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Eastern Queens joining together to be less divided


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Eastern Queens is uniting in a fight to make district lines dividing the community disappear.

A group of civic associations, local leaders and concerned residents from Glen Oaks, Floral Park, New Hyde Park, Bellerose and Queens Village have joined forces to form Eastern Queens United, a coalition demanding their neighborhoods be rejoined in the same congressional and assembly districts.

“We need district lines that will unite us, not divide us,” said Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village. “Regardless of color, nationality, religion or cultural identity, we all care about our families, our schools, our jobs, our safety and our community. This is the glue of commonality that keeps us together.”

Eastern Queens United is urging the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) to undo what the group calls the “gerrymandering” of the neighborhoods between Assembly Districts 24,26 and 33 and unite the area into a single district. The coalition also wants the division of the community between Congressional Districts 5 and 6 to be resolved. The neighborhoods are currently united in a single state Senate and city council district.

“We are a single ‘community of interest’ that needs to stay united in all legislative districts,” said Ali Najmi, an attorney, lead organizer and counsel to Eastern Queens United. “LATFOR must not divide us.”

To gather supporters for their cause, Eastern Queens United is planning a community meeting and rally in the near future.

The group argues that the dividing lines are detrimental to the community, separating residents and preventing them from improving the standard of living in the neighborhoods.

“For those of us on the front lines fighting for quality-of-life issues, reduced property taxes and other issues that affect us every day, we know how important these district lines are,” said Angela Augugliaro, president of Queens Colony Civic Association. “We have a unique community that can only have its interest served if we are united within the same legislative districts.”

LATFOR will make recommendations to the New York State Legislature regarding district lines early next year, after which its proposal must be voted upon and approved by Governor Andrew Cuomo.

The neighborhoods were separated roughly 10 years ago, and Friedrich says if the group is unable to foster change, the communities will remain divided for another decade. “We want to make sure they don’t do to us what they did 10 years ago,” he said. “These lines were drawn for political considerations only, and not for what is best for the community. District lines run right through some communities, which is confusing and detrimental to the neighborhood. We will not accept district lines that slice and dice us as if we are on some legislative committee’s chopping block.”