Now that Woodhaven has been swallowed by a Congressional district which includes communities quite unlike the Queens neighborhood —hipster-heavy Williamsburg in Brooklyn and Chinatown in Manhattan, for example —what is in store for constituents who will, no matter how this year’s election goes, definitely not be represented by someone from their neck of the woods?
According to one Democrat running for the 7th Congressional District —which much of Woodhaven is now a part of —and an individual representing the district’s current legislator, U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens), residents getting used to their new political lines need not worry. The new area that covers Woodhaven, which had been part of U.S. Rep. Bob Turner’s (R-Queens, Brooklyn) 9th Congressional District, was born from the recent redistricting process, which happens once every 10 years and determines which neighborhoods fall within which Congressional, Assembly and state Senate districts.
At a forum held Tuesday night by the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation at St. Thomas the Apostle in Woodhaven, Councilman Erik Dilan (D-Brooklyn) and Evelyn Cruz, a congressional liaison for Velazquez, said they plan on doing everything they can for Queens residents —including assisting small business owners in areas like Jamaica Avenue and working to close the murder case of a Woodhaven woman’s father.
Dilan and Velazquez, who represented a small slice of Woodhaven in the old district, are running in the Democratic primary on June 26. There is a third challenger, Manhattan economist Dan O’Connor, who did not show up for Tuesday’s event, which GWDC Executive Director Maria Thomson said the group held to allow residents to get face time with the candidates.
“There’s certainly issues here in Woodhaven I have to get familiar with,” Dilan told the gathering which drew about 15 people. “But as a councilman, I’m certainly versed in acting on local issues.”
Dilan and Cruz agreed that improving life for small business owners is paramount to their campaigns. The Brooklyn councilman cited Jamaica Avenue as an area emblematic of those he wants to focus on, and Cruz said Velazquez has already worked on rejuvenating the commercial strip.
“We want to work hard with small businesses,” Cruz said. “We’ve walked down Jamaica Avenue and seen a lot of ‘For rent’ signs, and owners are saying rent is going up.”
The two also spoke about trying to get police to refocus their efforts on finding the person responsible for murdering Carlos Rosario, the father of Woodhaven resident Ismelda Rosario. Carlos Rosario was shot dead at the tire shop he owned in Bushwick, Brooklyn last November, and his daughter said she is frustrated that the murderer has not been caught.
“We’ve met with the family and the commanding officer, and we’re frustrated they don’t have leads,” Dilan said. “I got my flats fixed in his shop.”
Alex Blenkinsopp, of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association and Community Board 9, told Dilan the WRBA has repeatedly tried to contact his office about the murder, but has never received a response. Dilan did not reply to the complaint that his office was unresponsive, but he did say he will keep on top of the 75th Police Precinct to arrest Rosario’s killer.
Cruz said her office has spoken with Ismelda Rosario and that Velazquez’s office is staying on top of the case as well.
“It’s a travesty,” Cruz said.
Dilan and Cruz did not launch verbal attacks at each other, nor did the councilman criticize the sitting congresswoman, and they focused on many of the same issues —job creation and bringing in resources for housing, veterans and those who have fallen ill after responding to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Cruz emphasized Velazquez’s opposition to what Democrats have have argued is an attempt by the GOP to water down the Violence Against Women Act, a piece of legislation first passed in 1994 that provides funding for battered individuals. Velazquez, among many others in the New York delegation, said the House’s bill would weaken existing protections for domestic violence victims and criticized it for not picking up changes made by the Senate to its version, including providing protection for illegal immigrants; lesbian, gay and transgender residents; and Native Americans.
Dilan, meanwhile, focused on economic woes —including the country’s debt that is now at about $16 trillion and growing.
“The deficit is not where I want to see this country,” Dilan said. “People will say, ‘that sounds Republican,’ but balancing your checkbook is nonpartisan policy.”