Hauppauge residents are used to being asked whether they live on the Smithtown or Islip side of town, but preparing to fight from being split at the county level.
Suffolk County Legislature will be holding a public hearing on its new redistricting plan which redraws the lines of its 18 legislative districts 2:30 p.m June 5 at the William Rogers Legislative Building in the North County Complex. The plans propose to take Hauppauge, currently in the 12th district represented by Leg. John Kennedy, and split it along town lines with the Smithtown half in the 12th district and Islip half in 10th district represented by Leg. Tom Cilmi, R -Bay Shore.
"No disrespect to Tom Cilmi, but we don't want to have Hauppauge split in half," said Hauppauge resident Paul Borowski. "We are not the only area they are splitting up, but Hauppauge has always been fragmented between the two towns and with everything going on, we are finally one big community."
Borowski has started a community email and petition calling for others to join him in protesting the proposed plans to split Hauppauge between two legislative districts.
The email reads:
Although not finalized, the draft re-districting lines for Suffolk County Legislative District #12 is planned to be split and exclude Hauppauge-Islip residents. Also, this redistricting would split up the residents of the Hauppauge School District into two legislative districts.
Borowski then cites several issues for which Kennedy, R - Nesconset, has fought on behalf of local residents since taking office in 2004. The issues include the Iroquois Natural Gas Pipeline, Suffolk Asphalt Plant, the Hauppauge-C.I. Volunteer Ambulance Corp relocation, condominiums off Spring Meadow and Townhouse Village, sidewalks near the high school and middle school and more.
Kennedy said ever since residents have heard of the plan to split Hauppauge, his office has been flooded by phone calls. While he is the first Suffolk County legislator to represent all of Hauppauge, he said he does believe splitting it will lessen residents' voice on these issues.
"You've had all of the hamlet represented by one legislator, now you are taking the hamlet and splitting it between two legislators diminishing the effect of their vote on any particular issue," Kennedy said.
He felt the county's proposed redistricting plans, which aims to have roughly 83,000 residents per district, fails to adequately consider town lines.
"As elected officials, we are supposed to be doing our best to represent people. During reapportionment, to the full extent possible you're not supposed to bifurcate or split up communities," Kennedy said.
Borowski said this has been a particular problem in the past, where Hauppauge residents have been unable to get both the Islip and Smithtown town government to work together causing them to rely on the county.
"We want things to stay the way we are. Hauppauge School District is in both towns, so we need someone to be advocating for both sides of the fence. We haven't always gotten support from the Islip side of Hauppauge," he said.
Leg. Tom Cilmi said that he has not heard from any Hauppauge residents from the possibly affcted Islip side, he would welcome the community. He fears that with a veto-proof Democratic majority in Suffolk County Legislature, the redistricting plan will take effect despite residents' protests.
"The way I presented it to folks in my community who had some concerns is suggest you'll have more than one representative on county legislature, so you'll have a great voice. You have two legislators fighting for you, that's better than one," Cilmi said.
Cilmi emphasized he would be happy to represent Hauppauge and has started working with Kennedy to become more familiar with events and issues in the area.