Boro lawmaker hopes guv vetoes district lines

By Joe Anuta

The state Legislature drafted bills for a new set of maps that would define political boundaries in the state Assembly and state Senate for the next decade, but Queens lawmakers were still hopeful Gov. Andrew Cuomo would veto them.

An initial proposal for the new lines in the Assembly and Senate was released earlier this year. While the Assembly lines did not generate much controversy, the Senate lines did — and Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said the second and final iteration is 98 percent the same as the first, which sent the borough into an outrage when they were released.

“The maps are almost identical to the first set, which had been deemed the most gerrymandered in the history of the state,” he said.

One change between the first and second versions of the senate lines put Gianaris back into the district he currently lives in, as opposed to that of state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst). The two were originally drawn into the same district and might have been pitted against each other.

But the same was not true for Sens. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) and Tony Avella (D-Bayside). Their homes are currently drawn into the same district, which could mean they will face off in a primary.

Another change in the Senate lines put Bay Terrace into the 11th Senate District which is currently held by Avella, as opposed to the 16th Senate District currently held by Stavisky.

“We’re really happy with that,” said Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance. “It just puts us in an area of common interest.”

And the 16th Senate District remained a majority Asian district, pleasing the Asian American Community Coalition on Redistricting and Democracy, which has been advocating for such a seat based on communities of interest in the area and results from the 2010 census. Though the coalition took issue with the fact that Flushing in its entirety was not included.

Under state law, a bill must sit for three days before it can be voted on. Since the bill for both the Assembly and Senate — which ran about 250 pages and outlined each of the districts street-by-street — was finalized Sunday just before midnight, the lawmakers were expected to vote this week.

Along with the bill containing the new district lines, the Legislature is likely to vote on a separate bill containing a constitutional amendment that would reform the process 10 years down the road. Cuomo would also like to see a law passed to ensure that the reform sticks, he said in a recent radio interview.

But Gianaris said he would prefer that Cuomo veto the lines, which would then be drawn up by a special court magistrate.

The argument that it is too late to have a court draw up the lines — since the state primaries are scheduled for September and the congressional primaries for June — does not apply, since a federal judge recently drew congressional lines in a timely manner that were positively received by New Yorkers, although not by incumbent lawmakers, Gianaris said.

“The courts handled the congressional lines, and they were transparent and fair,” he said. “The lines that the courts produced have been critically acclaimed, and I think it is certainly better than what the Legislature is able to come up with.”

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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