By Rebecca Henely
The new proposed state Senate district lines would set Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) against Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst), but the longtime friends say they have no plans to duke it out at the polls.
“This actually makes it very amusing,” Peralta said.
Both senators characterized the new districts, drawn by Senate Republicans, as politically inspired. In the past, Gianaris’ district, the 12th District, encompassed most of Astoria, Long Island City, Sunnyside and Woodside with a thin tentacle extending down to take in parts of Maspeth and Ridgewood.
Meanwhile, Peralta’s 13th District mostly stayed within the area between the Grand Central Parkway and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, encompassing East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Corona, most of Elmhurst and a part of Woodside.
Peralta’s new district instead extends northwest to take in a chunk of Astoria, while another tentacle further south takes in a chunk of Woodside. The proposed 13th District also includes the Con Edison complex, LaGuardia Airport and a chunk of Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which now are in Sen. Toby Stavisky’s (D-Whitestone) district, but loses parts of Elmhurst.
To make up for the pieces lost, the 12th District now extends down even further, taking in slivers of Glendale, Woodhaven, Ozone Park and Lindenwood.
Gianaris said the new district lines change the makeup of the district by about 10 percent.
“The only thing they did is that they took my house out of it,” Gianaris said.
Peralta characterized New York state as becoming more Democratic and accused the Senate Republicans of trying to maintain their majority by pitting Democrats in the city against each other.
“The only way they can do it is by gerrymandering, and they’ve done so,” Peralta said.
Both lawmakers hold high positions in the Senate. Gianaris is the chairman of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee and Peralta is the Democratic whip.
In addition to pitting the party heavyweights against each other, Peralta said his new district also loses about 20,000 Asian residents in exchange for 20,000 white residents. The new lines will put the Asian population in a new Asian district, which is now Stavisky’s, but Peralta said the lines have the effect of cutting in half the Asian residents of Elmhurst.
“There’s no concern for the Asian community in northwest Queens,” Peralta said.
Gianaris, who has long been a proponent of independent redistricting, said while politics can be a factor, the lines fail to be compact, continuous or to keep together communities of interest.
“Astoria is one community,” he said. “For them to split it in two is completely outrageous.”
The senators are not the only ones unhappy with the new districts. On his Facebook page, City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) called the new lines an “outrage” and said the 12th District resembled a “baby alien popping out of a stomach.”
Rose Marie Poveromo, a civic leader whose home would be in Peralta’s new district where she now is in Gianaris’ district, said the new districts were “disgraceful.”
“Why should it be changed?” she asked. “This is truly a perfect example of gerrymandering.”
Gianaris said he expected Gov. Andrew Cuomo to veto the new lines, but added whatever happens, he and Peralta will not run against each other.
“Sen. Peralta and I have been friends longer than we’ve been elected officials,” Gianaris said.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.