After the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) released their maps showing what new districts could look like, community groups in South Queens criticized the task force for what they call a complete misrepresentation of their neighborhoods.
And on Tuesday, February 7, at a packed hearing held at Queens Borough Hall in Kew Gardens, community residents, activists and elected officials gave LATFOR representatives an earful of criticism about the lines.
“The neighborhoods continue to be divided,” said Richard David, executive director of the Indo-Caribbean Alliance, who testified at the hearing. “It’s not only unfair, but unjust to continue to divide people like this. People don’t get the involvement they need.”
LATFOR released its proposed district lines for the state Assembly and Senate in late January. The proposals are part of the redistricting process that occurs once every 10 years after the federal Census numbers are released to better reflect changing demographics.
But South Queens leaders called the proposed redrawn lines unfair, and argue that they don't reflect the makeup of the area's neighborhoods. Under the proposal, this part of Queens will be represented by three different state senators.
“LATFOR's decision to split up a one-square-mile neighborhood among three different senators is bewildering and has no basis in the character, demographics, or needs of our community,” said Alexander Blenkinsopp of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association. “When it comes to the Senate lines, the people of Woodhaven are being treated as pawns in Albany's gerrymandering games.”
Maria Thomson, executive director of the Greater Woodhaven BID, also called the lines unjust.
“These lines do not reflect fair and independent districts,” she wrote in a letter to this paper. “Our community of Woodhaven has one N.Y.S. Senator, Honorable Joseph P. Addabbo. This is who we elected and who we choose and we are very pleased with our choice.”
But a spokesperson for Addabbo told Community Board 6 last Wednesday that the senator doesn’t believe the lines will get approved.
“We don’t think these lines will hold up,” the spokesman said. “The governor says he’s not going to approve anything that’s not voted by an independent board.”
The assembly districts in South Queens, on the other hand, were not drastically altered, including Assembly District 38, which Mike Miller represents. Miller said he supports the lines for his district, although he would lose a portion of Glendale, but gain sections of Ridgewood and Ozone Park.
Assemblyman Philip Goldfedder also said that he is happy with his proposed district.
While Woodhaven residents are content with the proposed Assembly districts, some Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park activists are not. According to the proposed maps, the neighborhoods would be divided up among six Assembly districts.
SEVA, an activist group that represents mainly South Asians in the Richmond Hill, South Ozone Park and Woodhaven communities, called the entire process “deeply political.”
“It doesn’t depend on the people,” said Gurpal Singh, a SEVA board member. He says the assembly lines have cut the area into “powerless pieces.”
“You had the audacity to chop us up,” Vishnu Mahadeo, president of the Richmond Hill Economic Development Corporation told LATFOR officials at the hearing. “You’re disenfranchising a very large community.”