Voters talked, but at least according to them, a committee tasked with drawing new boundaries for Hempstead town elected officials didn’t listen.
At least that was the takeaway during the latest public hearing last week over the state of redistricting in the town.
Yet, it was a meeting just before the winter holidays that took most of the attention — a meeting where a number of speakers during public comment demanded lines be redrawn for the six town districts in what they called a more balanced representation through the inclusion of three “minority-majority” districts. That is, where an overall ethnic minority would be grouped into a majority as a way to help diversify a leadership board like the town council.
That same week, new map proposals were released. Yet, after further review, critics of the earlier drafts claimed most of their recommendations were ignored.
“While I hope that the commission changes course on these maps, I doubt (they) will because (they) have to show us that (they’re) listening to what residents are saying,” said Amil Virani of Valley Stream.
But there were changes. For example, the committee has proposed grouping together Elmont, North Valley Stream, a portion of the Five Towns and Franklin Square into a single district. Baldwin — which went from three to two representatives on the latest maps — was split in half.
The idea, according to Hempstead town attorney John Maccarone, was to ensure villages were kept whole, in accordance with the law. However, hamlets like Baldwin don’t enjoy the same protections.
Elmont, Valley Stream and Franklin Square are perfect for this new district, said Elmont resident Mimi Pierre-Johnson, but it should also have included Bellerose, Bellerose village, South Floral Park, Floral Park and New Hyde Park.
“That would’ve been a perfect minority-majority,” she said. “Everyone in that district would have had a fair share of choosing their elected official.”
Baldwin has been split into three council districts since the 2010 census. The Baldwin Civic Association collected more than 400 signatures on a petition urging the committee to place the entire hamlet of Baldwin under the 11510 ZIP code and one Town of Hempstead council district.
“Again, (the redistricting committee) has cracked Baldwin,” Janet Poretsky said. “My vote in Baldwin Harbor won’t count, it will be canceled out by someone in Wantagh-Seaford. I don’t think that’s fair, and I have nobody who is really representing my area.”
The last time officials got together to redraw district lines, it was done to benefit legislators without any concern for the needs of Nassau County communities, said Karen Moskowitz, co-chair of the League of Women Votgers of Nassau County’s redistricting committee — specifically communities of color.
As a town where 40 percent of its residents are people of color represented by a council that is mostly white, Moskowitz added that the latest map proposals show this intention has not changed in Hempstead.
The 2020 census revealed a 12 percent drop in the town’s white, non-Hispanic population, according to supporters of the minority-majority district concept. At the same time, the Hispanic and Latino population grew 32 percent, while the Black population increased by 4 percent.
“The league takes positions on a variety of policy issues, but never supports or opposes any political party or candidate,” Moskowitz said. “Our review of the commission’s proposed maps reveals deliberate manipulation of district lines.”
Another redistricting meeting was scheduled for Jan. 9, and the town attorney confirmed more such meetings will be scheduled before the board votes on a new map.