A state task force released new district maps Thursday for the state Legislature that were quickly criticized by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Senate Democrats and good-governments groups for being gerrymandered to benefit the parties in power.
The process of drawing district lines every 10 years — required by law — has long been knocked for being controlled by legislative leaders and stifling competitive elections.
The new districts for 213 legislative seats in the November elections stoked the same complaints Thursday.
The maps showed that Republicans cut some Senate districts with the aim of keeping their majority in a state where enrolled Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 2-to-1 margin.
The focus was on the 63 seats drawn for the state Senate, where Republicans cling to a 32-30 seat majority.
Districts in western New York and in the Hudson Valley were viewed as being sliced up to keep Senate Republicans in power. The Southern Tier would stay largely unchanged.
“I am disappointed in this result and in the dishonorable lawmakers who openly pledged to do things differently this year, and then reneged when it wasn’t to their political advantage,” said former New York City Mayor Ed Koch, who has led an effort for independent redistricting.
Legislative leaders said the maps are fair and represent population shifts. The maps are preliminary and would have to be approved by the Legislature.
“The new district lines are the result of the most open and transparent reapportionment process in decades,” said Sen. Michael Nozzolio, R-Fayette, Seneca County, who chairs the task force called the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment.
Cuomo has vowed to veto any lines not independently drawn. He maintained that stance Thursday, but he said the lines would likely end up in court no matter what he does.
“My position hasn’t changed. I’ve said all along I want an independent commission to draw the lines,” Cuomo said before the proposed district lines were released.
Later, Cuomo spokesman Josh Vlasto said, “At first glance, these lines are simply unacceptable and would be vetoed by the governor. We need a better process and product.”
The Senate currently has 62 seats, but Republicans are adding a 63rd seat from Amsterdam in Montgomery County to Kingston in Ulster County. The move is being viewed as creating a district to help the GOP.
The new 63rd District is leading to shifts in the Hudson Valley. Sen. Stephen Saland, R-Poughkeepsie, would move into a district that’s almost exclusively Dutchess County and adds three towns in Putnam County: Kent, Putnam Valley and Philipstown.
“I look at it truly with mixed emotions,” said Saland, who was first elected to the Senate in 1990. “I’m certainly pleased to represent more of Dutchess and certainly there’s an element of excitement and anticipation to represent a portion of a county (Putnam) I never had.”
Sen. Greg Ball, R-Patterson, Putnam County, would have less of Dutchess as a result. His district would cover more of Westchester County; he already represents most of Putnam County. Ball announced his re-election bid this week.
“For me, nothing will change,” Ball said in a statement. “My focus before and after redistricting will continue to be on job creation, lowering taxes and working with Governor Cuomo to get New York state back on track.”
Sens. John Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, Orange County, and William Larkin, R-New Windsor, Orange County, would be shifted south and west because the new 63rd Senate District would include much of Ulster County. They had shared Ulster County. Under the proposal, four senators would represent it.
In western New York, Sen. Mark Grisanti, R-Buffalo, would move into a district that includes more of the Buffalo suburbs, which have more enrolled Republicans. He pulled off a surprise victory in 2010 in a heavily Democratic district that encompasses most of Buffalo.
In the Rochester area, Sen. James Alesi, R-Perinton, Monroe County, would run in a district that includes the more heavily Republican areas of western Ontario County and keeps his base of eastern Monroe County. He also would add more of the city of Rochester, a heavily Democratic area.
Assemblyman Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit, Monroe County, criticized the lines, saying the county would be represented by six senators.
“The Senate lines are worrisome,” said Morelle, who heads the county Democratic Committee.
Grisanti and Alesi have been viewed as vulnerable Republicans. Both voted in favor of same-sex marriage last year, and Alesi has faced criticism for suing a constituent — a lawsuit he later quickly dropped.
Alesi said he’s comfortable with the new lines. “The economic needs of the area are regional,” he said.
Sen. Joseph Robach, R-Greece, Monroe County, would lose perhaps 40,000 to 50,000 voters in the city of Rochester, moving him more to the county’s western, more heavily Republican suburbs. Sen. Michael Ranzenhofer, R-Amherst, Erie County, would pick up part of the city of Rochester.
Good-government groups criticized the districts. The New York Public Interest Research Group said districts should ideally have population deviations of no more than 3 percent. In the proposal, only 13 of the 63 Senate districts would meet that criteria; 10 years ago, 43 districts met the 3 percent deviation, the group said.
“The Senate’s maps are clearly the most gerrymandered lines in recent New York history,” said Bill Mahoney, NYPIRG’s research coordinator.
Each Assembly district would have 129,089 people. Each Senate district would have about 307,356 people.
Senate Republicans countered that only 15 of 63 proposed new Senate districts have more enrolled Republicans than Democrats.
The lines would bolster Republicans’ chances for an already competitive Senate seat in lower Westchester County. The 37th Senate District, currently held by retiring Democratic Sen. Suzi Oppenheimer, would add Republican areas, particularly the town of Eastchester, to help the GOP’s changes in November, officials said.
The district also would remove the town of Ossining, a Democratic town. Republican Bob Cohen plans to run for the seat after narrowly losing to Oppenheimer in 2010. Assemblyman George Latimer, D-Rye, is the likely Democratic candidate.
The proposed change to the district means Sen. Jeff Klein, D-Bronx, would lose much of lower Westchester. Sen. David Carlucci, D-Clarkstown, Rockland County, would get a district almost exclusively in his home county, but would pick up Ossining.
Klein said he was disappointed he would lose parts of Westchester. He would still retain Pelham and half of Mount Vernon.
“You get very attached to communities and you do a lot of work with the constituencies,” he said.
In the Assembly, three districts would be established in Asian-American neighborhoods in Queens and Brooklyn. A Senate district would serve largely as an Asian district in Queens, pitting incumbent Democratic senators against one another, experts said.
Some changes were minor. Sen. Thomas O’Mara, R-Big Flats, Chemung County, said the only thing that would be changed with his district would be its number — 58 instead of 53. He represents an area that includes Elmira and Ithaca.
“My boundary is exactly the same, so certainly I’m pleased to see that and look forward to continue to represent the district,” he said.