Mineola Mayor Paul Pereira on Wednesday blasted redistricting proposals the North Hempstead Town Board would be considering Thursday night that would separate Mineola and possibly remove Republican Councilman Dennis Walsh from all or part of District 3.
“You want to talk about backroom politics and deals, it just does not make any sense,” Pereira said at the village’s board meeting.
Every 10 years, the town is directed to participate in the redistricting process by town code to revise districts to ensure none contain a substantially disproportionate difference in the voter population compared to other districts.
Pereira released a statement Monday that he sent to each of the seven Town Board members calling out against the proposals, which he read in its entirety during the board of trustees meeting.
Of the four proposals being considered, none would keep the village in its entirety, Pereira said. The first option would separate the village in half, changing it to District 2, represented by Democratic Councilman Peter Zuckerman.
The second option would separate the village in half, giving part to Zuckerman’s district and a smaller part where Walsh lives to District 1, represented by Democratic Councilman Robert Troiano. If confirmed, this proposal would make Walsh ineligible to run for re-election in District 3.
The third option would keep the majority of the village intact except for part of the southeast, where Walsh lives on Albertson Place, putting his residence in District 1, represented by Troiano.
“Surprise surprise who happens to live there on there on Alberston place? Councilman Walsh,” Pereira said. “So although the village would be left essentially intact, Councilman Walsh would be carved out for no good reason.”
The fourth option, which removes Williston Park from District 3 entirely, creates a district line that would remove Pereira and put his residency in District 2.
“It leaves one house out of the district and that happens to be mine,” Pereira said, who lives on the border of the village. “Coincidence? I don’t know but it’s kind of odd to draw the line 50 feet south of the village border so as to have the mayor of the village not in the district.”
The final proposal that Pereira said removes him from District 3 does not alter Mineola, according to the final report given to the Town Board by the town’s nonpartisan temporary redistricting commission.
Labeled “Option 9” in the report, it says District 3 “loses the Village of Williston Park. It gains part of the unincorporated areas of Garden City Park, North New Hyde Park, and the parts of the Village of Floral Park which are in the Town of North Hempstead.”
Hearings for the nonpartisan temporary redistricting commissioner were held in May at North Hempstead Town Hall, Clinton G. Martin Park, and the ‘Yes We Can’ Community Center where they considered public comments both in-person and online and were guided on state, town and federal laws.
Pereira said the nonpartisan temporary redistricting commission’s three public hearings held throughout the North Shore in May were “not highly advertised” and “not necessarily a very transparent process.”
“It’s not about me, it’s not about Councilman Walsh, it’s not about the trustees or anybody else,” Pereira said. “It’s about the 20,000 residents of the incorporated Village of Mineola, by far the largest village in the town of North Hempstead, which has its history, its traditions, its boundaries, its identity of being together, being split up and it just screams politics. It screams gerrymandering, it screams of anything but common sense”
The mayor said he spoke to both Walsh and Zuckerman on the phone about his displeasure.
Town Democrats, who hold four seats on the seven-member board, would also be affected by the proposals, according to town officials. Democratic Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey and Republican Councilman David Adhami, who represent Districts 4 and 5, respectively, would change election cycles. This would make Lurvey represent District 5 and Adhami represent District 4.
In a statement to Blank Slate Media, Democratic Councilwoman Veronica Lurvey said the Town Board is committed to picking the map “that best reflects the goals and principles of redistricting.”
“The Town Board is carefully reviewing all four map options presented by the Nonpartisan Temporary Redistricting Commission in their report. The commission was advised by experts and put a lot of work and careful thought into the options presented, and we thank them for that,” Lurvey said. “We are committed to choosing the one map option that best reflects the goals and principles of redistricting, including the creation of an Asian minority majority district. We will listen to the residents, including Mayor Pereira, at the public hearing on June 16 before moving forward with any option.”
Mineola Trustees Jeffrey Clark, Paul Cusato, Janine Sartori and Donna Solosky joined Pereira in speaking against the proposals.
“I would encourage the residents to dial 311 and call town hall to express your disapproval of this process,” Clark said. “It really just is a political power grab.”
“I have so much to say that I don’t know what to say,” Cusato said. “And these are the same people that didn’t want Rabbi Anchelle Perl on the ethics board.”
Cusato was referencing the multiple attempts Republican Supervisor Jennifer DeSena made to get her appointments on the North Hempstead Board of Ethics which were blocked by Town Democrats. Rabbi Perl, of Chabad of Mineola, was one of the three appointments that were appointed last month.
“If you want to overlook the political aspects this is about one voice for our entire village,” Deputy Mayor Sartori said. “We want to have one voice beyond this board when we speak to the town. So I encourage residents to engage, look at the maps and speak for all of us.”
“I support what you said about this redistricting process which I think is so poor and so harmful to the village that has always been whole,” Solosky said.
The Town Board will be having a public hearing on the redistricting process Thursday night on the four proposals. It is not mandatory that a decision is made this month and the discussion can be continued in the future.
New district lines in the town would need to be finalized by Aug. 12, exactly one year after the release of the 2020 federal census.
A previous version of this article was published. It has since been updated.