Assembly members Jodi Giglio (R-Baiting Hollow) and Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor) will see significant changes to their district boundaries under a new redistricting plan expected to pass the State Legislature this week. Photos: NYS Assembly

A proposed redistricting map now before the New York State Legislature would separate Riverhead Town from the rest of the East End in the State Assembly and put Southold Town in the First Assembly District with the the South Fork and Shelter Island. 

The Second Assembly District would shed Southold Town and expand further into the western portions of Southampton Town — absorbing the communities of Riverside and Northampton — and southeast Brookhaven. It would also gain a new portion of Mount Sinai in Brookhaven.

The First Senate District would surrender to the Second Senate District areas of Calverton that lie in Brookhaven Town, as well as most of Manorville, Upton — including Brookhaven National Laboratory — and a large swath of Ridge and Middle Island, south of Route 25. On the north shore, SD-01 would expand to encompass Setauket and Stony Brook University. 

You can view the proposed redistricting maps at newyork.redistrictingandyou.org.

Reapportionment is a political process that takes place every 10 years after the decennial census to redraw election districts based on population changes. The districts must remain roughly equal in population size, though population growth occurs at different rates over the course of a decade and population shifts occur.

The current First Assembly District— encompassing the South Fork and Shelter Island — grew significantly since the 2010 census and currently has 16,000 people more than the statewide average assembly district population. The new lines would put AD-01 about 2,000 people under the state average.

The current First Senate district — which takes in the Twin Forks, Shelter Island and a large part of eastern Brookhaven — also grew significantly since 2010. It currently has 20,000 people more than the statewide average senate district population.

The redistricting maps were published Tuesday by the New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment. The task force is dominated by Democrats — four members were appointed by Democratic leaders and two by Republican leaders. The task force developed the maps after the bipartisan New York State Independent Redistricting Commission failed to agree on a plan and sent two sets of maps to the State Legislature. The bipartisan commission was created by a state constitutional amendment in 2014 to make the redistricting process more transparent and independent of the state legislature.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on redistricting maps for the state’s 150 Assembly districts and 63 Senate districts as soon as today. Both chambers voted along party lines to approve congressional district maps on yesterday. The new congressional district maps would give Democrats an advantage in the East End’s First Congressional District, based on how the district voted in the 2020 presidential election.

The political leanings of both East End state legislative districts would remain similar to what they currently are, according to voting patterns in the 2020 presidential election, analyzed by researchers at CUNY’s Center for Urban Research.

All state Assembly and Senate seats are up for election every two years, including this November. AD-01 is currently represented by Assembly Member Fred Thiele, Independent of Sag Harbor who caucuses with the Democrats. AD-02 is currently represented by Assembly Member Jodi Giglio, Republican of Baiting Hollow and SD-01 is currently represented by Sen. Anthony Palumbo, Republican of New Suffolk.

Giglio said yesterday she will support the maps with her vote as long as the process was done constitutionally and does not gerrymander. She said she looks forward to representing new constituents.

“I am sad that I’m losing Southold,” Giglio said in a phone interview. “But I will still be in the district and I’m sure that they’re going to be represented very well by Fred Thiele and I will help in any way that I can with them. They’re still a very big part of my life and in my region and in my area.”

Southold Supervisor Scott Russell said he opposes the redistricting plan because, he said, the interests of the North Fork and the South Fork do not align. 

“The challenges that face the majority of [North Fork] constituents are not the same as the challenges that face the well-heeled interests of the South Fork constituents,” Russell said

“I have a great deal of respect for the assemblyman [Theile], I really do. I have worked with him. I like him a great deal,” Russell said. “But I do not believe that the interests are similar, and the representation cannot be similar. I need someone from the North Fork representing the North Fork, as it currently exists, and as it historically has.”

Russell said “it would be disappointing for any of our current representatives to vote” in favor of the plan.

A similar redistricting plan for East End assembly districts was introduced a decade ago. Thiele was initially supportive of the district, before joining former Assembly Member Dan Losquadro and local town officials to oppose the new district and advocate for the North Fork to stay together. 

Now, Thiele said yesterday, he will vote in favor of the new district maps that would do what he opposed 10 years ago. Thiele said he is disappointed that his district excludes parts of Southampton, which he has represented for several years in various elected offices. But he said he is excited to gain new constituents in Southold. He rejected Russell’s argument that the towns don’t have similar interests.

“It’s not perfect, but I’m certainly happy to have Southold in my district,” Thiele said. “I think it’s primarily an East End district now. And it certainly is a community of interest, whether we’re talking about the Peconic Estuary Program or the Community Preservation Fund or a whole host of things that I think we work on in this region.”

Palumbo represented the Second Assembly District before his election in 2020 to succeed retiring Sen. Ken LaValle. He defeated crime victims advocate Laura Ahearn 51.4% to 48.6%. The First Senate District favored President Joe Biden in the 2020 election by 2,000 votes. There would have been a wider margin, about 9,000 votes more, for Biden if SD-01 had been redrawn according to the task force plan. The redistricting may give Democrats a play for the seat this year, since Palumbo won in 2020 by less than 5,000 votes against Ahearn.

Palumbo did not return a call seeking comment before this article was published.

Thiele, who in 2012 supported an amendment to the state constitution establishing an independent redistricting commission, said yesterday having an equal number of representatives from both parties on the commission was, perhaps “programmed for failure.”

He said he would support trying again to change the state’s redistricting process, using models from successful politically independent processes in other states.

“I felt it’s better to take a chance with an independent commission than have the legislature do it, but the independent commission didn’t work out. I think that’s something as far as the constitution goes, we need to revisit, and see if we can come up with a commission that might actually work next time,” Thiele said.

Feb. 3, 2022, 12 p.m.: This article was amended to include the link to newyork.redistrictingandyou.org.

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Alek Lewis is a lifelong Riverhead resident and a 2021 graduate of Stony Brook University’s School of Communication and Journalism. Previously, he served as news editor of Stony Brook’s student newspaper, The Statesman, and was a member of the campus’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Email: alek@riverheadlocal.com