In their last attempt before the maps went to the City Council for votes, residents told the New York City Redistricting Commission changes had to be made to keep neighborhoods such as South Ozone Park and Woodhaven in one piece.
“This isn’t about which district we end up with, this isn’t about which representative we get,” said Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) President Ed Wendell. “We just know that when we’re divided, it weakens our position.”
The Monday, January 14 hearing was the third before a final draft is sent to the City Council for a vote. Representatives have three weeks to vote either in favor or against the map; the new Council lines will be adopted if the legislature can’t come to a vote by deadline. The commission will re-explore lines after this latest round of hearings and make any changes it feels necessary.
Concerns about neighborhoods in Flushing and Bayside were addressed at the meeting — particularly Mitchell Linden, Broadway and Murray Hill — where many say the towns were split or dislocated from traditional districts. Councilmember , reading from a prepared testimony, called for the commission to keep these neighborhoods united, as they had been in the past.
Wendell, one of several WRBA members to speak, harkened back to the first draft of Council lines in which Woodhaven was almost completely in one councilmember’s district. The second draft, however, essentially flipped Woodhaven’s representatives and divided the area again.
Colin Bucca, another Woodhaven resident, told the commissioners continuing to keep Woodhaven in two would ruin the integrity and the character of the neighborhood.
“It’s not just equations on a spread sheet, it’s not just lines on a map, it’s people,” he said. “A neighborhood is defined by the people that live there. I live in Woodhaven; that’s my neighborhood.”
Many others spoke about neighboring South Ozone Park being placed in District 28, but wanted the western line of the district pushed to Woodhaven Boulevard — incorporating such landmarks as John Adams High School.
The desire for a unified Indo-Caribbean community has been the driving force behind this push, something that many in attendance spoke to.
“We are disappointed that South Ozone Park, part of the same community of interest, remains falsely divided along Lefferts Boulevard,” said Videsh Persaud, a program coordinator for the Indo-Caribbean Alliance. “While we appreciate the changes that were made in Richmond Hill, the process is incomplete without adjustments to South Ozone Park as well. These are part of the same community, and they must be kept in the same district.”
Kris Gounden, a community activist for the area, said residents want elected officials who understand their cultures and needs. Gounden said the city had suppressed the Indo-Caribbean community in south Queens and had stunted its ability to grow and prosper.