Islip Town’s at-large council election system has flipped to single-member districts after a tentative settlement was reached in the federal lawsuit Flores v. Islip Town.
Assemblyman Phil Ramos (D-Brentwood), who supported the effort to have councilmanic districts and testified in court, said Tuesday that the tentative settlement by U.S. District Court Judge Gary R. Brown “acknowledges that the present at-large systems in the Town of Islip elections disenfranchises Brentwood, Central Islip and other communities of color.”
The settlement was announced by a lawyer representing Islip Town in a virtual conference Oct. 9, just seven days after the bench trial began in federal court.
Brentwood residents Ana Flores, Rene Flores, Maria Magdalena Hernandez and Magali Roman, and two New York-based advocacy groups sued Islip Town roughly a year ago. They alleged that the town’s at-large system of electing town council members denied Latino representation on the board and violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The group was represented by Hempstead attorney Frederick K. Brewington in court. Islip Town was represented by Washington, D.C.-based attorney Louis Fisher.
Ramos, who represents District 6, which encompasses Brentwood, Central Islip and part of Bay Shore, said the arrival of single-member districts ensures equity among all.
“Our duly elected councilpersons will respond to us, and advocate for working families, small businesses and young people,” Ramos said. “Through the powerful work of our community members, the days of saturating our community with power plants, inciting cell phone towers, contaminated parks and more, will end.”
Under the current at-large system, Ramos said, communities of color have been upstaged by the wealthy communities that have more votes.
The lack of representation, he said, has left his district with three power plants within a five-mile radius and, most recently, a garbage transfer station in residential Brentwood.
Islip is the third-most populous town in New York State and is 34.5 percent Hispanic, according to the 2017 American Community Survey. The majority of Islip’s Latino community is located in Brentwood, Central Islip and North Bay Shore.
“We’ve been fighting for this for years,” Ramos said. “It’s certainly a day to celebrate.”
Last week, a town representative stated that under the town’s current policy, board members are not permitted to comment on ongoing litigation.