Photo Credit: Marc Gronich
Former New York Congressman John Faso.

Call it redistricting, reapportionment or the more pejorative “gerrymandering,” but whatever word you use, it is the most political process lawmakers are put in charge of every ten years. These political lines, which lawmakers must abide by to run for office, must be recalculated every ten years to adjust for population shifts for the state Assembly, state Senate and House of Representatives.

For many decades, when the Senate and Assembly were split between Republicans holding sway as the majority in the Senate and Democrats in the Assembly, members of each house drew their own lines and came together to draw congressional districts. Members of the New York congressional delegation could be found trolling the halls of the Capitol currying favor and lobbying key state lawmakers to draw lines most favorable to get them reelected.


That scenario is from days gone by and is not happening anymore now that Democrats are in control by wide margins in both houses. Democrats in the state Senate seized their moment to be able to further marginalize Republicans for the first time in more than a century.

With Democrats in the state Senate holding 43 of 63 seats (68.3 percent), a supermajority, the districts were drawn for Democrats to pick up a few additional seats based on numbers of how Trump and Biden did in certain areas of New York state in the 2020 presidential election. The average Senate district has 320,655 people.

There are eight Jews in the Senate, representing constituents in Queens, Brooklyn, Manhattan and the surrounding New York City counties of Nassau, Westchester and Rockland. All the other districts with Jewish populations across the state are represented by non-Jewish lawmakers.

Starting in Nassau County, Anna Kaplan (D -Great Neck), will have 11,525 fewer people in a district that went for Biden by more than 58 percent. The district is primarily white, non-Hispanic. The communities removed from Kaplan’s district include Hicksville, Franklin Square and Stewart Manor. Kaplan, a Great Neck resident, picked up parts of the communities of Elmont, Old Brookville, Upper Brookville, Brookville and Old Westbury. Sometimes the districts are renumbered to confuse voters. In Kaplan’s case the district number remains the seventh.

In the 9th Senate District, represented by Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach, Nassau County), the numbers did not change very much although he has 14,702 fewer voters to connect with on a regular basis.

Before Kaminsky, this district was represented by former Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre), who was released from jail in April 2020 and is serving a sentence for bribery, extortion and corruption under house arrest. He concludes his sentence in April 2023.

Under the new lines Kaminsky’s district includes parts or all of Garden City, Valley Stream, Malverne, Lynbrook, Rockville Centre, Stewart Manor, East Rockaway, Hewlett Bay, Hewlett Harbor, Island Park, Long Beach, Lido Beach and Atlantic Beach. His district is more compact, as he loses the communities of Oceanside, Baldwin, Woodmere, Cedarhurst, Lawrence, Inwood and West Hempstead.

These are just two examples of how the redistricting process throws lawmakers into a whirlwind of saying “so long” to longtime constituents and needing to introduce themselves to new voters.

The Brooklyn district represented by Simcha Felder (D-Borough Park/Midwood, Brooklyn) changes a great deal. His district number changes from 17 to 26, which will confuse voters and could encourage a challenger for the popular lawmaker.

His district will now include the neighborhoods of Manhattan Beach, Sheepshead Bay, Gravesend, Midwood, Borough Park and Parkville. He lost the neighborhoods of Sunset Park, Kensington, Madison, Homecrest and Mapleton.

Felder will have 24,593 fewer constituents to connect with. His new district is three-tenths of one percent below the state average.

Over in Crown Heights, which is represented by Democrat Zellnor Myrie, a first generation American with Costa Rican ancestry, there is little change. Myrie’s new district takes in a little less of Brownsville and East Flatbush and picks up more in northern Crown Heights and Park Slope. Myrie’s district also includes the neighborhoods of Ocean Hill and Prospect Park. Myrie represents 21,869 fewer voters in his new district than the current district. His district number will remain at 20.

The Satmar Jewish community in Williamsburg will continue to be represented by Democrat Julia Salazar, an active member of the New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America. While attending Columbia University, Salazar asserted that she is of Sephardic Jewish ancestry on her father’s side, as she was told by her mother. Her father is reportedly from the South American country of Colombia. She is pro-life and was a member of pro-Israel Christian student groups. After a trip to Israel with Birthright Israel, her political views allegedly began to shift as she increasingly became involved in campus Jewish life and tenant organizing. She was also a staff organizer for Jews for Racial and Economic Justice. She supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which advocates boycotting Israel.

Besides Williamsburg, her new district will include Bushwick, Cypress Hills and the Brooklyn Navy Yard. She will say “so long” to her constituents in Greenpoint, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville and East New York, resulting in a loss of 22,191 voters. Her district number will remain at 18.

The district held by Brad Hoylman (D-Greenwich Village, Manhattan) stretches along the west side of Manhattan from Hudson Square and Greenwich Village in the southern portion of the district all the way to the northern border of Central Park at 110th Street. He says “so long” to 30,264 constituents with the new district lines and loses the neighborhoods of Midtown East, the East Village and the Lower East Side. His current district lines include the West Side and East Side of Manhattan on the southern border and winds up at West 72nd Street in Central Park, cutting in and out of the West Side riverfront along the way.

His new district includes the neighborhoods of Greenwich Village, the Meatpacking District, Chelsea, Hudson Yards, Hell’s Kitchen, the Garment District, Columbus Circle, Times Square, Lincoln Square. His district number changes from 27 to 30 but that should have no bearing on his reelection. President Biden won his district solidly with more than 88 percent of the vote.

Liz Krueger (D-Murray Hill, Manhattan) also has a safe district that runs along the East Side of Manhattan from Kips Bay and the Flatiron District in the East 20s, to the neighborhood of Yorkville in the East 80s along Central Park. She will have 22,763 fewer constituents under the new district lines.

North of New York City there are two Jewish senators, both Democrats. Shelley Mayer (Yonkers, Westchester County) and Elijah Reichlin-Melnick (Nyack, Rockland County).

Mayer’s district is more compact with a slight increase in enrolled Democrats. She lost only 3,457 constituents. Her district number changes from 37 to 39. The city of New Rochelle and the village of Scarsdale were added to Mayer’s district while the city of White Plains, the town of North Castle and the town of Bedford were taken away from her constituent base.

Reichlin-Melnick’s new district will continue to include several Jewish enclaves in Rockland County including New Hempstead, Kaser, Spring Valley, Ramapo, Monsey and New Square. His district lines did not change. The district number changes from 38 to 40.

Mike Martucci (R-Wawayanda, Orange County) will continue to represent Orange and Sullivan counties, including the Jewish communities of Kiryas Joel, Monroe, Liberty, Woodridge, Rock Hill, and all other camps and Jewish private schools. He gains 21,807 constituents, even though the district lines changed slightly. The district number changes from 42 to 44. The district is a toss-up when measured by the metrics from the 2020 presidential election. Biden barely carried Senate District 42 but the new lines, Senate District 44, show Trump carried the district with almost 60 percent of the vote.


Lawsuits To Follow

Republicans and Conservatives have filed a lawsuit challenging the new district lines, saying the way they were drawn was unfair and illegal. Those objecting to the congressional lines maintain the lines don’t conform with areas of common interest and are targeted to remove three Republicans from New York’s congressional delegation. Six Republicans and 21 Democrats comprise the New York delegation. New York loses one congressional seat, dropping from 27 to 26 seats. In addition, a population loss in the far-reaches of upstate New York forced districts to be stretched out from one end of the state to the other. Three congressmen are not running for reelection – Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley, Suffolk County), Tom Suozzi (D-Glen Cove, Nassau County) and John Katko (D-Camillus, Onondaga County).

Former New York Congressman John Faso (R-Kinderhook, Columbia County) told a state Conservative Party confab earlier this month these maps will be going to court for a judge to decide whether they are legal.

“This is an unconstitutional gerrymander by the Democrats, who brought us bail reform, who are trying to rig the political map in their favor. This is an illegal unconstitutional gerrymander of our state where they are trying to rig the political game for the next ten years,” Faso said. “This thing is ripe for litigation. Litigation is going to be the only recourse we’re going to have to stop this gerrymander. That’s really what it is. When they say “shall not be drawn to discourage competition or for the purpose of favoring or disfavoring incumbents or other political candidates or political parties,” it doesn’t say with the exception of the Democratic party, it says any party, and that’s what we have.”

Faso says the president’s unpopularity in the polls, especially in New York, will bode well for Republican victories even with a large Democratic enrollment advantage.

“We have a president with a 60 percent job disapproval rating in the state. Sixty percent disapproval in a state that he won by 30 points in 2020,” Faso added. “We have a national environment where Joe Biden is unpopular. Where we’ve seen the results of his policies – economic, fiscal, inflation, everyone sees it when they go up to the gas pump, they see it when they go into the grocery store. They see it when they look at their paycheck when workers get a five percent pay raise but inflation is at seven percent. Inflation is eating away at the savings of retirees.”

On Thursday, February 3, a group of Republicans filed a lawsuit in state Supreme Court in Steuben County, a Republican stronghold. One of those who brought the lawsuit is former state Senator George Winner, a Republican from Elmira, Chemung County, a county adjacent to Steuben.


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Marc Gronich is the owner and news director of Statewide News Service. He has been covering government and politics for 44 years, since the administration of Hugh Carey. He is an award-winning journalist. His Albany Beat column appears monthly in The Jewish Press and his coverage about how Jewish life intersects with the happenings at the state Capitol appear weekly in the newspaper. You can reach Mr. Gronich at [email protected].