Queens’ political landscape could dramatically change under a federal judge’s proposal issued this week for new Congressional district lines, which would obliterate U.S. Rep. Bob Turner’s district representing much of South Queens, as well as parts of the Rockaways and Brooklyn, and likely pit U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-Bayside) against Assemblyman Rory Lancman (D-Fresh Meadows) in a Democratic primary.
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” last week, and she issued her proposal for the Congressional lines on Monday, a week before she was expected to do so.
The state Legislature could avoid the judges implementing their own lines if they vote to adopt their own plan before March 15. If the Assembly and Senate do agree on new lines, Gov. Cuomo would still need to give his stamp of approval.
Because the U.S. Census reported that New York had decreased in population, which was widely disputed by legislators and civic leaders in Queens, the state has to lose two Congressional districts. Mann proposed to axe the areas represented by Turner and U.S. Rep. Maurice Hinchey, a Demcrat from upstate who is expected to soon retire.
“The redistricting plan introduced today by the special master is just another step in the process,” Turner said. “I am prepared to run in whatever district I reside in once the final lines are adopted and signed by the governor.”
If Mann’s lines become reality, Turner’s house in Breezy Point would be placed in a heavily minority district represented by U.S. Rep. Greg Meeks (D-Jamaica).
Meeks said he plans to again run for the 5th Congressional District, which would encompass the Republican-leaning portion of the Rockaways under the judge’s plan.
“I’m fine with the district, and I’m ready to run,” Meeks said of Mann’s proposal.
“It’s a democracy, and people can run wherever they want to run,” Meeks said of the possibility that he would be challenged by Turner. “Let him run. I look forward to working in a new part of the district.”
Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park), who has been a longtime supporter of Turner and who the congressman has called his “mentor,” had harsher words for the judge.
“I would call these maps disastrous,” Ulrich said. “The problem with the federal magistrate is there’s little to no regard for the local community. What they’re doing is dividing communities of interest, communities that were united for years. The magistrate’s lines tosses it all out the window.”
The judge’s proposal would also place Ackerman’s home in Roslyn Heights, L.I., in the 3rd Congressional District that is represented by U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Suffolk). Ackerman said instead of running against Israel, he would make a bid for the now open 6th Congressional District, for which Lancman has said he also wants to run.
“The new 6th CD is a fantastic district in Queens where I grew up, went to public school and college, and started my family and my business,” Ackerman said. “It contains my political base and longtime roots, and I have had the privilege of representing approximately 90 percent of it during my 34 years in the state Senate and U.S. Congress.”
Lancman also stressed his roots in the same district.
“The special master’s lines came out today, and while I can’t predict what the final lines will ultimately look like, the special master’s district six is centered around my home and communities that I have represented in the Assembly, on the community board, and as a civic leader for over 20 years,” Lancman said. “I look forward to the opportunity to run for Congress when the lines are finalized.”