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Judge Amy Puerto Expected To Render Ruling On Map Redistricting Later This Week
By Tina Traster
Residents of Central Nyack, the most racially diverse section of the Town of Clarkstown, have expressed anger and objection over the recently adopted redistricting map because it carves their population in half.
“It has been difficult to find our voice as a community,” said a respondent.
Roughly 30 residents responded to a survey sent by email and distributed on social media by the Central Nyack Civic Association that asked “Do you agree with the Town of Clarkstown dividing our community into two separately legislated wards?”
Respondents unanimously, and anonymously, said no, elaborating that they resented the endeavor to split their population.
“I am adamantly against this division of Central Nyack,” said one respondent. “It is unconstitutional to divide our community into two separately legislated Wards. Central Nyack civic members cannot speak to two Ward representatives together with the Town Supervisor unless in a formal town meeting.”
Another wrote “Dividing our small neighborhood damages our ability to be a cohesive community. Central Nyack always gets overlooked or disregarded. This is just another example of being Clarkstown’s stepchild. The division also disregards the State’s expectations to keep hamlets intact and not impact less affluent communities. I am angered by the callous disregard for Central Nyack and the gerrymandering of ward lines for political purposes. Our town councilman should have fought for our small but vibrant community.”
Councilman Don Franchino had been the Third Ward Councilman. With the gerrymandered map, both Franchino and Councilman Michael Graziano will split the ward if they retain their seats in November. Graziano represents Ward 2.
Time is of the essence: Candidates are collecting signatures for the Nov. 2023 elections. If the map stands, both Graziano and Franchino will need support from Central Nyack on the Republican line. Rev. Carl Washington is launching a run on the Democrat ticket.
Cheryl Stroud, president of the Central Nyack Civic Association, said the Association’s leadership had made it clear at a recent town hall meeting they opposed the gerrymandering of the map. But Stroud said the survey was designed to poll the community on its sentiments.
“We believe the division disturbs the cohesiveness of the community,” said Stroud. “George (Hoehmann) is being political. There is no reason for this.”
The Central Nyack Civic Association will hold at meeting at the community center at 59 Waldron Avenue on Thursday to discuss the issue. However, Judge Amy Puerto of the Rockland County Supreme Court has said she plans to rule on the issue on March 17, the day after the association holds its gathering.
Stroud continues to urge neighbors to speak up and be heard on the issue. She’s also hoping to get the word out.
“The very legitimate concerns of the residents of Central Nyack have been forwarded to our legal counsel,” said Carroll, a plaintiff in the case. “What the comments make abundantly clear is that Supervisor Hoehmann, Franchino and Graziano did not care about the interests of Central Nyack or Clarkstown as a whole when they passed the retaliatory map. Their lone focus was retaliation against myself and Councilman Borelli.”
The gerrymandered map pits the two incumbents against each other in the same ward. The map, drawn by Skyline Consulting of Schenectady, extends Ward One to the north but it also shifts the boundary to the east. By doing so, it excises Borelli’s residence on East Cavalry Drive in New City out of the ward and pushes him into Carroll’s territory or Ward Four. To take office, a council member must live in the ward that they represent.
Clarkstown Councilmen Borelli and Carroll, who filed the lawsuit to challenge the adoption of a newly drawn redistricting map believe Hoehmann gerrymandered the map in retaliation for the plaintiffs’ opposition to ending term limits.
Further, it says the gerrymandering of the map undermines the African-American community in Central Nyack by splitting its population into two wards, “thereby resulting in a retrogression of the impact of this minority’s community vote.”
“This is nothing but political nonsense so that the current Clarkstown Supervisor, should he get permission to eliminate term limits can stay in office,” said a survey respondent. “How do I know it’s true? There is a lawsuit signed on by Councilman Borrelli that includes Shenly Vital. With two wards, there will be an opportunity to dilute a vote for a fourth term should George prevail. This stinks to high heaven! There is absolutely no reason for splitting Central Nyack other than politics! You politicians think you can do whatever the hell you want with the predominantly BIPOC comminunity. It needs to STOP. “
The suit is asking the court to declare the newly adopted map “as invalid” and to restore the original map and to prevent the town from conducting elections under the newly drawn map. The plaintiffs are also demanding legal fees. The plaintiffs are being represented by attorney Stanley Kalmon Schlein of the Bronx.
Districts cannot be drawn to discourage competition, or for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring incumbents. Drawing and approving a map that forces two incumbents into the same ward runs afoul of the law, the suit alleges.
“This type of political gerrymandering is profoundly undemocratic and cuts deeply into the public confidence in their representative government,” the suit says.
The lawsuit alleges the map was drawn in retaliation over dissension concerning term limits. It claims the redistricting was unnecessary because the original districts were compliant with the law. It says the map is illegal because it “discourages competition” or was drawn “for the purposes of favoring or disfavoring incumbents or other particular candidates or political parties.”
Several respondents indicated that Central Nyack has been coming together in recent years to lobby for its particular needs. They call the gerrymandered map a setback.
“It has been difficult to find our voice as a community,” said a respondent. “Now that we seem to have momentum in that area, dividing us would set that back. Central Nyack (through the great work of the CNCA) has been pushing the town and Nyack Water to better serve the needs of our community; my cynical side can’t help but think the separation of the our community is purposefully planned to silence our voice.”