Queens’ political landscape could dramatically change under a federal judge’s proposal issued this week for new Congressional district lines, which would obliterate U.S. Rep. Bob Turner’s district, representing much of South Queens, as well as parts of the Rockaways and Brooklyn, and likely pit U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) against Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) in a Democratic primary.
While a group of state legislators was tasked with drawing the new Congressional lines, which happens once a decade, they failed to agree on one proposal, prompting a panel of federal judges to become involved in the redistricting process. Judge Roanne Mann, a magistrate, was named the group’s “special master” last week, and she issued her proposal for the Congressional lines on Monday, a week before she was expected to do so.
The state Legislature could avoid the judges’ implementing their own lines if they vote to adopt their own plan before March 15. If the Assembly and Senate do agree on new lines, Gov. Cuomo would still need to give his stamp of approval.
Because the U.S. Census reported that New York’s population grew more slowly than other states, which was widely disputed by legislators and civic leaders in Queens, the state has to lose two Congressional districts. Mann proposed to axe the areas represented by Turner and U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, a Democrat from upstate who is expected to soon retire.
“The redistricting plan introduced today by the special master is just another step in the process,” Turner said. “I am prepared to run in whatever district I reside in once the final lines are adopted and signed by the governor.”
If Mann’s lines become reality, Turner’s house in Breezy Point would be placed in a heavily minority district represented by U.S. Rep. Greg Meeks (D-Jamaica).
Meeks said he plans to again run for the 5th Congressional District, which would encompass the Republican-leaning portion of the Rockaways under the judge’s plan.
“I’m fine with the district, and I’m ready to run,” Meeks said of Mann’s proposal.
“It’s a democracy, and people can run wherever they want to run,” he said of the possibility that he would be challenged by Turner. “Let him run. I look forward to working in a new part of the district.”
Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), whom has been a longtime supporter of Turner and who the congressman has called his “mentor,” had harsher words for the judge.
“I would call these maps disastrous,” Ulrich said. “The problem with the federal magistrate is there’s little to no regard for the local community. What they’re doing is dividing communities of interest, communities that were united for years. The magistrate’s lines tosses it all out the window.”
The judge’s proposal would also place Ackerman’s home in Roslyn Heights, LI, in the 3rd Congressional District that is represented by U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Suffolk). Ackerman said instead of running against Israel, he would make a bid for what would be the 6th Congressional District, for which Lancman has said he also wants to run.
“The new 6th CD is a fantastic district in Queens where I grew up, went to public school and college, and started my family and my business,” Ackerman said. “It contains my political base and longtime roots, and I have had the privilege of representing approximately 90 percent of it during my 34 years in the state Senate and U.S. Congress.”
Lancman also stressed his roots in the same district.
“The special master’s lines came out today, and while I can’t predict what the final lines will ultimately look like, the special master’s district six is centered around my home and communities that I have represented in the Assembly, on the community board, and as a civic leader for over 20 years,” Lancman said. “I look forward to the opportunity to run for Congress when the lines are finalized.”
The new 6th District would run from Maspeth and Ridgewood throughout Forest Hills and Flushing and up to Bayside and Whitestone. It would not include Jamaica Estates or Holliswood, which are similar demographically to the other communities. Instead, those neighborhoods are now in Meeks’ district.
As for the rest of Queens, U.S. Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx) would retain many of the same neighborhoods, though he would gain a little more of the Bronx, thereby increasing the Hispanic population in his area.
U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Queens, Manhattan) would retain a 12th District based in the Upper East Side and Astoria, though she would gain Greenpoint in Brooklyn — which does not represent any significant shift in demographics for her.
Civic leaders have expressed concerns with the lines, and members of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association said they are opposed to the judge’s proposal to split the neighborhood into two districts. Additionally, the lines would make Woodhaven, currently in the 9th District, one of the only Queens neighborhoods to be in a predominantly Brooklyn-based district.
The 7th District, where much of Woodhaven would end up, is also made up of Williamsburg, Bushwick, Red Hook, and a number of other Brooklyn neighborhoods. The new lines would separate it from the neighborhoods with which residents said they feel akin, such as Richmond Hill, Ozone Park, Howard Beach, Middle Village and Kew Gardens.
“I understand that the special master needed to work in a hurry, but this proposal sloppily tosses Woodhaven into a district that includes almost none of the neighborhoods we’ve shared a district with for decades,” WRBA Director Alexander Blenkinsopp said. “ … It will be extraordinarily difficult, and unlikely, for a member of Congress from this district to represent Woodhaven well.”
Other groups said they were pleased with the lines, including the Asian American Community Coalition on Redistricting and Democracy and the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
The two organizations said they were pleased to see Asian-American communities kept together in the proposal.
ACCORD officials noted that the 6th District would have the highest concentration of Asian Americans ever created.
“At nearly 40 percent of the district, the Asian-American community of northeast Queens would have major influence on a Congressional seat,” ACCORD said in a prepared statement.
Here is a link to Mann's proposed maps:
For further information, here are some interesting redistricting links: