The Town of Brookhaven held a public hearing to discuss the commission’s proposed map on Thursday, Sept. 29, to amend Chapter 27 entitled “Procedures for Ballot Propositions Proposing Ward (Council) Districts and Reapportionment.” Directly following the hearing, the town board approved the new map, which will set council district lines for the next 10 years.
According to the town, the new map maintains the vast majority of residents without change, meaning 90.55 percent will remain in the same council district from the last cycle. The map also improves compactness, with 100 percent of North Bellport now existing within District 4; currently, a portion is in District 5. The change, according to the town, was done in response to the community’s request over the past several years to be represented by a single council member, as well as the increase in the minority population in every district when compared to the 2010 population. Additionally, the new map has 10 split hamlets in comparison to the current 13 split communities. The communities to remain split will remain so, due to community requests to maintain likeminded neighborhoods rather than zip codes. These communities include Coram, which will remain split in order to maintain Gordon Heights as a community, while zip code 11720 will remain with Centereach, including South Setauket Park. Also, the new map reduces the number of school districts that are split from nine to four.
Initially, at the start of the over three-hour public hearing, the sole Democratic councilmember, Jonathan Kornreich, intensely questioned the mapmaker, Dan Schaefer, from Skyline Consulting, and scrutinized the process.
“I would not have supported a map that undermines the voice of communities of color,” he said. “[Despite the deeply flawed process,] this map represents a true compromise and gives everyone something to be unhappy about.”
However, he acknowledges the map was the map with least change and did not contain any gerrymandering. He then voted yes to the map as part of a unanimous 7-0 vote. He also suggested that the board will consider fixing the process for the future.
Directly following the discussion, over 40 members spoke during the hearing, including several scripted responses from both sides of the political spectrum. Many of the speakers spoke on behalf of the Coram area, which is the only district split in four. Additional speakers spoke about minority populations with concerns of diluting their voice/voting power. Other speakers spoke in favor of maintaining Gordon Heights as a whole, as well as Middle Island. Others also questioned the process in which the commission conducted the redistricting while also suggesting the Brookhaven NAACP should have been considered.