Proposal will shift Beacon, Philipstown to new district

Elected officials in the Highlands are citing their fraternity with other Hudson River municipalities in asking a state Assembly redistricting commission to reconsider combining Beacon and Philipstown with areas to the east and southeast.

Proposed maps released Dec. 1 by the Independent Redistricting Commission for use beginning in 2024 would shift Beacon and Philipstown into a reshaped District 94 that starts north of Beacon and encompasses Cold Spring, Garrison, Putnam Valley and Mahopac in Putnam County, and Yorktown Heights and Somers in Westchester.

Philipstown now resides in Assembly District 95. Represented by Dana Levenberg, a Democrat, it runs south along the Hudson River to Briarcliff Manor and includes Peekskill, Croton-on-Hudson and Ossining.

Assembly District 104, which includes Beacon, Newburgh and Poughkeepsie, straddles the Hudson River. Jonathan Jacobson, also a Democrat, is that district’s representative.

Lee Kyriacou, Beacon’s mayor, said in a submitted comment on the plan that Beacon, Newburgh and Poughkeepsie have been “linked for generations” by geography, demographics and economics.

The proposed Assembly District 94 would include Beacon and Philipstown.
The proposed Assembly District 94 would include Beacon and Philipstown.

Beacon and Newburgh are termini on the Interstate 84 bridge that bears their names and Poughkeepsie, like Beacon, is a stop on Metro-North’s Hudson Line. The three cities also share histories as urban communities built on manufacturing that are undergoing an economic renaissance, and they are linked culturally.

“These and multiple other connections between these three cities readily demonstrate a deep and longstanding community of interest,” the mayor wrote.

In addition, Meredith Heuer, president of the Beacon school board, said other schools in the proposed district — whose population would be 75 percent white, 14 percent Latino and 4.5 percent Black — would be “wealthier and less diverse.”

In the 104th District, the proportion of Latinos (27 percent) is nearly twice as high as in the proposal for District 94 and for Blacks (20.7 percent), nearly fivefold.

Beacon would “almost certainly” be the district’s only Title I school, said Heuer, referring to the federal program for schools with high percentages of students from lower-income households.

“An elected official in this new district may not be connected to the needs of our students if the majority of the school districts in their boundaries do not share our challenges,” she said in a comment submitted on behalf of the board.

The boundaries of Assembly districts 104 (including Beacon) and 95 (including Philipstown)
The boundaries of Assembly districts 104 (including Beacon) and 95 (including Philipstown)

Familiarity was also cited by Sandy Galef, who represented the 95th District for 30 years before retiring in December. Those communities, she wrote to the Independent Redistricting Commission, are connected by Routes 9 and 9A and have common interests, such as protection of the Hudson River and the decommissioning of the Indian Point nuclear power plant.

Both mountains and “limited services” from Putnam’s government divide Philipstown from the eastern parts of the county, said Galef. “Philipstown is in Putnam County but I strongly believe that the residents of that town have more in common with the communities along the Hudson River,” she said.

The divide is also political. The only Democrat on the Putnam County Legislature represents Philipstown, and the town and Beacon are Democrat-heavy municipalities in Assembly districts where the party’s voters hold a solid majority.

In 2020, President Joe Biden won 65.8 percent of the vote in the 95th District and 64.7 percent in the 104th. Biden would still win a majority in the proposed new district, but by a much-smaller 52.9 percent. Matthew Slater, a Republican and former supervisor for Yorktown, represents the current 94th.

The commission, which is holding public hearings around the state, must submit its finalized maps to the Legislature by April 28. If the Legislature fails to approve the plan, or the governor vetoes it, the Independent Redistricting Commission will have until June 16 to submit a revision. If that also fails, the state Senate and Assembly can make changes.

The revision of the Assembly maps represents a do-over for the Independent Redistricting Commission, whose Democratic and Republican appointees, ahead of last year’s elections, released competing proposals for New York’s 26 congressional seats, the state Senate’s 63 seats and the 150 seats in the Assembly.

Putnam Approves New Districts

The first legislative district in Putnam County, which combines Philipstown with part of Putnam Valley, is now the county’s largest under a redistricting map approved by the Legislature on Tuesday (Feb. 7) to reflect population shifts in the 2020 census. The changes will take effect in 2024.

The district, which is represented by Nancy Montgomery, the Legislature’s sole Democrat, is smaller by 38 people but its population of 11,020 is now the largest
of the county’s nine districts because of reductions in what had been the two largest.

The new Putnam map
The new Putnam map

The new boundaries move 642 people out of District 2, represented by William Gouldman, and 587 from District 6, represented by Legislature Chair Paul Jonke.

As part of the rebalancing, three election districts were eliminated: two in Carmel and one in Southeast. The average population for the county’s nine legislative districts is 10,852.

Democrats in the Legislature took over the process, creating boundaries signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul. But Republicans challenged those maps in court, and Patrick McAllister, a state judge in Steuben County, ruled in April that the Democratic maps violated the state constitution, which prohibits gerrymandering.

In upholding his decision, the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, also concluded that Democrats failed to follow a legal requirement that lawmakers first reject two plans by the commission. Even then, the court said, state lawmakers could only amend the commission’s second rejected plan, and any changes could not affect more than 2 percent of the population in any district.

Under McAllister’s oversight, a special master redrew New York’s congressional and state Senate maps. The Court of Appeals’ decision, however, did not cover the Assembly maps, so the state used the existing boundaries for the primaries in June and the general election in November.

Judge Laurence Love of the New York County Supreme Court issued a decision in September allowing the Independent Redistricting Commission to draft new boundaries for the Assembly, rejecting a request by two Democrats and a Republican who sued to have them redrawn by a special master. His decision was upheld on appeal.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

The Peekskill resident is a former reporter for the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, where he covered Sullivan County and later Newburgh. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Morgan State University and a master’s degree in journalism from the University of Maryland. Location: Cold Spring. Languages: English. Area of Expertise: General.

One reply on “Local Officials Oppose State Assembly Map”

  1. I’m new to Nelsonville and am still learning about the relationships between the region’s municipalities.

    The Assembly map is still a bit surprising and I’d welcome more coverage of this issue. Most often, I find myself in Philipstown, Beacon, Fishkill and Newburgh (roughly matching The Current’s coverage). But my Assembly district doesn’t line up at all! As a newcomer, I’m sure it would make more sense if I knew more about the history, geography, and yes, politics of the area.

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