Jamaica NAACP fights upstate seat

The Rev. Charles Norris Sr. (c.) joins Archie Spigner (l.-r.), Leroy Gadsden and Kenneth Cohen in calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to keep his promise to veto LATFOR's maps. Photo by Rich Bockmann
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NAACP and southeast Queens leaders gathered outside Queens Borough Hall Monday, calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to veto a proposal by the state Legislature to add a 63rd state Senate seat upstate, a move they said would dilute the voting power of everyone downstate, regardless of race.

“We stand in total and absolute opposition to the LATFOR redistricting proposal for New York state,” said NAACP Jamaica Branch President Leroy Gadsden. “We fail to understand how the LATFOR panel can add and create a new district upstate in an area that experienced a decrease in population.”

Despite the fact New York City and Long Island have gained population proportionally to the rest of the state, the legislature has proposed adding a 63rd Senate seat in the Hudson Valley.

Gadsden said the proposal flew in the face of the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and was reminiscent of the voter disenfranchisement struggles of the civil rights era.

“Just say, ‘No.’ Veto this proposal,” he said.

Former St. Albans City Councilman Archie Spigner said the plan was devised to preserve the state GOP’s power in the Senate.

“The Republicans are trying to do with the new math what they can’t do with the population,” he said.

Gadsden added he wanted to remind Cuomo of his vow to veto any proposal put forth by LATFOR and said the governor was beholden not to legislators but the people, who were opposed to the plan.

“A time where everybody, all race, color, creed, religion, age and gender of all walks of life, both rich, poor and in-between are standing together and saying in a loud and clear voice this bill doesn’t work for me,” he said.

Kenneth Cohen, president of the NAACP’s northeast Queens chapter, said that in addition to the controversial proposal to add the Senate seat, LATFOR’s plan for Queens is “not appropriate to serve our communities” because it divides them.

The Rev. Charles Norris Sr., pastor emeritus of the Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church in Jamaica, called Cuomo an “ambitious governor” and that, as a Christian, he would be obligated to forgive the governor should he approve LATFOR’s plan, but he “certainly won’t forget when he runs for something else.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Updated 12:57 am, March 15, 2012
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