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Long Islanders Weigh In On Redistricting At New York Commission Hearing

A map of New York Senate legislative districts in 1901.
Hoxie, Charles De Forest
Wikimedia Commons
A map of New York Senate legislative districts in 1901.

The New York State Independent Redistricting Commission held a hearing on Long Island on Tuesday to hear how residents want their new districts redrawn.

Shoshana Hershkowitz, the founder of Suffolk Progressives, said gerrymandering has existed on Long Island for far too long.

"Generally what we're asking for is a fair and equitable process that no longer disenfranchises communities of color, and allows us to pick our elected leaders rather than the other way around," Hershkowitz said. She remembered canvassing in Gordon Heights, a dense community of color that was divided into three districts, which she said suppresses that community's voice. 

Bob Keeler, a retired Pulitzer prize winning journalist for Newsday, told the commission that he spent much of his career writing about voting rights. Keeler said it is imperative that communities are not broken up if the lines are redrawn.

"One of the bedrock principles of fair reapportionment is the need to honor communities of interest by not splitting a village or city or school district arbitrarily between legislative districts," Keeler said. "Too often the less-than-noble purpose of that splitting is to protect the incumbency of a public official who belongs to the party that's doing the redistricting."

Keeler said an example of this is the current divide in the state Senate between Stony Brook Children's Hospital and Brookhaven National Labs, two institutions fed by science and technology programs at Stony Brook University.

The commission will release preliminary district plans in September. After receiving additional feedback, it will introduce them to the state Legislature in January.

The state is set to lose a congressional seat after New York fell 89 people short in the 2020 census.

Leah is a former intern with WSHU Public Radio.