Town of Newburgh sued for allegedly violating New York's Voting Rights Act

Newburgh is the second municipality in the Hudson Valley to be sued under the 2022 law designed to prevent racial voter suppression and discrimination.

Jonathan Gordon

Mar 28, 2024, 12:21 AM

Updated 51 days ago

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The town of Newburgh is facing a new lawsuit accusing the town's at-large voting system of violating New York's Voting Rights Act.
Newburgh is the second municipality in the Hudson Valley to be sued under the 2022 law designed to prevent racial voter suppression and discrimination. The same law firm, Abrams Fensterman, LLP, sued the town of Mount Pleasant in Westchester County back in January for similar accusations of violating the state Voting Rights Act.
A group of six town residents, three who are Black and three Hispanic, claims the current method for electing the four council seats prevents Black and Hispanic residents from electing their candidates of choice.
According to the lawsuit, a quarter of the town is Black and another 15% is Hispanic but the residents claim every person ever elected to the town board has been white. They added the last time a person of color ran for a town board seat was in 2011.
"The minority communities are being disenfranchised and are unable to have any voice whatsoever in their government and we need to change that," attorney for the Plaintiffs and Westchester County Legislator David Imamura said.
The lawsuit highlighted two incidents where the council "routinely neglects the interests of the Black and Hispanic communities."
Last spring, the town sought an injunction preventing hotels from taking in migrants from New York City after 60 asylum seekers arrived. That case is still ongoing.
The lawsuit also alleges the town supported the proposed expansion of the Danskammer Power Plant in 2018 despite other neighboring municipalities opposing it.
The proposal would have led to more carbon pollution exposure for Black and Hispanic town residents who live disproportionately near the plant. The state Department of Environmental Conservation ultimately killed the plan.
Newburgh Town Supervisor Gil Piaquadio has not yet responded to News 12's request for an interview or comment on the lawsuit.
But on March 15, the town council held a special meeting to address the initial complaint against Newburgh. In that meeting, the council hired a law firm to review the town's compliance with the state Voting Rights Act.
"Once it has consulted with the attorneys regarding the results of the review, the Town Board will consider available alternative courses of action," Piaquadio wrote in a press release on March 19. "At this time, it is premature to speculate whether that will be necessary and what that election system might look like."
The town said this decision to review its at-large voting method is not an admission of any intention to discriminate against any of its residents.
The council directed the lawyers to report back to the town with its findings within 30 days. The lawsuit claimed this resolution did not give an actual schedule on when the council would have to act.
The lawsuit is asking a court to declare the town's at-large system in violation of the state Voting Rights Act and to implement a new method in time for the 2025 election.


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