New Council lines inflame Woodhaven

New Council lines inflame Woodhaven
Map courtesy Woodhaven Residents Block Association
By Steve Mosco

A Woodhaven civic group is drawing a line in the sand, rejecting a proposed redistricting it says will split the neighborhood’s representation in the City Council.

Representatives from the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association said it lobbied the city Districting Commission to keep Woodhaven in a single district and at first its efforts seemed successful. The commission’s first proposal placed Woodhaven in one district, with only a small sliver in the northeast corner excluded.

The association planned to urge the commission to include that sliver with the rest of Woodhaven, but instead the commission discarded its original plans and sliced Woodhaven into three parts spread over two districts.

“The commission decided to throw Woodhaven under the bus. It should be embarrassed about how its final proposal treats our community,” said Alex Blenkinsopp, director of communications for the civic group. “Now that the final decision is in the hands of the City Council, we want all City Council members to know that a vote in favor of this gerrymander is a vote against Woodhaven.”

The Council must vote on the new maps by Dec. 10.

Woodhaven is currently divided between two Council districts: District 30, represented by Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), and District 32, represented by Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park).

Instead of preserving the current division, the association said the commission “significantly worsened” the split by switching large parts of the neighborhood from Crowley to Ulrich and vice versa. In addition, the final proposal places the far west portion of Woodhaven in the same district as the extreme northeast corner, but excludes any residential area in-between.

Now the association is urging Crowley and Ulrich to oppose the lines as they are proposed and stand up for their Woodhaven constituents. At a WRBA town hall meeting Sept. 15, Ulrich said he believes it is in the neighborhood’s best interest to remain intact.

“I think that Woodhaven, just like I think where I live in Ozone Park should be in one district,” said Ulrich at the meeting. “People ought to be able to hold their elected officials accountable. It ought to be easy for them to know who represents them in the City Council. I just think that’s the right thing to do. It’s the fair thing to do.”

The draft lines will be enacted unless a majority of Council members vote to send the commission back to the drawing board.

“We don’t know why the commission decided to split and scramble Woodhaven’s representation, but we won’t just sit there quietly as the City Council rubber stamps this awful proposal,” said Ed Wendell, president of the association. “This is an opportunity for City Council members — both our current representatives as well as those who might want Woodhaven’s support in the future — to show whether they actually care about our community.”

This is not WRBA’s first confrontation with redistricting commissions. In January, it vigorously objected to state Senate redistricting and in March it opposed redrawn congressional lines.

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.