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Queens Chronicle

New City Council lines released; controversy remains

NYC Districting Commission releases new lines, but public angst remains

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Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013 10:30 am | Updated: 11:27 am, Thu Feb 14, 2013.

The NYC Districting Commission released its third draft of new City Council lines on Tuesday, after months of controversy in the decennial process for redrawing district lines. The new maps make some big changes both to the old lines and to earlier drafts.

Maps were due to be approved by now, but controversy over the December lines in Brooklyn and Manhattan forced Council Speaker Christine Quinn to ask the commision to go back to the drawing board for a third draft.

The border between the 30th Council District represented by Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) and the 26th Council District represented by Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) was shifted northwest to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, its current location along Maurice Avenue. In earlier drafts, the border had been moved southward as far as Grand Avenue, splitting Maspeth in half. The new borders would instead slice Woodside, while uniting most of Maspeth into the 30th District.

The new maps uphold the consolidation of Elmhurst into one district — the Jackson Heights-based 25th District represented by Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights). Taking in much of what was previously represented by Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills), the new 25th District unites most of Elmhurst’s Asian community in a district with a large Hispanic and LGBT population. Dromm said the new lines succeed in keeping like communities united.

“I think they did a good job of keeping communities of interest together,” he said. “The LGBT community was kept together, the [naturally occurring retirement community] and in Elmhurst, the growing Asian community, has been kept together.”

Dromm said he has developed strong ties to the borough’s Asian-American community, which will help when he campaigns to his new Asian constituents in the fall. He noted that he has sponsored legislation favored by Asian-American groups to demand Census forms split the “Asian” demographic into nationalities in order to get a more accurate count.

Further east, the maps made a big change in the 24th District, which includes Kew Gardens Hills, Briarwood and Electchester. The spur of Forest Hills and Rego Park just south of the Long Island Expressway and west of Flushing Meadows Park was removed. LeFrak City, which previously was united in one district, was divided into the 25th, Koslowitz’ 29th and the 21st District, represented by Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst).

Nearly 90 blocks in Broadway-Flushing and Auburndale changed hands between the Bayside-based 19th District, represented by Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), and placed in the 20th District, represented by Peter Koo (D-Flushing). The change was met with Halloran’s approval.

“When the Commission wanted to divide Broadway-Flushing in half, the community turned out in force to oppose being moved into a district with very different zoning and interests,” he said. “They were heard. This latest proposal keeps Broadway-Flushing united and protects its character by adding more homes zoned R2A into the low-density 19th Council District.”

But Paul Graziano, an urban planner from North Flushing who created the R2A zone, disagreed. He noted that more than 50 blocks of R2A zones — detached, single family homes — near Mitchell-Linden, in Broadway-Flushing and in Auburndale, were moved from the 19th to the more densely-populated 20th, including blocks he said Halloran agreed should have been in his district. About two dozen blocks of R2A zoned homes were moved the other way.

“Almost 90 blocks switched hands,” Graziano said.

The new lines run down 33rd Avenue, 146th and 154th streets, through the heart of North Flushing and Broadway-Flushing.

In response, four civic associations — North Flushing, Greater Whitestone Taxpayers, Broadway-Flushing and Auburndale — urged District Commission member Frank Padavan, who formerly represented much of the area in the State Senate, to make a motion for a last minute change in the lines.

The new maps underpopulate the 19th District and overpopulate the 20th, Grazino said, and the moves could easily be done.

Despite prodding from the Asian-American community, Oakland Gardens and Bayside were not united into one district, but a section of Bayside Hills was moved from the 19th District into the 23rd District, represented by Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens). Padavan had opposed uniting the two neighborhoods, even though many Oakland Gardens residents consider the community a spur of Bayside.

Meanwhile, in South Queens, the curious gerrymander of JFK Airport remains, drawing the runways into the 31st District, centered in Far Rockaway and Rosedale, while the terminals and access roads are in Ruben Wills’ (D-South Jamaica) 28th District. When those lines first appeared in December, a Districting Commission spokeswoman said they were drawn because the access roads all originate in Wills’ district. The entire airport had been located in the 31st.

The border between the 28th District and the 32nd District, represented by Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), shifted 17 blocks west to 103rd Street in Ozone Park, uniting the South Richmond Hill Indo-Caribbean community into a district that also includes black neighborhoods like Rochdale Village.

Woodhaven remains split between the 30th and 32nd districts in the new map, despite attempts by neighborhood leaders to unite it.

“A majority of residents are going to be represented by a council member who never represented them before,” said Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association, who fought to have the neighborhood united, as it was in the first draft of the maps released last fall. “It’s disappointing, but not surprising. Our case was very simple. We’re looking at it as a community point of view whereas there are other people who have other interests that they are protecting.”

He placed most of the blame on the way the maps are drawn rather than on who is drawing them.

“I think the problem is the process, which guarantees that you’ll have more people unhappy than happy,” he said. “I don’t know what the answer is, but it doesn’t take an idiot to know this isn’t it.”

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