Suggested City Council districts leave Astoria intact, nix Rikers

Photo by Rebecca Henely
By Rebecca Henely

Astoria is split in half in New York’s new state Senate and congressional lines, but the proposed City Council district leaves the neighborhood largely in one piece.

“My district grew to stop at 35th Avenue, which I think is natural,” said Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria).

The new lines are drawn up by the New York City Districting Commission, a 15-member board whose members are appointed by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the Council’s Democratic and Minority caucuses. The commission was established to draw up new lines based on population shifts recorded in the 2010 U.S. census.

Redistricting for the Senate and the U.S. Congress both divided large parts of Astoria. The new Senate lines cut out Astoria Heights and a lot of the area north of Ditmars Boulevard from Sen. Michael Gianaris’ (D-Astoria) district, while the new congressional lines cut the neighborhood north of Astoria Boulevard from U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s (D-Astoria) district.

But the Council lines leave the neighborhood largely intact. While the district loses Rikers Island, LaGuardia Airport and a few streets nearby, it takes in some blocks along 35th Avenue and Northern Boulevard between 24th and 50th streets and along Broadway between 51st Street and the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway.

Vallone, who will not be able to run again in 2013 due to term limits, said the changes to the district seemed fine, but he was concerned that Rikers Island is now in the district currently held by Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras (D-East Elmhurst).

“Rikers is something that affects only my neighborhood,” Vallone said.

The Bronx prison island is accessible by road only through Hazen Street in Astoria.

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer’s (D-Sunnyside) district also saw some changes in the Maspeth neighborhood. The southeast border is now Grand Avenue from Newtown Creek to the Amtrack/CSXT railroad, with a small area cut out between 66th to 72nd streets below 53rd Drive.

In addition to gaining Rikers and LaGuardia Airport, Ferreras’ district lost a big section of Elmhurst, mostly below Roosevelt Avenue, but gained parts of Corona.

“I am confident that I will be able to serve my constituents well,” she said in a statement. “While I am disappointed that some parts of my district will be shifted, these new lines will help ensure fairness in representation.”

City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) gained the parts of Elmhurst that Ferreras lost. but the southern section of the neighborhood went to Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills). He said he was fine with the changes and was glad Jackson Heights was not split up along 82nd Avenue, as some earlier maps had recommended.

He emphasized that the maps were not final.

“As we move through the process we’re open to suggestions and changes,” Dromm said. “Additions, deletions, whatever so we can make it as fair and transparent a process as possible.”

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

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