Today’s news:

Ackerman’s district shifts westward under new lines

New boundaries have reshaped U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman’s lengthy 5th Congressional District to include more of Queens, bringing the longtime politician back to areas of his home borough he represented a decade ago.

Ackerman, a 10-term congressman who will be going for his 11th term in November’s election, previously represented a district that stretched from Bay Terrace and parts of Flushing in Queens out along the north shore of Long Island to the middle of Suffolk County.

“I’m elated,” Ackerman said when asked how he felt about representing more of Queens. “This is old stomping grounds.”

Queens Village resident Perry Reich, a Republican, is running against Ackerman, who does not have a Democratic opponent.

Federal rules force district lines to move every 10 years to accommodate changes in population, and this year’s redistricting shifts Ackerman, a former schoolteacher and state senator, further west into Queens while eliminating the Suffolk County portion of the old district. The 5th Congressional District now includes parts of Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, Corona and Queens Village as well as more of Whitestone, Flushing, Jamaica Estates and northwestern Nassau County.

Ackerman’s newly redrawn district includes areas of Queens previously represented by U.S. Reps. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), Nita Lowey (D-Rego Park) and Nydia Velazquez (D-Ridgewood). Lowey no longer represents Queens on the new district map.

It is not the first time Ackerman’s district has been altered — before the 1992 redistricting the 5th Congressional District included more of central Queens. Thus the 2002 redistricting brings Ackerman back to several areas he represented both as a congressman and a state senator.

But the population of the redrawn district is quite different than a decade ago when Ackerman first represented the area and the congressman described himself as “elated” at the chance to represent more of Queens in an interview with the TimesLedger this week.

“We have 25 percent Asians,” said Ackerman, who included Asians and South Asians under that label. “We have more Asians than any other district in Congress outside Hawaii.”

In addition, he said, about 24 percent of the district’s population is Hispanic. When other minority groups such as blacks are included, Ackerman said the new 5th Congressional District is one in which Caucasians are in the minority.

“It’s a great marriage for me and the district,” said Ackerman, who is the ranking Democrat on the House subcommittee for the Middle East and South Asia and the subcommittee on East Asia and the Pacific.

“My area of international expertise matches up really well,” said Ackerman, who laughed. “I’ve got people coming into my office to tell me about what’s happening in Sri Lanka, and I start telling them what’s happening in Sri Lanka.”

The state has eliminated two congressional seats for the 2002 elections. With seats allocated by population, New York state grew only by a rate of 5.5 percent, while the country grew at a rate of 13.2 percent, according to the 2000 Census figures.

Given the makeup of the redrawn 5th Congressional District, which previously included more Republicans in suburban Long Island, Ackerman said several issues come to the forefront, including immigration, economic opportunity and education.

“They are no different than anyone else, and they have just as much if not more to contribute,” Ackerman said of Asian, South Asian and Hispanic immigrants.

The congressman said immigrants are concerned about reuniting with family members in their homelands, working and being economically secure, and obtaining a good education for their children.

“These people don’t go on welfare,” he said. “They came here for jobs. They want for their kids what my father wanted for me.”

Reach reporter Kathianne Boniello by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 146.

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