Tag Archives: LATFOR

Injunction denied, new district lines are final


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

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Following the failure of a preliminary injunction against the state legislative map, no pencils can erase and redraw district lines.

The injunction, which was requested by Democrats, was recently rejected by a judge – finalizing the lines for the upcoming State Senate and Assembly elections due to the lack of time remaining for a trial to intervene before the commencement of primary season.

Despite the court’s verdict, Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) Chair Michael Gianaris says Democrats will continue their fight in court to remove the lines in time for the next election, which occurs in 2014.

“Unfortunately, the delay tactics of the Senate Republicans were effective and the courts said they simply don’t have enough time to make a decision before the political process takes place this year, and they were unwilling to postpone the election season,” Gianaris said. “They will continue hearing the case on the normal court schedule, which will extend beyond this election. The goal is to retake the majority for the Democrats under these badly gerrymandered lines and continue to pursue the case in court so we end up with a fair map at the end of the day.”

The Senate Democrats were hoping to eliminate the maps, drawn by the New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) – made up largely of Republican Senators due to their current control of the chamber.

Many believe LATFOR’s maps were drawn to prevent Democrats from retaking control of the chamber.

According to a source with knowledge of the situation, Democrats did not expect to have their preliminary injunction granted. The primary gripe among Democrats was the creation of the 63rd District seat, which was viewed as a political tactic to keep Republicans in power, according to the source.

“I’m disappointed that it’s happened this way and the courts decided that the 63rd [District] will stay for this election,” said Senator Jose Peralta. “But the fight is not over. With myself, Senator Gianaris and the Democratic conference, we are going to be pushing to make sure we eliminate that seat come next election season.”

Peralta went on to say that polls are indicating the public wants a Democratic majority in the Senate. The senator believes Democrats, who retook the chamber in 2008 after over 40 years of Republican control, are “much more prepared this time around to take back the majority.”

Democrats have now run out of options after the lawsuit arguing the constitutionality of the extra State Senate seat was also rebuffed and the federal government provided preclearance to the map under the Voting Rights Act.

“Yesterday, the federal three-judge panel denied the motion for a preliminary injunction, and ordered the 2012 Senate elections to proceed under the lines enacted by the Legislature,” said Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos. “The decision comes just two weeks after the New York Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that our redistricting plan complied with the State Constitution and less than a month since we received preclearance from the Obama administration’s Department of Justice. I am extremely pleased with this decision, and it ensures the state can administer an orderly and fair election this fall.”

 

Pols: New district lines ‘as bad’ as before


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Recent revisions to district lines have done little to darn the disharmony between Republicans and Democrats.

The New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) — made up largely of Republican senators due to their current control of the chamber — released its updated district maps on March 12, angering Democrats due to the miniscule modifications made over the past month.

The new lines, which no longer couple the districts of Senators Michael Gianaris and Jose Peralta, still combine the regions of Senators Tony Avella and Toby Ann Stavisky. Slight changes were also made to the first-ever Asian American majority district created in the initial maps.

Despite their districts no longer being threatened, both Gianaris and Peralta have spoken out against the maps and are hopeful Governor Andrew Cuomo follows through on his pledge to veto any partisan proposals.

“The lines have barely changed at all,” said Gianaris, who called the pairing of himself and Peralta a harassment tactic. “The first proposal is the worst gerrymandering in the history of New York State, and the second proposal is 98 percent as bad. The real problem is the way they are dividing communities around the state and that is what has yet to be fixed. The best hope now is for the governor to veto the lines and let the court do it fairly.”

Frank Sobrino, a spokesperson for Peralta, says the situation is “bigger” than the two senators, and the new lines do not provide any progress from the initial maps, which were considered to be “blatantly partisan.”

“I want the governor to follow up on his commitment to veto these lines,” Peralta said.

Scott Reif, spokesperson for the Senate GOP and LATFOR, says he expects the maps to be approved by both the Senate and Assembly.

“We expect these to be the final lines for the Senate and Assembly,” Reif said. “We held nine additional public hearings [across the state] and we made changes from what we were hearing from different communities.”

Along with the updated maps, LATFOR also introduced legislation that would create a bipartisan commission to draw district lines. Based on the bill, the commission would be composed of 10 members — two from each party from both the Senate and Assembly and an additional two members chosen by the initial eight.

If approved, the commission would be in charge of deciding district lines the next time they are up for revision in a decade — a length of time deemed unacceptable by many Democrats.

Residents rally against redistricting at public hearing


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Christina Chang sat calmly in the front row of the hearing room, unshaken by the raging crowd surging behind her. In her hands she held a homemade, neon sign that read “Minority Votes Should Count.” She wore a crisp white T-shirt stenciled with the word “MinkWon.”

It means “civil rights” in Korean.

Representing her group, MinkWon, part of the Asian American Community Coalition on Redistricting and Democracy (ACCORD) — a non-partisan, pan-Asian association reflecting community interests — Chang came to stand for the strength of her neighborhood and the voice of her people.

Residents and officials crammed into a hearing at Queensborough Hall on Tuesday, February 7, combating the redistricting they feel has divided their neighborhoods and diminished their voting power. Based on population transfers noted in the 2010 Census, redistricting resulted in Queens Democrats believing the procedure was an effort by Republicans, who represent the majority in the state Senate, to pit seat holders against one another.

“Allow the public to speak first! This is a public hearing!” yelled Bob Friedrich, founder of Eastern Queens United, which advocates for maintaining unity among ethnically-diverse neighborhoods.

“This is one of the most important meetings we’ve ever had,” said Borough President Helen Marshall, quieting the rowdy audience. “Minority votes should count. We’ve got to make sure the lines are drawn properly.”

Local government officials took to the microphone to state their opinions to the audience and members of the Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR), which held the hearing.

Senator Michael Gianaris referred to the recent redistricting as “disgraceful manipulation” and a “vain attempt to deny minorities a vote.” Armed with maps of Hempstead and Westchester, Gianaris indicated areas of high minority populations and their dissection.

“[This redistricting] is more than just the fragmenting of communities. The procedure and product has been taken as borderline racism,” said Councilmember Ruben Wills.

Freidrich hopes that LATFOR will redraw district lines, reuniting ethnic communities.

If they fail to do this, Freidrich says he will consult the governor, who intends to veto the plan, according to spokesperson Matt Wing.

Senate Redistricting plan is divisive


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

Newly-drawn district lines may pit Senate Democrats against one another in a political dogfight.

Under the proposed plan, which was designed by the New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) — made up largely of Republican senators due to their current control of the chamber — Democratic Senate Campaign Committee Chair Michael Gianaris would face off with Senator Jose Peralta for the right to represent a single, heavily Hispanic district.

“With this brazenly political proposal, Senate Republicans have done more to hurt the cause of fair and independent redistricting in one day than advocates like myself have done to advance the cause after years of advocacy,” Gianaris said. “Today, Senate Republicans return us to the days when Albany was the most dysfunctional capital in the nation by bringing Tom DeLay’s brand of politics to New York. The people of this state will not stand for it, and neither should we.”

Peralta echoed his senatorial partner and potential rival by calling the new lines “egregious.”

“This is a case of petty, election-year politics as arrogant as it is obvious,” Peralta said. “The pledges to redistricting reform by Republicans clearly are not worth the ink used to sign them. If they have at least minimal respect for voters, Republicans will spare New Yorkers further hypocrisy and keep to themselves ridiculous claims that their bold-faced power grab was done in the name of minority enfranchisement.”

Longtime Senator Toby Ann Stavisky would also be matched against Senator Tony Avella — who assumed office in 2011 — sparking speculation that the GOP’s goal is to maintain its slender majority in the Senate by eliminating a number of incumbent Democrats.

The GOP lines also create the Senate’s first Asian-majority district in Flushing. The plan would expand the Senate to 63 members by creating a new seat in a reportedly Republican-dominated area outside of Albany, as well.

“We believe our plan is fair, legal and it protects minority voting interests,” said Scott Reif, a spokesperson for the Senate GOP and LATFOR. “We are very proud of the fact that we create the first Asian-American majority district in Queens centered in Flushing. We also maintain or strengthen every single African-American and Hispanic district in the city. This plan is based on population shifts which occurred over the last 10 years. There are a number of incumbents who are put together in the same district, but this is not based on politics. It is based on demographics and actions that the task force took are to protect minority voting rights.”

According to Reif, nine public hearings will be held throughout the state, during which the public can offer feedback on the plan. LATFOR will hold a hearing for Queens on Tuesday, February 7 at 3 p.m. in Room 213 of Queens Borough Hall, located at 120-55 Queens Boulevard in Kew Gardens.

Peralta, who believes there should be an independent process and commission drawing the lines, believes the notion that the plan was designed to unite communities is preposterous.

“Republicans say it is about brining communities together, but they divided the LeFrak buildings into two districts,” said the senator. “They took the southern part of my district in Elmhurst, which is highly Asian, and they divided it into two districts. The gerrymandering is hurting people because it dilutes the power of the vote. It dilutes the ability for people to come out and choose a candidate that matches their needs.”

Various community groups have expressed outrage over the district map, due to the lines’ dissonant effects on their neighborhoods.

The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) has strongly objected the plan, which divides the neighborhood among three different 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, WRBA’s communications director. “When it comes to the Senate lines, the people of Woodhaven are being treated as pawns in Albany’s gerrymandering games.”

According to published reports, Governor Andrew Cuomo has promised to veto the plan, which he deems partisan.

Repeated attempts to contact the governor’s office went unreturned.

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.”