The Town--location and history
Judge rules Town of Hempstead must elect Town Council from districts.
What will the districts look like? (Hempstead and elsewhere)
Where do you draw the line?
Travel around the town--links to community resources: museums, organizations, education, businesses, government, lists of links
Complaints about town government.
Enter our poetry-reading contest. No prizes!
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We welcome your questions and comments.
Located at about 40° 40' N, 73° 40' W, the Town of Hempstead is on the South Shore of Long Island, the Atlantic Coast, just east of the City of New York and west of the Town of Oyster Bay. The town was orignally somewhat larger in area. In the 17th century, the town included territory from Port Washington to Breezy Point. In the 18th century, the Town of North Hempstead was created on the North Shore. In the 19th century, the City of New York annexed the Rockaway Peninsula, including the Village of Far Rockaway. In the 20th century, the City of Long Beach was incorporated from part of a barrier island in the town.
Historical peculiarities and rigid inertia have made Hempstead the only town in the United States with a population over 700,000. For six decades, it was notable for having two supervisors, instead of the usual one. Together, the two cast more than half of the votes on the Nassau County Board of Supervisors, although never a majority for passage. In 1994 the County was divided into legislative districts. However, the town continued to elect council members at-large.
A federal court has abolished the monolithic government structure of the Town of Hempstead (pop. 725,000), which provided the power base for prominent Republican politicians, including former (1981-1988) U.S. Sen. Alfonse D'Amato. Hempstead's Republican organization is recognized as one of the few remaining old-style political machines. Located in Nassau County NY, Hempstead is the most populated town in the USA, exceeding Boston, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Miami, New Orleans, St. Louis, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Seattle, six states, and several foreign countries.
Republicans have held all offices in town government since 1907. Because of the cost of campaigning, only the Republican machine has been able to mount the town-wide campaign required for election of council members. Thus, loyal party soldiers are elected to all town offices. Critics are kept at bay. The Republican party has taken full advantage of this comfortable insulation, funnelling a percentage of the town's high taxes into a huge campaign war chest used to elect Republican candidates.
As a result of the court ruling, council members will run in smaller local districts. It certain that members of town government will be more diverse and independent after the implementation of the ruling. This will likely result in closer scrutiny of budgets, contracts, and appointments, keeping tax receipts from reaching campaigns. Without this ample stream of cash, it will be more difficult for machine politicians to swamp their opponents. (Click here for a poetic interpretation of the Hempstead story.)
The ruling could have made the system democratic without creating electoral districts, if a proportional system of voting had been used. These methods are described at the Center for Voting and Democracy.
In May, 1997, the town presented an embarrassingly feeble plan to keep consolidated machine control. They proposed creating a black district with one council seat--and no other districts! The rest of the town would remain a five-seat doughnut (around a black hole, so to speak). This move can be interpreted as a desperate attempt to delay the inevitable. How likely is it that the court will consider a system that was ruled unconstitutional in the 1960's for electing Hawaii's legislature?
Hempstead's machine may have been weakened a bit when Alfonse D'Amato lost his seat in the U.S. Senate in 1998. (Many of us were relieved that he retired while still the junior senator.) However, D'Amato and his friends still wield some influence in state politics.
Following the lead established at the county level, a more democratic form of government is to be established in the Town of Hempstead. A six-district plan is most likely. What will it look like?
"It seems as if Babylon Turnpike in Roosevelt has become a truck stop. Amazingly, on Monday, April 11th 2005, Nassau County police car #117 drove by every truck and did not write one single summons. Isn't it illegal to park a tractor trailer on a that has a weight limit?
"Where are the legislators when it comes to enforcing quality of life issues? Babylon Turnpike has become a highway with heavy traffic from sun up to sun down. This road was never intended to handle this volume of traffic, nor was it anticipated that trucks would use this thoroughfare as a parking lot. Isn't if odd that I don't see any tractor trailers parked on Babylon Turnpike in Merrick. Why are they allowed to do so in Roosevelt?
"Signed: Disgusted at the truck stop!"
"Please something needs to be done about Jerusalem ave just north of Hempstead Tpke in Levttown. The left hand lane is gross. Everyone tries to drive in the middle of the two lanes and makes it difficult for people to pass. Please can someone check it out."
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Last altered: 1 January 2012
Last revised: 5 November 2012
visitors since 11 November 1997