Chanting “Veto the lines,” a group of leaders from Queens and Nassau County gathered for a rally in Elmont, LI, to voice their disapproval of the proposed redistricting lines that have been drawn in New York State, which some called “unfair” and “illegal.”
Every decade Census numbers are used to draw the state Senate and Assembly District lines with the goal of better representing the changing demographics of a particular area. However, critics say the maps often lead to gerrymandered districts that favor incumbents.
“There is nothing more important in a democracy that the right to vote,” said Democratic district leader and former City Councilman Archie Spigner of Jamaica. “But if your vote is going to be dissected and diluted and polluted — what’s the use?”
Legis. Carrie Solages (D-Elmont), who represents the 3rd District of Nassau County, said redistricting is all about power and incumbents being able to choose their voters. He noted that the proposed State senate lines cut Elmont in half between state Sen. Dean Skelos (R-Rockville Centre) and state Sen. Jack Martins (R-Garden City Park).
“We are here today to let our leaders know that we choose them,” he said. “We choose them and we will remember this in November.”
The rally was held outside Solages’ law office. He unseated longtime incumbent Legis. John Ciotti (R-Valley Stream) last November.
The maps released last Thursday by the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment must be approved by the state Assembly and Senate as well as the governor.
Cuomo has said he would veto any lines he thought were drawn for political gain. And many participants at the rally, including the Rev. Charles Norris of the Bethesda Missionary Baptist Church in Jamaica, stressed the importance of pressuring the governor to keep his word.
Norris and others said racism may have played a role in the redistricting process.
“I am here to tell you — not one, not one — of the members of LATFOR looks like any minority,” said Scottie Coads, chairwoman of civic engagement for the New York State NAACP. “... There were 14 hearings held in the State of New York. It’s been 40 years since they came to Long Island. Think about it.”
When they did finally hold a hearing in Nassau County, after some arm twisting, Coads said, representatives only stayed for an hour or two and didn’t really listen to residents’ concerns.
“We have to make sure that they understand that we’re not going to be Mississippi,” Coads said. “We’re not going to be Tennessee. We’re not going to deal with voter suppression in the State of New York.”
In eastern and southeastern Queens the Senate lines would see greater variations than the Assembly lines, according to both lawmakers and the preliminary maps.
“The redistricting lines all over this state are an atrocity and a shame,” said Kenneth Cohen, president of the Northeast Queens branch of the NAACP. “We are turning the pages back to a time when there weren’t any African-Americans or people of color in a position to run for elected office.”
State Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica) would lose part of Broad Channel to Sen. Joseph Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) and gain the easternmost portion of the Rockaways. A spokeswoman for state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Jamaica) said the lawmaker did not want to comment on changes to his district.
Assemblyman Bill Scarborough (D-Jamaica) said he would gain a small portion of Laurelton previously represented by Assemblywoman Michele Titus (D-Far Rockaway) while her office said she would pick up a few extra blocks in Springfield Gardens.
Assemblywoman Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village) said she would probably gain about eight blocks in Bellerose previously represented by Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck), but added that she needed to examine the maps further to be sure. Assemblywoman Vivian Cook (D-Jamaica) could not be reached by press time.