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State’s redistricting plan gets OK, moves boro reps

The state Legislature passed its congressional redistricting bill June 5, shifting Queens’ representatives around the borough and removing one influential member from the county altogether.

As of press time, the bill awaited the signature of Gov. George Pataki to become law. Pataki had indicated he planned to sign the measure.

The plan must then be approved by the U.S. Department of Justice and survive potential lawsuits before being instituted for the November elections.

The bill was passed after a panel of federal judges threatened to impose federal special master Frederick Lacey’s plan, which differs slightly from the Legislature’s proposal, because the state Legislature was at one point deadlocked and unable to pass a plan.

The plan moves U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) out of Suffolk County and further into Flushing, Whitestone, College Point and Hollis. U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) is pushed further into the Bronx, and U.S. Rep Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) loses about half of Howard Beach, which he previously represented in full.

U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-Forest Hills) is the only representative now serving the borough who is completely moved out of Queens in the plan. Most of Lowey’s current district lies in Westchester County, but she has covered parts of Rego Park, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens Hills, Fresh Meadows and Hollis.

“It’s a loss for Queens,” Weiner said of Lowey, who is on the House Appropriations Committee and chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the fund-raising arm of the national Democratic Party. Lowey could not be reached for comment.

The area in the borough served by U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) will hardly change in the plan. Three members of Congress whose districts barely extend into the borough, Nydia Velazquez (D-Long Island City), Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) and Charles Rangel (D-Astoria), will see their boundaries remain intact.

The Legislature’s plan dramatically changes the political landscape in two upstate regions, pitting four incumbents in races for only two seats. According to the plan, John LaFalce (D-Buffalo) will face Louise Slaughter (D-Rochester), while Sue Kelly (R-Fishkill) will oppose Benjamin Gilman (R-Middletown).

New York state is forced to eliminate two congressional seats because its population grew at a slower rate than the rest of the nation. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, New York’s population increased by 5.5 percent, while the country grew by 13.2 percent.

Although disappointed at losing part of Howard Beach, Weiner in an interview with the TimesLedger called the redistricting process “good for democracy” in that it forces politicians to meet new constituents.

“We’re all moving around, learning new parts of our districts,” he said. “It does bring fresh blood into the system.”

Reach reporter Alexander Dworkowitz by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

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