Hauppauge residents came together at the Suffolk County Legislature's meeting to prove they want to be able to have one, unified voice.
Suffolk County Legislature held a public hearing on its n, bill 1527. The plans propose to take Hauppauge, currently in the 12th district represented by Leg. John Kennedy, R-Nesconset, 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.
"We are unequivocally and vehemently opposed to dividing Hauppauge. More and more often, we see examples of our elected officials at the local, state and federal level who get into office and forget they are there to serve the public," said Stacy Berkowitz, president of the Spring Meadow Organization.
Berkowitz lauded Kennedy, who has represented Hauppauge in the Suffolk County legislature for the past 10 years, for helping and assisting Hauppauge residents whenever they were in need.
Kennedy said he is the first Suffolk County legislator, to his own knowledge, who has represented the entirely of Hauppauge and the Hauppauge school district at the Suffolk County level.
Hauppauge is divided into two electoral districts at several levels of government from U.S House, New York state senate and legislature, and between Islip and Smithtown town governments.
Ronald Barz, former chief of the Hauppauge Fire District, said the fire district is opposed to any redistricting plan that will split the town in two.
"The only true voice we have in the whole community is the 12th legislative district. We have had it. We are tired. We are being split, torn apart by two different towns and the only voice we have is the legislative district," Barz said.
If Suffolk County legislators vote to approve the new plan, some worry it could create futher tensions between the Islip and Smithtown half of Hauppauge.
"It will surely create dissension between Smithtown and Islip residents and politicians alike. As the needs of the Town of Smithtown and Islip are not always aligned, the result will become the burden of all residents and businesses who have the misfortune of choosing to live in a town now divided," Berkowitz said.
Issues that have previously brought together Hauppauge residents on both side of the town lines have included 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.
Eileen Mass, vice president of the Hauppauge Board of Education, spoke up about keeping Hauppauge school district in tact. Under the new plan, three schools would fall in one district and two in the 12th district. Mass said she's had problems reaching out to state assemblyman Phil Ramos, D-Brentwood, in the past who put Central Islip school district's needs above Hauppauge.
Barz asked the legislature to consider keeping Hauppauge united due to its unique composition as the home of the state and county political offices, the largest industrial park on the east coast and large residential population.
"It's our elected officials responsibility to work towards unification of communities, not dividing them, tearing them apart. Splitting our town into two legislative districts serves no purpose. It effectively diminishes our voice and our strength," Berkowitz said.
Both Kennedy and Tom Cilmi asked the legislature to keep the public record on the hearing for additional comments and to allow East End residents to comment at their next meeting in Riverhead. Their request was defeated by vote.
Suffolk County legislators will vote on the new redistricting plan on June 19. Cilmi has invited any concerned residents to call him at his office, 631-854-0940.
If the redistricting plan is approved, Hauppauge will be split between the 10th and 12th Suffolk County legislative districts effective January 1, 2014.