Gerrymandering destroys communities

On Feb. 7, the state Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment held a public hearing at Queens Borough Hall to gather comments from the public regarding proposed state Senate and state Assembly district boundary lines.

LATFOR, made up of four legislators and two non-legislators, oversees the redrawing of the district lines based on the 2010 census and various laws. Public hearings are being held throughout the state.

Hundreds of people showed up at the hearing from all over Queens. The common theme was dissatisfaction with the newly proposed boundaries. The hearing started at 3:30 p.m. and was still going strong after I had my opportunity to give testimony at 9 p.m.

Why were people so upset and vocal? Because many of the new districts proposed split neighborhoods and adjacent communities that should be kept together because of common interests and concerns.

Some of the proposed districts look gerrymandered. The proposed 16th Senate District, for example, stretches from Oakland Gardens all the way to sections of Woodside. A piece of the district snakes around to include parts of Bay Terrace.

At the hearing, Eastern Queens United, a coalition of people from five adjacent communities, spoke out that they did not want to be divided — so did people from Richmond Hill, Ozone Park and South Ozone Park. Bay Terrace representatives said they wanted to be part of the 11th Senate District because of common goals with the Bayside community. Auburndale, Astoria and the Rockaways, as separate communities, also requested to be in districts where each community would not be cut up into pieces.

Many people at the hearing pointed out that LATFOR is not an independent commission, since the majority of its members are legislators. The voters should be selecting which district and legislator they want to be with, not the other way around. Concerned community people and voters should have direct input into redistricting decisions.

With this present proposal from LATFOR, the appearance is that lines are being created for political expediency. It is time lines be redrawn that are in the interests of the people and the communities they live in throughout the state. If that does not happen, then Gov. Andrew Cuomo must veto these plans.

Henry Euler


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