southold Town Supervisor Scott Russell said he could sum up the differences between the needs of South Fork and North Fork residents in two words: “helicopters and ferries.”

Mr. Russell added that the State Assembly had proposed a redistricting that would have put Southold and Shelter Island in the South Fork district in 1992, but that measure had failed.

“The East End as a region deserves two Assemblymen,” he said.

Mr. Losquadro said he believes there will be changes made to the maps before they’re finalized, and that those changes may be made quickly, since the redistricting is supposed to be in place in time for primaries for this fall’s election. He said that, while the state primaries are scheduled for September, there’s talk of combining them with federal primaries in mid-summer, which would mean a new set of maps could be prepared as soon as early March.

“It’s not carved in stone. We stand a very good chance of having some movement,” he said. “This is going to play out fairly quickly.”
“If we were not here today, there would be no change,” said Mr. Romaine. “There may still be no change.”

Residents who are unable to attend tomorrow’s hearing can contact LATFOR at 250 Broadway, Suite 2100, New York, NY 10007 or at 212-618-1100. They can also email LATFOR.

The Suffolk Times, the News Review and the Shelter Island Reporter websites will have live blogs at the hearing, beginning at 11 a.m. Thursday. At that hearing, LATFOR will be taking comment from residents throughout Long Island on the changes to their assembly districts.

02/01/12 2:00pm
02/01/2012 2:00 PM

A map showing the redistricting proposal's impact on Long Island.

Assemblyman Dan Losquadro doesn’t want to see Southold and Shelter Island towns removed from his Assembly district and he’s taking the fight against North Fork redistricting to a public hearing next week.

If the redistricting occurs as a state committee suggests, most of the East End will only have one representative, with Fred Thiele representing the South Fork, Shelter Island and Southold and Mr. Losquadro representing Riverhead.

Mr. Losquadro (R-Shoreham) currently represents the North Fork, and the South Fork is represented by Mr. Thiele (I-Sag Harbor).

“As the assemblyman representing the largest population of any district in New York State, I understand the new district lines would result in my district becoming smaller. That being said, it pains me to see the North Fork split up in the new redistricting plan put forward by the Majority,” Mr. Losquadro said in a statement. “The North Fork and the South Fork are very different districts, with the North Fork having a large winery and agricultural base and the majority of its homeowners acting as primary residents.”

Assemblyman Losquadro and other North Fork elected officials are encouraging residents to voice their concerns at a Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment public hearing at 11 a.m. next Thursday, February 9 at the W.H. Rogers Legislative Office Building in Happauge.

Read more about the redistricting plan in Thursday’s News-Review.

gparpan@timesreview.com

01/26/12 12:59pm
01/26/2012 12:59 PM

GIANNA VOLPE FILE PHOTO | Assemblyman Fred Thiele speaking at a breast cancer awareness forum on Shelter Island in November.

State Assemblyman Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) could become Southold and Shelter Island’s new representative in the State Assembly, if a redistricting proposal released today by the New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment takes effect.

The redistricting, which could be in place by this November’s election, would change the boundaries of the First And Second Assembly Districts. The South Fork, Shelter Island and Southold would become the First District, which would be represented by Mr. Thiele, who currently represents the Second District, which is comprised only of the South Fork. First District Assemblyman Dan Losquadro (R-Shoreham) would see his new Second District start in Riverhead and head west.

If the proposal takes effect, Mr. Thiele would no longer represent the hamlets of Mastic, Mastic Beach, and Shirley.

A public hearing, which is required before the redistricting occurs, will take place at 11 a.m. on Feb. 9 in the auditorium of the William H. Rogers Legislative Building of the Suffolk County Legislature in Hauppauge.

In a statement Thursday, Mr. Thiele said he would have preferred if the redistricting had been drawn by an independent and non-partisan committee, but he found the end results acceptable.

“This district includes as much of the East End in the same district as was constitutionally possible. Further, it avoids dividing the Tri-Hamlet Area (Mastic, Mastic Beach, and Shirley), which is currently the existing situation where I share the peninsula with two other Assembly members. My Assembly District had to be reduced in population under the State and U.S. Constitution. This district plan does that without dividing communities in my district to serve the political needs of those to the west.”

He said the redistricting was done because there were too many people in his district as it was formerly drawn.

Using figures from the 2010 U.S. Census, each Assembly District should include 129,089 residents. Mr. Thiele’s district was 13,744 residents over the average. The new district will have 128,929, 160 less than the average.

“Based upon enrollment numbers, the district is politically competitive and does not discriminate against any minority group. It unites communities of interest and does not divide villages,” Mr. Thiele added.

A map showing the redistricting proposal's impact on Long Island. Click to enlarge.

Mr. Losquadro said Thursday afternoon he was surprised that the redistricting committee didn’t see fit to keep the North Fork intact on its new maps.

“I really think that the North Fork and South Fork issues vary pretty significantly. There are far more primary homeowners on the North Fork. They also have a lot more agriculture on the North Fork than the South Fork.

Mr. Losquadro said he knew his district was going to change substantially when the census figures showed it had 149,700 people in it.

“I knew I’d be losing 21,000 constituents just to reach a parity with the other districts, but that could have been done in a way to keep the geographic areas contiguous.

Mr. Losquadro said that, while he’s enjoyed representing Shelter Island, he believes residents there could be represented by an assemblyman from either fork.

“It’s not like I don’t want to represent them,” he said. “It was a real honor for me to represent those areas.”

Southold Republican Party chairman Denis Noncarrow said he’s disappointed in the redistricting, which he believes is “a done deal” in Albany.

“The South Fork and the North Fork have different concerns,” he said. “There are battles that the North Fork had exclusively that we’re not going to have somebody fighting for.”

He said that those issues range from helicopter noise en route to the East Hampton Airport to issues that Mr. Losquadro is working on for Fishers Island, including training emergency responders and helping to provide access to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles.

“A lot of individual things are exclusive North Fork problems,” he said.

Mr. Losquadro said, even though the boundary lines have changed, he will continue to pressure the Federal Aviation Administration to change its recommended helicopter routes to alleviate the noise of helicopter traffic on the North Shore.

“We have an FAA which has just been lax, wanting and delinquent in finding a solution and implementing a solution to this problem,” he said. “The area I’m still representing will still be the area on the North Shore most impacted. I will still continue to keep my pressure up on the federal representatives and the FAA.”

Mr. Noncarrow said he doesn’t know Mr. Thiele well.

“Only time will tell. We’ll have to see how it goes. It was nice having someone who handled just the North Fork and its concerns,” he said, adding that, since Mr. Thiele is a member of the Independence Party, not a Democrat, he doesn’t see the redistricting as a concern for Southold Republicans.

Mr. Thiele, a lawyer by trade, is a former Southampton Town Supervisor and member of the Suffolk County Legislature. He was raised in Sag Harbor, where he graduated from Pierson High School before attending Southampton College. He received his law degree from Albany Law School and was admitted to the bar in New York State in 1980. He was elected to the State Assembly in 1995.

He was not immediately available for comment.

Mr. Thiele is most widely known as the architect of the Peconic Bay Community Preservation Fund, a land preservation program in the five East End towns that is funded through a 2 percent real estate transfer tax.

He has been actively involved in land preservation and transportation issues on the South Fork.

Mr. Thiele had served in the Assembly as a Republican until he switched his party affiliation to the Independence Party in Oct. 2009, after briefly flirting with the idea of becoming a Democrat. He said at the time that his support of marriage equality put him at odds with Republican leadership. He was endorsed by the Democratic, Independence and Working Families parties in his 2010 re-election campaign.

byoung@timesreview.com