South Queens gets the legislative shaft when it comes to a federal judge’s proposed Congressional lines, including Howard Beach and Bedford-Stuyvesant — areas with vastly different demographics — being drawn into the same district, said elected officials and residents who worry the plan would silence their neighborhoods’ voices.
“If legislators were to have done things right, this wouldn’t have happened,” state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) said of Howard Beach and Ozone Park being drawn into what would become the 8th Congressional District, which would include Bedford-Stuyvesant and East New York. “There’s no reason we can’t keep congressional districts in the same borough.”
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” earlier this month, and she issued her proposal for the Congressional lines last week.
State legislators would have had to approve a Congressional plan on Wednesday to avoid the judges’ lines being implemented, which they had not done as of press time.
Howard Beach is now in the 9th Congressional District, represented by U.S. Rep. Bob Turner (R-Queens, Brooklyn), but the judge eliminated his district in her plan. The 9th CD as it stands includes such Queens neighborhoods as Maspeth, Ridgewood and Kew Gardens and such Brooklyn areas as Sheepshead Bay and Mill Basin, which include a majority of white voters.
Howard Beach, which is about 88 percent white according to federal statistics, would fall into a black-majority district under the judge’s proposal, which some said they worried would mean their voice would not carry the same weight as in their current area.
“That they would divide communities that were united for years and toss them out the window is not objective,” Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) said last week, when the judge had just released her maps. “It’s very subjective. They’re doing the voters and residents a great disservice.”
Woodhaven residents also said they were dismayed with the judge’s plan, which would split apart the community and place much of it into the proposed 7th Congressional District, which would include a number of Brooklyn and Manhattan neighborhoods with which civic leaders said they felt they had very little in common.
“The Congressional lines affect Woodhaven drastically,” said Maria Thomson, executive director of the Greater Woodhaven Development Corporation. “It ruins the integrity of our community.”
The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association have written a letter to Mann, asking her to reconsider her proposal.
“Ask any Woodhaven resident what they think of being grouped together with this set of neighborhoods, and they would tell you that it makes very little sense,” stated the letter that the group sent last week.