Boro lawmaker hopes guv vetoes district lines
By Howard Koplowitz

No matter how you slice it, the redistricting plan drawn up by a state task force last week was widely panned in Queens by critics who said the proposal breaks up communities and gerrymanders the lines.

Every 10 years, districts for state Senate, state Assembly and congressional lines are redrawn to reflect population changes recorded in the census.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he would veto any plan not conceived by an independent commission.

The lines were proposed by the state Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment, a body comprised of elected officials and members of the public selected by elected officials.

Under the group’s plan, Sens. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) and Tony Avella (D-Bayside) would have to run against each other in a primary in one district and Sens. Jose Peralta (D-Corona) and Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) would face off in another contest.

“I can’t believe there are Democrats that would have to primary each other,” said Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica), whose southern Queens district would cut Broad Channel and sections of southeast Queens and add parts of the Rockaways if the plan is enacted.

The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association is against the plan because it would carve up the neighborhood among three different senators: Joseph Addabbo, Malcolm Smith and Shirtley Huntley

“When it comes to the Senate lines, the people of Woodhaven are being treated as pawns in Albany’s gerrymandering games,” said Alexander Blenkinsopp, spokesman for the association.

Eastern Queens United, a group of a dozen civic associations, criticized the redistricting process for dividing communities.

The task force “has abdicated its responsibility to serve the needs of the community and instead has served the needs of its politicians,” said Bob Friedrich, president of the Glen Oaks Village co-op and founder of EQU. “The new legislative maps are an abomination and are gerrymandered to break up our communities that have simply asked to remain united.”

Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck), who represents a portion of the area covered by Eastern Queens United, said he was against the task force’s map.

“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,” he said in a statement. “I look forward to offering testimony as part of [the task force’s] public review process and for my constituents to do likewise in order to end with a map that truly represents the unique character of northeast Queens.”

The Asian American Community Coalition on Redistricting and Democracy applauded the task force for drawing a new Asian-American majority Senate district in Queens and a new Assembly district but criticized the group for dividing Flushing.

“A compact district in Flushing-Bayside should be drawn to keep Asian-American communities of interest together in these neighborhoods,” the group said.

ACCORD also said the task force “has not brought equality to all Asian-American neighborhoods across New York” because Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park were divided into multiple districts.

Reach reporter Howard Koplowitz by e-mail at hkoplowitz@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

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