Tag Archives: Redistricting

Final redistricting lines released


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Queens_Feb6

The final district lines that will go before the City Council were released on Monday, February 4, with moderate changes to the map that was released just two months ago. The new maps were released two days before the Districting Commission was to vote on the lines and discuss the changes district-by-district and borough-by-borough.

Several neighborhoods opposed the lines released in early December, mainly insisting the plans would divide neighborhoods and certain demographics. Independent residents and civic organizations made their unhappiness known at several hearings.

The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) opposed the December map, as the neighborhood would continue to be divided between two councilmembers. The district currently represented by Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley was essentially flipped with that represented by Councilmember Eric Ulrich.

Members spoke out against the lines at a January 14 hearing. WRBA President Ed Wendell said he was disappointed, but realized at this point change probably would not have come. He said the WRBA would “have to work twice as hard to get our elected officials’ attention.”

Kris Gounden, an Ozone Park resident who’s been active in the West Indian community, said he was disappointed that parts of South Ozone Park were still incorporated into the 32nd District, despite pleas by residents.

“We want someone that’s born of us,” he said. “That looks like us. That’s more likely to speak of our own interest.

 

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Residents fight against redistricting division


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Terence Cullen

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.

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WRBA will keep up fight for unity


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

In an attempt to keep the community in one piece, members and residents of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) said they plan on attending and speaking at the January 14, 2013 hearing on redistricting at Queensborough Community College.

At the organization’s December 15 meeting, several residents voiced concern over the latest set of district lines, which have been sent back to the drawing board after several neighborhoods were chopped up.

Attendees sat at tables designated to show what City Council district they would potentially be in. Some worries included who was in which district, or what landmarks would be included in certain areas.

“These are the things that define us as a community,” said WRBA President Ed Wendell. “They are splitting it and taking it away from us, so we are not pleased with it.”

The WRBA sent letters of testimony to support earlier lines that kept Woodhaven within one district, Wendell said. The most recent update, however, backtracked on all that the neighborhood said was right about the lines.

“They decided to do the opposite of what we suggested,” said WRBA Communications Director Alex Blenkinsopp. “And that’s a little odd.”

Woodhaven on redistricting: Send lines back to the drawing board


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Woodhaven Residents Block Association

The newest set of proposed city council district lines, set to take effect next year, have some Woodhaven residents upset that they might once again be split into two districts.

The Woodhaven Residents Block Association (WRBA) has taken a stand against the proposed redistricting lines, saying they would split up the neighborhood and exhaust and overlap the efforts of city representatives. “We just feel overall you should never split a community,” said WRBA president Ed Wendell. “I just don’t believe in that.”

If the neighborhood has a problem, such as downed power lines after a storm, Wendell said the WRBA, as a resource for information, would have to either sift through who lives in which district or provide both city council offices with a full list of complaints. The result would be over-exhausting resources from the two offices.

“Not only do I think it’s bad for the community, I don’t think it’s fair to the elected officials,” Wendell said. “Now they have to cover a lot more ground. There’s overlapping — it’s doubling of efforts.”

Woodhaven, in the preliminary map released earlier this year by the NYC Districting Commission, had the bulk of the neighborhood within the boundaries of Council District 30.

The new map, released last month, however, divides the neighborhood back into two districts. City Council District 30 would include all streets bordered by Park Lane South and Atlantic Avenue from north to south, and 75th Street to Forest Parkway from east to west. The district, according to the new map, would also encompass the co-ops in the northeastern corner of Woodhaven. The rest of the neighborhood would be represented by Council District 32.

Roughly two thirds of Woodhaven is served by Councilmember Eric Ulrich; the other third by Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley. Both have represented the neighborhood since 2009.

Alexander Blenkinsopp, communications director for the WRBA, hopes that the City Council would vote the new lines down and send them back to the drawing board.

“The Commission decided to throw Woodhaven under the bus,” Blenkinsopp said. “It should be embarrassed about how its final proposal treats our community. Now that the final decision is in the hands of the city council, we want all city councilmembers to know that a vote in favor of this gerrymander is a vote against Woodhaven.”

During a September WRBA meeting, when the first draft of the map had come out, both councilmembers made it apparent that Woodhaven would be completely within one district.

Neither Ulrich nor Crowley was able to comment at deadline.

Districting Commission approves City Council map


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Map courtesy of NYC Districting Commission

Another round of redistricting is complete and new City Council lines are one step away from taking effect.

The city’s 15-member bipartisan Districting Commission unanimously approved the redrawn map on November 15 before presenting it to the City Council for approval. If the council does not object to the map, the new council districts will take effect in 2013.

The decennial council redistricting is done to account for fluctuations in the census.

During the two rounds of public hearings, advocacy groups spoke out against current district lines that, they said, split minorities, diluting their vote. The newly submitted map includes five additional districts containing a majority of minority groups, bringing the number to 35 out of 51.

“The commission believes that the revised plan reflects what was shared with the commission, within the legal restrictions set forth by the New York City Charter,” the group said in a statement.

While improvements have been made, Jerry Vattamala, of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), said they did not go far enough, calling it a “mixed bag.”

Some communities saw no improvement in the new map or in other cases were made worse, according to Vattamala.

In Queens, dozens of locals advocated for placing Oakland Gardens in District 19 with Bayside, but instead a larger area of the neighborhood was placed in District 23. Briarwood and Jamaica Hills, which shared a district, are now split up.

Among the positives included in the new map, the second draft released by the commission, was a greater portion of the Indo-Caribbean community being placed in District 28 and the Elmhurst/Jackson Heights area closely conforming to the “unity map,” said Vattamala,

Several groups advocated for the “unity map,” which complied with all the legal requirements set forth in the city charter and was designed to protect the voting rights of minorities in the city.

The submitted map will not be subject to any further public review unless the council rejects it, which Vattamal said “violated the spirit of the city charter.”

“The map was presented to the public Thursday evening and less than 24 hours later was submitted to the New York City Council,” he said.

At this time the AALDEF is not considering legal action, but as they continue to analyze the map, it remains an option.

If there is an objection, there will be a third round of public hearings before a final plan is presented to the city clerk’s office for approval by March 5 before heading to the Department of Justice for clearing.

Districting debacle: Blurry line for Cambria Heights


| mhayes@queenscourier.com

Photo Courtesy of the NYC Districting Commission

Cambria Heights residents are standing unified against a proposal to divide them into two council districts.

Around 400 people attended an emergency town hall meeting on Sunday, October 21, hosted by attorney and assembly hopeful Clyde Vanel.

“We were expecting 40 people,” said Vanel, who was pleasantly surprised by the community turnout.

Vanel told the community that the New York City Districting Commission was drawing up plans to move a section of Cambria Heights from District 27 into the neighboring District 31. This map was based on population changes from the 2010 census, designed to make sure each district contains an equal number of constituents.

However, at Community Board 13’s monthly meeting the next day on Monday, October 22, residents learned that the commission is working on revising this proposed map, and trying to keep the neighborhood together.

Jonathan Ettricks, director of community outreach for the commission, attended Monday’s meeting and spoke to over 100 concerned residents.

“The first proposal cut out a small piece of Cambria Heights based on population change only,” said Ettricks. “It didn’t take into account the needs and concerns of the people of Cambria Heights.”

The current line for District 27 runs along 121st Avenue from Springfield Boulevard to the Cross Island Parkway. The preliminary draft moves 119th Avenue from Springfield Boulevard to 230th Street into District 31.

Ettricks said that the first proposal was scratched last week — before Sunday’s town hall meeting — and that “the people who organized the meeting hadn’t looked at the [districting] website or called me.”

After a second public hearing on Wednesday, October 10, the commission began revising maps based on public input.

“The goal is to try to put Cambria Heights into [District] 27,” said Ettricks.

“They’re going to ‘try’?” countered Vanel, who is continuing to urge community engagement.

Vanel insists that Sunday’s emergency meeting was necessary, because a large majority of the community was still unaware of the redistricting proposal, as shown from the large turnout.

“I don’t understand how the commission could tell the community: ‘We met, we’ll try to keep Cambria Heights in one community, but the process is still going,” said Vanel. “How definitive is that?”

At the town hall meeting, Vanel passed around a petition, and hopes to acquire 1,000 signatures. He also suggests that residents write letters to the commission voicing their concerns. The process, according to Vanel, is “still not over.”

“Go to your block, go to your neighbors, go to your friends. Empower yourselves,” he said.

However, Ettricks said that the commission is in fact working to accommodate the neighborhood.

“As long as Cambria Heights can be put into [District] 27 as a whole without exceeding the deviation called for by the charter, it’s something that could be done, and that’s what we’re looking at now,” he said.

The New York City charter that Ettricks referenced requires drawing district lines that keep neighborhoods intact.

The next public meeting addressing this issue, among others citywide, is being held at New York Law School on Tuesday, October 30, at 1 p.m. Final draft plans from the commission will be submitted to the City Council by November 5; if those plans are rejected, another round of public hearings will commence. Residents can visit www.nyc.gov/districting for more information.

“People need to continue to pay attention to the process,” said Ettricks.

Queens’ Morning Roundup


| ctumola@queenscourier.com

TODAY’S FORECAST 

Wednesday: Overcast with a chance of rain, then a chance of rain in the afternoon. Fog early. High of 79. Winds less than 5 mph. Chance of rain 30%. Wednesday night: Mostly cloudy with a chance of rain. Fog overnight. Low of 68. Winds less than 5 mph. Chance of rain 30%.

EVENT of the DAY: Hammer, Chisel, Drill: Noguchi’s Studio Practice

Hammer, Chisel, Drill: Noguchi’s Studio Practice opens today at The Noguchi Museum in Long Island City. The exhibit explores the working process of Japanese-American artist  Isamu Noguchi during his five studio periods from the 1940s until his death in 1988. Click here for more info or to submit an event of your own

Queens teacher scolded for student-inmate cards

A teacher has received a warning letter from the New York City Conflicts of Interest Board for assigning her fifth graders to write Christmas cards to an inmate. Read more: NBC New York

School sends home bixsexual Queens student who wears ‘I enjoy vagina’ T-shirt

A Queens high school sent a student home Tuesday, saying her “I enjoy vagina” T-shirt was a distraction — but the bisexual teen says administrators are trouncing her free speech. Read more: New York Daily News

American Airlines: Improperly installed clamps to blame for loose seats

The American Airlines seat scare has expanded to a third flight. Some have suspected sabotage, but on Tuesday surfaced a new theory on what’s causing the loose seats. CBS New York

L.I. Police catch alligator in parking lot

A runaway alligator — now in the hands of animal officials on Long Island. Police were called to a Pathmark parking lot on Grand Avenue in Baldwin just before 8:00pm Tuesday night, where the 3-foot gator was spotted running loose. Read more: ABC New York

New York’s proposed council map is called unfair to minority groups

East Harlem would be split in two, and represented by two New York City Council members, including one from the Bronx. Two neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens with fast-growing Asian-American populations would be quartered, making it much more likely that the areas would continue to lack Asian-American elected voices.  Read more: New York Times

First debate sets up moment of high-risk theater

President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney come face to face for the first time in this presidential campaign Wednesday night for a nationally televised debate that will give millions of Americans a chance to size up two fierce competitors in a moment of high-risk theater. Read more: AP

 

New council lines divide interests


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of NYC District Commission

Small changes will be made to several city council lines in Queens under the first draft of new districts, but some say the lines break up areas with a common interest or concern.

The drafted lines are in sync with data from the 2010 census to even out population distribution throughout each district. A number of Queens residents spoke out about line changes at a public hearing last month, where they asked that some neighborhoods stay intact regarding representation.

A second round of hearings will begin on Tuesday, October 2 and continue through Thursday, October 11.

Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, said that while his neighborhood would not be shifted, Mitchell-Linden would now be taken from the 20th District to the 19th. The problem with this, he said, was the demographic in the area wanted to stay intact because of a shared, common interest.

“They kind of wanted to stay where they were,” he said, referring to the Asian demographic in Mitchell-Linden that is currently represented by Councilmember Peter Koo.

Schrieber said the redistricting should not be politically motivated — to keep an incumbent in or remove someone — but rather should care about the common concerns of a demographic.

“It should be up to us, we decide who our elected officials are going to be,” he said. “I think it’s wrong; it erodes our political system. We don’t get the best representation.”

Queens residents vocal over redistricting


| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/photo by Billy Rennison

Communities split by redistricting a decade ago are calling for unification as another round kicked off in Queens.

Every 10 years, to account for fluctuations in the census, the city holds redistricting hearings to adjust council lines. The redistricting commission came to Queens for a public hearing at Flushing Library, allowing residents to express how lines should be adjusted.

“Redistricting is a critical civic engagement issue,” said Steven Choi, executive director, MinKwon Center for Action. “In previous years, districts have not followed natural community boundaries. They were only drawn to help incumbents and have diluted the votes of minorities.”

The city charter calls for communities of interest to be kept together while fairly representing minority groups — something many who spoke said has not happened. Districts will be around 160,000 people, with all being within 10 percent of the average.

Nearly all who spoke focused on Flushing, Bayside and the Ozone Park/South Ozone Park/Richmond Hill area.

The Richmond Hill area — largely Indo-Caribbean and South Asian — has been split into four council districts, preventing residents from receiving proper representation, many in the area said.

“It’s been apparent that the system has been designed to disenfranchise us,” said Richard David, executive director of Indo-Caribbean Alliance. “Our elected officials do not represent the interests of the residents currently there.”

Those in the area believe Ozone Park, South Ozone Park and Richmond Hill define a community of interest and should be represented as such.

Members of Asian-American advocacy groups also urged the commission to keep the growing population of Flushing together.

“Residents of Flushing share many common interests, such as need for language assistance, immigration issues and reliance on public transportation,” said Glenn Magpantay, a director at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

Other areas touched on by the more than 100 residents who attended the hearing were placing the more sparsely populated areas of District 20 into District 19, putting Oakland Gardens into the same district as Bayside, reuniting Kew Gardens into one district and redrawing District 28’s lines using natural boundaries.

The process is still in its infancy. The 15-member bipartisan commission chosen by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Minority Leader James Oddo will release a preliminary draft on September 5, followed by another round of public hearings and a revised plan.

New districts will not be finalized until spring of next year.

 

As elections heat up, concerns over new districts


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

New congressional districts have left Queens residents a bit shaky about who will represent them, as several neighborhoods have been grouped into Brooklyn areas.

Howard Beach — formerly part of Congressional District 9 — is now in Brooklyn’s redrawn District 8. Running for the congressional spot are State Assemblymember Hakeem Jeffries and City Councilmember Charles Barron. Barron received an endorsement from current Congressmember Ed Towns, who is retiring at the end of the year.

Jeffries has also received the support of the Queens Democratic Party’s Howard Beach District. Frank Gulluscio, the district’s leader, said there had been some worry by residents that they were now grouped into a predominately Brooklyn district. After speaking with Jeffries, however, Gulluscio said he was assured that the politician, if elected, would fully represent his Queens section and residents’ concerns.

A rally in support of Jeffries is being held at the Lindenwood Diner on Friday, June 15 at noon.

“He has reassured myself and others that he is going to be our congressman all the time,” Gulluscio said.

Congressmember Bob Turner — who currently represents the area — is seeking New York’s U.S. senate seat against incumbent Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

Woodhaven, however, will become part of Congressional District 10, along with downtown Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn. Before redistricting, only about two blocks of Woodhaven were included in the zone.

Running for the District 10 spot are: incumbent Congressmember Nydia Velazquez; City Councilmember Erik Dilan; economist Dan O’Connor; and activist George Martinez.

Residents have expressed some worry about being represented and the redistricting of their area.

Ed Wendell, president of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, said divvying up Woodhaven has made it hard for the advocacy group to direct residents to the right representative.

“We’re the only Queens portion of that [district],” he said. “So obviously there’s concern there – we’ve been split apart from Queens.”

Wendell brought up the point that District 7 is now part of the same district as Chinatown and other neighborhoods that may have differing needs: “Now we’re Chinatown east.”

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.”

 

Judge redraws Congressional district lines


| mpantelidis@queenscourier.com

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The failure of the State Legislature has left a panel of federal judges with the final decision on district lines.

Due to the state government’s inability to come to an agreement on Congressional redistricting, the panel imposed a court-drawn, revised map on March 19.

The court’s ruling reduces the number of districts from 29 to 27 as a result of the 2010 Census. The map – which is very similar to the one originally drafted by the panel-appointed magistrate, Roanne Mann – breaks and dissolves the Brooklyn and Queens territory currently represented by Republican Congressmember Bob Turner into several surrounding districts. Congressmember Maurice Hinchey – a Democrat who plans to retire at the end of his current term – has also had his Hudson Valley district eliminated.

New York was among the last states in the country to deal with redistricting, forcing the court to tackle the task.

“Faced yet again with a dysfunctional state legislature, the federal judiciary in New York must now undertake the ‘unwelcome obligation’ of creating a plan redrawing the State’s electoral districts for the United States Congress,” Mann said.

The panel, composed of Dora Irizarry of the Federal District Court in Brooklyn and Gerard Lynch and Reena Raggi of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, were obligated to act with a sense of urgency in order to complete the lines by March 20 – the first day candidates for Congress can collect signatures to qualify for a position on the primary ballot. The primary was previously moved up to June 26 in order to ensure residents serving overseas in the military had adequate time to vote by mail.

“In prior redistricting challenges, New York has avoided such a wholesale transfer of state legislative power to the federal courts through last-minute enactments of new redistricting plans,” the panel wrote. “In this case, however, New York has been willing to let even the last minute pass and to abdicate the whole of its redistricting power to a reluctant federal court.”

Richard Mancino and Daniel Burstein, the attorneys who represented a group of civic leaders in a lawsuit aimed at urging the federal courts to take control of redistricting, praised the panel’s decision.

“Through this well-reasoned decision, the court has adeptly responded to the exigent circumstances caused by the Legislature’s failure to enact its own congressional redistricting plan,” said the lawyers. “Our clients wish that an independent redistricting commission could have drawn these districts, but we are grateful that the independent judiciary stepped in to fill this void and create its own principled plan.”

As part of the plan, a large portion of Turner’s territory will be absorbed by the new Sixth Congressional District – which has drawn interest from a number of elected officials since Congressmember Gary Ackerman’s stunning announcement that he will not seek a 16th term in office.

Assemblymembers Grace Meng and Rory Lancman and Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley have already come forward and announced their intentions to run for Ackerman’s seat. Meng was selected as the nominee of the Queens Democratic Party.

Turner has abandoned his hopes of Congressional re-election and opted to seek both the Republican and Conservative nomination in hopes of defeating Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.

The court redrew only the Congressional district maps, however, as the Legislature was able to agree upon Senate and Assembly boundaries. The maps drawn the New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR) – made up largely of Republican senators – were approved and signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on March 14, along with a bill creating a bipartisan commission to draw district lines in 2022. The new lines must still be approved by the Justice Department to ensure they do not disenfranchise minority voters.

Afternoon Roundup


| aaltman@queenscourier.com

The Afternoon Roundup

A teen who allegedly shot a man dead in southeast Queens was busted early Friday after cops spotted him standing over the body and holding a gun, police said. Read more:Daily News

A Mexican man pleaded guilty in Brooklyn to working for the family business — an international sex trafficking ring that goes back generations. Read more: Daily News

President Obama will speak at Barnard College’s graduation, the elite women’s college announced Saturday. Obama will receive the school’s medal of distinction and deliver the keynote address on May 14. Read more: Daily News

A Chelsea man was found slain in his apartment last night with his arms and feet bound and duct tape over his mouth, law enforcement sources said. Officers found the 57-year-old man dead at 7:53 p.m. in his home at 212 West 22nd Street, police said. It wasn’t immediately clear how the man was killed but his hands were bound with duct tape and tied to a bedpost with an electrical cord, sources said. The man’s feet were also bound and his face was covered. Read more: NYPost

Criticism is already being hurled at an emerging deal to reform the once-a-decade process of redrawing the boundaries of state legislative and congressional districts. Critics charge that a constitutional amendment being negotiated to make the partisan-influenced process more independent includes a “poison pill” that would still leave the ultimate decision in the hands of legislators. Read more: Daily News

Man Hospitalized Following Jamaica Hotel Fire


| jlane@queenscourier.com

Graphic by Jay Lane

Man Hospitalized Following Jamaica Hotel Fire

The Conduit Motor Inn on 138th Avenue in Jamaica, Queens caught fire Monday night, and an injured man found inside one of the hotel rooms was taken to Jamaica Hospital with burns throughout his body. Read More: NY1

 

Maksim Gelman to get extra 25 years for Manhattan portion of killing spree

A Manhattan judge today promised to tack on an additional 25 years to the certain life sentence that Maksim “Butcher of Brighton Beach” Gelman faces in Brooklyn when sentenced tomorrow for admittedly slaughtering four people back in February. Gelman had pleaded guilty last month to the Brooklyn end of his blood-drenched, 28-hour spree, admitting he’d stabbed his mother’s boyfriend to death, stolen that victim’s car and fatally mowed down a pedestrian, then stabbed to death the object of his affections, beautiful Yelena Bulchenko, and her mother. Read More: New York Post

 

Queens Rapper Joins Growing Chorus For Awareness About Redistricting

A Queens rapper is adding his music and his voice to the growing chorus against a hot-button political issue. Himanshu Suri of the hip-hop group Das Racist performed Monday night at a fundraiser in Richmond Hill to help out SEVA, a community organization that is raising awareness about the potential consequences of gerrymandering, the redrawing of local political districts to benefit incumbents. Read More: NY1

 

Man dead, another arrested in LI police shootout

A man is dead and another in custody after following a shootout last night with a Nassau County cop, police said today. The body of the dead suspect was found inside the Valley Stream home following a botched home invasion attempt, Nassau County police homicide chief Det. Lt. John Azatta said. The events unfolded when at least two men attempted a home invasion at about 9:15 a.m., police said.  The homeowner drove up and noticed a man in the bushes with a gun. That’s when he tried honking his horn to scare him off, police said.  When that didn’t work, the man called his brother and told him, “There is a problem here,” according to Azatta. Read More: New York Post

 

Mother of Rikers inmate killed in ’08 fight club lashes out at guards

The mom of a Rikers inmate who was killed in connection to a sick fight club run by guards, lashed out today two disgraced officers and the wrist-slapping deal they cut.  Charnel Robinson, 38, lamented how she’ll never again see her 18-year-old son Christopher Robinson, who was beaten to death in October, 2008 by fellow inmates for refusing to participate in the jailhouse blood sport. “I’m not happy. It’s not a win for me. My son is gone,” Robinson said in Bronx Supreme Court, during the sentencing of two guilty corrections officers.  “At the end of the day, these people are still able to see their families. My only child is a sight I’ll never see again,” Robinson said. Read More: New York Post

 

Bronx boy shot through door lives in terror

An 11-year-old Bronx boy who was shot when a bullet ripped through his family’s front door lives in fear of being attacked again. “I don’t like answering doors anymore and I don’t want to go back there,” a traumatized Ryan Aguirre told The Post from a new apartment where he’s staying.  The sixth-grade honors student escaped serious injury when he was shot in the right hip late on the night of Jan. 5. “I was just playing a game and the doorbell rang, so I got up to answer it,” Ryan said. “When I was walking toward the door, I said, ‘Who?’ and they just started shooting. Read More: New York Post

 

Five more bodies found on Italian shipwreck Costa Concordia

The death toll from the crippled Italian cruise liner Costa Concordia rose to 11 after five more bodies were pulled from the shipwreck on Tuesday. The lifeless bodies of four men and one woman, estimated to be in their 50s and 60s, were found below the water line at the ship’s front, rescue officials said.  They were all still wearing lifejackets. Twenty four others, a mix of tourists and crew members, are still believed trapped inside. The latest find comes after Italian marine divers armed with explosives blasted their way into the capsized wreck and began navigating its jumbled, murky interior. Conditions inside the half-sunk Costa Concordia were disastrous, and the frogmen were fighting their way through piles of floating debris in the ships labyrinth of cabins, restaurants, bars, casinos and theaters, rescue officials said. Read More: Daily News

 

Occupy Wall Street in ‘winter hibernation’ as donations dwindle and weather gets icy

Occupy Wall Street has gone into “winter hibernation” as donations have dwindled and the weather has gotten colder. “We’re not broke,” Pete Dutro, a member of the OWS finance committee, said Tuesday. “But donations have not been as plentiful as they were last fall.” Asked about reports that the group had just $170,000 left in its bank account, Dutro chuckled. “There are other accounts,” he said. “In fact I just deposited $100,000 we set aside for bail.” Dutro confirmed an account in the Wall Street Journal that OWS’s main government body voted over the weekend to freeze all new spending. Read More: Daily News

 

 

Italian captain ignored orders to return to ship: audio recordings

The captain of a grounded Italian cruise ship can be heard in a recording making excuses as a coast guard official repeatedly ordered him to “get on board now,” according to a transcript of the conversation released today. In a telephone conversation, the Italian coast guard official berates the captain, who is on a lifeboat and repeatedly says he doesn’t want to return to the ship even as passengers are still being evacuated. Read More & Hear Audio: New York Post

 

Beyoncé says Blue Ivy Carter ‘just like any other kid’ in first interview since giving birth

Beyoncé shares that “words can’t be found” to describe holding her daughter Blue Ivy Carter for the first time. In her first interview since giving birth, the “Countdown” songstress also reveals that she believes her daughter will be “just like any other kid” and that husband Jay-Z will indeed change his daughter’s diapers.  “Nothing can describe the feeling,” Beyoncé tells Star magazine of nurses first handing her Blue Ivy Carter to hold. “You have the instant connection once you know your child is growing inside you, but when you hold it for the first time, the words can’t be found.” Read More: New York Post

 

NYPD developing new device to detect guns carried by criminals

The NYPD is developing a new device that can detect whether a perp is carrying heat without frisking him, Commissioner Ray Kelly announced today. The large mechanism uses infrared rays to scan a “form of radiation emitted from the body” of someone who is concealing a gun on the streets of the Big Apple, Kelly said at the Police Foundation’s State of the NYPD breakfast. Since the infrared rays cannot pass through metal, the device provides officers with a digital outline of exactly where the firearm has been tucked away on the subject’s body, Kelly said. Read More: New York Post

Strong support for united districts in eastern Queens


| dbeltran@queenscourier.com

Civic leaders, city officials, and residents came to the Eastern Queens United rally recently in support of new district lines to keep eastern queens communities united and maintain a strong voice in politics.

Every 10 years after the census is complete, district lines must be re-drawn. Many residents and civic leaders said that because of the increased diversity, district lines should keep the community united in order to have a strong voice.

“Our collective power is diluted if we’re chopped up, our arguments are less relevant,” said Ali Namji, lawyer and resident of Glen Oaks village.

Several elected officials attended the rally on Thursday, January 12, including Assemblymember David Weprin, Councilmember Mark Weprin and Senator Tony Avella. They all said they were in support of keeping the community united.

“I will vote no,” said Avella. “It’s more important that the community stay together more than my own political aspirations. You have my support no matter what happens.”

Dianna Dalton, who lives on the Queens/Nassau border, said she has trouble proving she lives in New York City when calling for services and said she’s worried about possibly being redistricted into Nassau County.

“I was upset when I heard that. Nassau County isn’t going to care who we are or what we need. We want to stay with the neighborhoods that we border so we have some say in what we need,” Dalton said.

Those living well within eastern queens though are concerned about minority groups having a voice. Jamilla Uddin of the Alliance of South Asian American Labor organization, which works in collaboration with Eastern Queens United, said their main goal is to have a bigger voice for the Southeast Asian community. Uddin said that by having the community united, they will become a majority that can have an effect.

Although no district lines have been drawn up yet by legislators, Namji said that when they are, the people of eastern queens must show up.

“We have to continue to be united, we have to continue to come together. They’re compelled by law to have a hearing in every county with those draft maps. All of us have to be at that hearing. We have to be there in force.”