The state group tasked with redrawing district lines that will cement New York’s political landscape for the next decade released its preliminary maps on Thursday, which shows some Queens districts dramatically changed while others remain the same.
“My new proposed district is only 40 percent of my old district,” said Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck). “It doesn’t keep the communities of eastern Queens together. I’m going to testify against the plan. I’m not happy with the proposed lines.”
If the state Legislature and Gov. Cuomo approve the lines proposed by the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment, often referred to as LATFOR, Weprin would lose Fresh Meadows, most of Bellerose and parts of Bayside and Glen Oaks.
“In Queens they intended to create an additional Asian district, and I think the gerrymandering of my district, and others, was to create that new Asian district,” Weprin said. “It may be a noble cause, but the proposed district splits apart communities.”
Weprin would also pick up portions of Richmond Hill and Kew Gardens.
Redistricting happens once every 10 years after the federal Census numbers are published. The idea behind it is to redraw the political coverage areas so they better represent the changing demographics as reported by the Census, though everyone from good government groups to civic leaders and legislators themselves have criticized New York’s process in the past, saying it leads to gerrymandered maps with contorted boundary lines that split apart communities that would normally be unified, to favor incumbents.
The maps released by LATFOR, a group made up predominantly of legislators, are not the final lines, and additional public hearings on the proposal will be held throughout the state. The state Assembly and Senate have to vote on the maps, and Cuomo has to approve them as well. Cuomo’s office did not respond to a request for comment for this article, though he has said in the past that he would veto any lines he thought were drawn for political gain.
While Weprin was upset with the lines, a spokesman for Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) said his office is fine with the proposal.
Lancman would lose Richmond Hill, Briarwood and the Broadway-Flushing area, while he would pick up most of Fresh Meadows and Bayside Hills. He would also acquire more of Flushing.
“The district he represents right now is tough because it comprises six community boards, six precincts, and four school districts. The proposed district has only two school districts, three community boards and three precincts. It makes sense.”
Assemblymen Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) and Phil Goldfeder (D-Ozone Park) have also said they support the lines for their respective districts.
Miller would lose a portion of Glendale, but gain sections of Ozone Park and Ridgewood.
While Goldfeder’s district would essentially remain the same, he said the process by which the lines were drawn were not “ideal” because there was no independent redistricting commission, which almost all the legislators originally said they backed but which never came to fruition.
“I’m going to continue to push for an independent redistricting commission,” Goldfeder said.
Queens state senators are vastly unhappy with the proposal. State Sen. Michael Gianaris’ (D-Astoria) house in northeast Astoria would be placed in the district represented by state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Jackson Heights), meaning that Gianaris would either have to run in a primary against Peralta or move.
“This is a case of petty election-year politics as arrogant as it is obvious,” Peralta said. “The pledges to redistricting reform by Republicans clearly are not worth the ink used to sign them. If they have at least minimal respect for voters, Republicans will spare New Yorkers further hypocrisy and keep to themselves ridiculous claims that their bold-faced power grab was done in the name of minority enfranchisement.”
The new lines also mean a big change for state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach), who would lose parts of Richmond Hill and Ozone Park and gain portions of Kew Gardens Hills, Hillcrest and Jamaica Estates.
While Cuomo, and essentially every state legislator, has said he backs an independent redistricting commission, the idea appears to be dead in the water. Even if there was time to create sucha panel, which almost everyone agrees there is not, political infighting seems to have made it impossible for the idea to become a reality.
Democrats have accused Republicans of botching any chance for the independent commission, saying they have refused to agree to one because it could potentially diminish their tight lead in the Senate. Republicans have said they support the idea of an independent organization, but that establishing such a group would need a change to the state Constitution, which could not happen by this election.
For more information and to see the proposed maps, go to latfor.state.ny.us.