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Reactions were mixed after two state Assembly districts in eastern Queens were drastically changed last Thursday by a state panel in charge of redrawing political boundaries.
Assemblymen Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) and David Weprin (D-Little Neck) saw their districts — the 25th and 24th, respectively — morph to include different neighborhoods throughout northeast Queens, with Lancman’s being turned into a much-discussed majority Asian district.
Weprin vowed to testify against the current maps, calling his proposed district less cohesive, while Lancman touted his proposed district as just the opposite.
The redistricting process happens every decade after the results of the U.S. census are made final. A state body made up of politicians and civilians, called the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment, adjusts political lines to accommodate for population increases.
The majority party in each house draws the maps, so Democrats created the Assembly lines and Republicans the Senate lines. The process is often controversial, and this time around is no different.
In 2002, the last time the lines were drawn, Lancman’s District 25 was largely aligned on a north-south axis. His district stretched all the way from portions of Richmond Hill in the south through Briarwood, Kew Gardens Hills, Fresh Meadows and Flushing and finally up to Whitestone in the north. It encompasses six community boards, six police precincts and four school districts.
The proposed district would be oriented east to west and lose the far-flung neighborhoods to the north and south, like Whitestone and Richmond Hill, and instead concentrate more on Flushing, Fresh Meadows and parts of Bayside.
And that would cut the number of community boards, police precincts and school districts for the seat in half.
“It helps keeps communities together,” said Eric Walker, spokesman for Lancman. “We’re happy with the outcome and look forward to reporting to our new constituents.”
The district would also be more than 50 percent Asian — which includes people of all Asian backgrounds — which is something advocated for by The Asian American Community Coalition on Redistricting and Democracy.
The coalition has said the rising Asian population in New York City warranted at least four Assembly districts so the populations could be adequately represented in government, according to James Hong, spokesman for the coalition.
The coalition ultimately supports the Unity Maps, an alternate proposal drawn up by several groups throughout the state, but Hong echoed Lancman and said the proposed District 25 is an improvement over the 2002 version.
“It is more reflective of a community that exists here in northeast Queens,” he said. “We are definitely appreciative of what the Assembly side of [the task force] has attempted to do here.”
But Hong said the coalition’s cautious optimism does not carry over to other neighborhoods like Richmond Hill, which has long been splintered into several Assembly districts.
A portion of that neighborhood was formerly represented by Lancman, but under the proposed maps, a portion of it would go to Weprin’s District 24 instead.
District 24 is currently compact and vaguely rectangular. It covers neighborhoods including Jamaica Estates and Auburndale to the west and runs through Fresh Meadows, Douglaston, Little Neck, Glen Oaks and Floral Park in the east.
The proposed district is much thinner and would run from Richmond Hill in the east and then follow the Grand Central Parkway west through Jamaica Hills, Jamaica Estates, Holliswood and Fresh Meadows before ending up again in Oakland Gardens.
“Following the publication of the draft redistricting maps, I want to state my opposition to the changes made to the 24th Assembly district,” Weprin said in a statement. “Northeast Queens is a special and distinct geographic region, whose residents and community leaders have voiced their desire to be kept together in a contiguous district rather than be divided.”
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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