Thirteen civic organizations in northeastern Queens believe there’s strength in numbers and have come together to ensure they stay as one during upcoming state legislative and federal congressional redistricting.
Organized by Bob Friedrich, president of the Glen Oaks Village co-op, Eastern Queens United is composed of groups from Glen Oaks, Floral Park, New Hyde Park, Bellerose and Queens Village.
“We need district lines that will unite us, not divide us,” Friedrich said. “We represent communities that have a common interest and we want the lines to be drawn that are in the best interest of the community, not the politicians.”
EQU is planning rallies and discussions to prevent the state Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) from continuing to gerrymander the area. That term refers to dividing an area into voting districts to give unfair advantage to one party or group.
One of the EQU demands is that Assembly Districts 24, 26 and 33 be reconfigured and joined into one AD. Members also want the 5th and 6th Congressional Districts to be merged. In all cases, Friedrich noted, district lines would also have to be changed so that they wouldn’t be too big.
Assembly District 24 is represented by Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside), while District 26 is by David Weprin (D-Little Neck) and District 33 is by Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village). “We are not endorsing anyone,” Friedrich said. “We just don’t want to be divided.”
He indicated that these same areas are now united in one state Senate district and EQU wants it to remain that way. “We will not accept district lines that slice and dice us as if we are on some legislative committee’s chopping block,” Friedrich added.
The boundaries for EQU’s Assembly district proposal are roughly the Nassau County line to the east, the Grand Central Parkway to the North, Hollis Court Boulevard to the west and Jamaica Avenue to the south.
He noted that Glen Oaks Village is split between Braunstein and Weprin and that the two congressional districts — represented by Democrats Gregory Meeks in the 6th and Gary Ackerman in the 5th — zig-zag now. “We should be kept cohesive,” Friedrich said.
He added that the LATFOR will draw up recommended district lines by March. They will be voted on by the legislature and must be approved by Gov. Cuomo. A separate body will decide City Council district lines in 2013.
“All the civic groups, representing 70,000 people, are on board with the plan,” Friedrich said. “We don’t want to be stuck with what we have for another 10 years.”
Angela Augugliaro, president of the Queens Colony Civic Association in Bellerose, attended the recent EQU organizing meeting and said she believes the plans are doable. “They make sense,” Augugliaro said. “We are looking at it logically and we would be better served.”
Both she and Friedrich are optimistic that the LATFOR will listen to their concerns and that the EQU will get the word out to Albany.
The group will hold its first informational meeting for the public on Jan. 12 at 7 p.m. at the Queens High School of Teaching at 74-20 Commonwealth Blvd. in Glen Oaks.
“We have a unique community that can only have its interest served if we are united within the same legislative districts,” Augugliaro said. “These new lines will be in place for the next 10 years, and we will not squander this opportunity to stay united.”