Local officials opposed moving Beacon, Philipstown

Beacon and Philipstown will remain in their current state Assembly districts instead of being combined with more conservative parts of Putnam and Westchester counties.

Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday (April 24) enacted legislation that sets new boundaries for the Assembly’s 150 districts that will be used starting with the 2024 election. Her signature came four days after the state’s 10-member Independent Redistricting Commission finalized the plan.

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

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

Jacobson and Levenberg both voted for the new districts on Monday, when they were approved by the Senate and Assembly. Sen. Rob Rolison, whose district includes Philipstown and Beacon, also voted for the boundaries.

The vote followed 12 public hearings and letters submitted by local officials and residents in response to the draft plan, which the Independent Redistricting Commission released in December. That plan would have shifted Beacon and Philipstown into a reshaped District 94 that started north of Beacon and encompassed Philipstown, Putnam Valley and Mahopac in Putnam, and Yorktown Heights and Somers in Westchester.

The proposed boundaries for a new District 94
The proposed boundaries for a new District 94

Lee Kyriacou, Beacon’s mayor, and Meredith Heuer, president of the Beacon school board, submitted comments opposing the city’s shift to a new district.  Kyriacou said that Beacon, Newburgh and Poughkeepsie have been “linked for generations” by geography, demographics and economics.

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.

“I’m pleased to see that the new Assembly district maps keep the three mid-Hudson cities together,” said Kyriacou on Wednesday (April 26). “The commonality of interest and the importance of common representation of these cities cannot be underestimated.”

Heuer had argued that 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.”

104th District
The 104th District, including Beacon

In the 104th District, the proportion of Latinos (26.5 percent) is nearly twice as high as in the proposal for a new District 94 and for Blacks (20.7 percent), nearly fivefold. Beacon would “almost certainly” have been the new 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 divide was 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.

District 95
The 95th District, including Philipstown

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 have still won a majority in the proposed 94th District, but by a much-smaller 52.9 percent. Matthew Slater, a Republican and former supervisor for Yorktown, represents the current 94th.

Instead, the Independent Redistricting Commission finalized maps that largely resemble the ones approved by state lawmakers last year after the commission’s Democratic and Republican appointees failed to reach consensus on single Senate and Assembly redistricting plans in 2021.

A state judge ordered the Senate maps to be redrawn by a special master after a court challenge to the districts approved by the Legislature. The Assembly maps survived and were used in November’s general election. But another judge ordered that they be redone before next year’s Assembly elections.

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.