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Queens Chronicle

Reform defeated; so now what?

Most proponents of independent redistricting stop short of ‘no’ vote

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Posted: Thursday, February 2, 2012 12:00 pm | Updated: 8:24 am, Mon Feb 27, 2012.

Thirteen members of the Queens delegation to Albany and Gov. Cuomo were among those who signed on to a pledge from NY Uprising that called for an independent commission to draw up new state legislative districts in the wake of the 2010 Census.

The campaign was championed by former Mayor Ed Koch. Its website hails those who signed as “Heroes of Reform,” and those who did not as “Enemies.”

But with newly drawn Assembly lines being criticized and those for Senate districts drawing outright contempt, very few members of the Queens delegation — all Democrats — said they would vote against the draft districts if they were presented as now drawn.

“I would absolutely vote against these lines,” said State Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach).

The proposed Senate lines were drawn up by the body’s Republicans who have a razor-thin majority, and, according to critics, gerrymandered the new districts to maintain it.

The new lines would set Queens Democrats Mike Gianaris (D-Astoria) and Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) against each other, as well as Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Whitestone) and Tony Avella (D-Bayside).

“It’s no coincidence that the Republican proposal puts the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee co-chairs, Sen. Gianaris and I, in the same district,” Peralta said in a statement issued by his office.

Cuomo has called the new lines unacceptable, and Addabbo said Senate Republicans would have zero chance of overriding a veto.

Gianaris said while he does not think the plan will even come to a vote through either a veto or a court challenge, he too would vote no, and not out of sudden political convenience.

“Five or six years ago I wrote an independent redistricting bill similar to what the governor has proposed,” the senator said.

While Addabbo is considered highly unlikely to suffer electoral damage from his proposed district, he is opposed to the process in principal.

“I don’t accept these on a number of levels,” he said. “Instead of keeping neighborhoods together, they fragment Ridgewood, Woodhaven, Richmond Hill and Ozone Park. It cuts the Rockaways in two. I don’t see the rationale behind it.”

On the Assembly side, where the lines were drawn by his fellow Democrats, David Weprin (D-Little Neck) also said he would vote no.

“I suspect there will be changes, but I’m against them the way they are now,” he said.

Assemblyman Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) said Assembly lines were imperfect, and those for the Senate far worse. But he also said even the most ardent supporters of an independent redistricting commission would have to think seriously before casting a no vote absent alternatives.

“I support independent redistricting, but I don’t see the benefit of objecting unless there is a plan on the table for an independent redistricting commission to take hold,” he said.

Miller said upcoming primaries put lawmakers up against hard deadlines.

“What if someone wants to primary me?” he asked. “Is it fair to that person to keep pushing things back?”

Assemblymen Andrew Hevesi (D-Forest Hills) and Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) said they are excited at the prospect of working with their new constituents. Lancman said that his proposed district — with fewer community districts, fewer police precincts and fewer schools — does appear to adhere to the aim of keeping neighborhoods together.

Both men, while critical of the process, stopped short of saying they would vote no.

So did Assemblyman Bill Scarborough (D-Jamaica), whose district underwent minimal change and who is listed on NY Uprising’s “Enemies of Reform” list for not signing on.

“I became very disenchanted with NY Uprising and the way they were moving the process,” he said. “But in general I think independent redistricting would give people more confidence in what is going on.”

A spokesman for Stavisky said she stands by her call for an independent commission and would have no comment on the new lines other than to say the process is not completed.

Sen. Shirley Huntley (D-Jamaica), Assemblywoman Grace Meng (D-Flushing) and Assemblywoman Arvella Simotas (D-Astoria) also all signed the pledge.

Their offices did not return calls seeking comment on their positions or a possible vote.

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