Residents Want Council Lines Redrawn
By Luis Gronda
|Queens residents gathered at LaGuardia Community College on Jan. 14 to discuss the new City Council district lines proposal. Photo by Ira Cohen.
Residents and civic groups throughout Queens made sure to tell the New York City Districting Commission on Monday night that they want their neighborhoods kept together.
The Districting Commission held their latest round of public hearings this month for the most recently proposed City Council map, which a 15-member panel adopts every 10 years to account for population changes tabulated by the U.S. Census.
The previous version of the map was scrapped after many were unhappy with several sections of the redrawn lines.
Queens community members got their turn to voice their opinion on the new version of the lines released in Dec. 2012. The Commission must hold public hearings in each of the five boroughs to let people voice their concerns before the panel decides on another map.
Packed into the Little Theatre at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, residents stepped up to the microphone and represented their neighborhood.
The hearing started with James Hong, representing the advocacy group, Asian-American Community Coalition for Redistricting and Democracy.
He expressed the group's disdain for the proposed lines for Bayside, which would split it between districts 19 and 23, which are represented by Council members Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) and Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) respectively. Hong said that this divide does not reflect the demographics of that neighborhood and is contrary to public input given by residents at previous public hearings.
Hong added that Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park needed its lines adjusted as well, as Lefferts Boulevard would still divide the latter neighborhood in the proposed map. John Adams High School should be included in District 28, currently represented by Councilman Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica), and its west borders should be moved more towards Woodhaven Boulevard, according to Hong.
Other members of ACCORD stood with Hong towards the end of his speech, asking for "justice, fairness and equality" in the City Council maps for Queens and the rest of New York City.
"Does it recognize the rights of our city's exploding Asian American and minority communities, or will it continue to divide us and use our population as human fillers for districts that are safely in the hands of one incumbent or another?," he asked.
Halloran made an appearance at the meeting, just as he did the previous two hearings.
He called on the Commission to unite Broadway-Flushing and North Flushing in the 19th District as they have been in the past and include the remaining areas of Mitchell Gardens in the 20th District, represented by Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing).
Halloran said that splitting Broadway-Flushing and North Flushing would prevent those areas from advocating against up-zoning and protecting the historic nature of the neighborhood.
Residents of Woodhaven also came out and pleaded to the Commission to draw their neighborhood in one district.
A previous version of the map had the majority of Woodhaven in Council member Elizabeth Crowley's (D-Middle Village) district, but the latest drawing has it once again split between Crowley and Councilman Eric Ulrich's (R-Ozone Park) district.
"A neighborhood is defined by the people that live there," said Woodhaven resident Colin Bucca, who was among the group to speak on behalf of that area. "I live in Woodhaven, that's my neighborhood. And now, with a wave of a pen, what I chose and what I decided to make my life in is not what it was, it's something different now."
"Our situation is already confusing," said Woodhaven Residents' Block Association member Mary Ann Blenkinsopp, alluding to a common complaint among residents that they don't know which council district he or she lives in. "You can fix this problem, instead you have chosen to worsen it."
The Commission will hold two more hearings, on Jan. 23 and Feb. 6, both in Manhattan. The hearing is open to the public but will not allow for resident testimony.
Reach Reporter Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.