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Congressional lines bring Weiner to Bayside, Auburndale

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U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Forest Hills) called the redistricting plan that divides Howard Beach at Cross Bay Boulevard into two congressional districts a mistake but said it would not affect the representation of the residents in the south Queens neighborhood.

In an interview with the TimesLedger Friday, Weiner said the decision by special master Frederick Lacey to give U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-St. Albans) the areas of Old Howard Beach and Hamilton Beach, which traditionally were part of Congressional District 9, was all but final. Lacey was appointed by a three-judge federal panel in Manhattan because the state Legislature was deadlocked on drawing new congressional lines.

Weiner, whose 9th CD previously covered all of Howard Beach, said he would like to have had the community kept intact and could not see any logical reason for the division.

But it is an error both he and Meeks are prepared to live with, he said.

“It’s not like Gregory Meeks is coming from some distant corner of the globe,” Weiner said. “I think he can represent the area and do it very well.”

Meeks’ 6th CD lies adjacent to much of Weiner’s and Meeks’ mentor and predecessor, the Rev. Floyd Flake, covered Howard Beach during part of his tenure as a congressman.

Congressional lines are of particular interest to the Howard Beach community because many of the major issues facing the area — those surrounding John F. Kennedy International Airport, the new AirTrain, and Gateway National Recreation Area — fall under federal jurisdiction.

Under the plan, District 9 would encompass central and southern Queens and southern Brooklyn, with a northward extension into Queens. It maintains the core of the current district, but extends further into the northeastern Queens communities of Fresh Meadows, Kew Gardens Hills, Auburndale, Oakland Gardens and Bayside.

The new district maintains a similar demographic composition as the current one, with 64 percent of the population identifying themselves as white, 15 percent as Asian, 14 percent as Hispanic and 4 percent as black.

Residents of Howard Beach spoke out against the split at a meeting of the Howard Beach Civic Forum last week.

“We believe that we are one community and we should have one congressional voice,” said Stephen Marino, president of the civic group.

Marino said Weiner had been extremely helpful in rehabilitating Frank Charles Memorial Park and expressed concern that redistricting might delay the process.

But the congressman said he would stick to his commitment to restore the park despite its location in Meeks’ new district. “We shouldn’t overstate how important [the split] is,” he said.

Marino was hopeful the division could eventually prove beneficial to all of Howard Beach.

“We are going to try to use two congressman to benefit the neighborhood. Now we have two of them responsible to us,” he said. “Maybe the two of them can get double the money.”

Reach reporter Daniel Massey by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 156.

Posted 7:06 pm, October 10, 2011
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