North Fork legislators offer opposition to Assembly redistricting

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.