Western Queens lawmaker defends proposed Congressional redistricting lines

State Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris (Photo courtesy of Office of Senator Gianaris)

The state Legislature is expected to approve a proposal that redraws Congressional districts to compensate for declining populations, according to the 2020 Census results.

State Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris of western Queens chaired the legislative redistricting task force that was charged with developing the new district lines after a bipartisan Independent Redistricting Commission failed to agree on congressional and state legislative maps in early January.

The proposed changes were announced Sunday, prompting state GOP leader Nick Langworthy to call them “textbook filthy, partisan gerrymandering that is clearly in violation” of the state’s constitution.

Gianaris — who helped lead the fight against the Independent Democratic Conference, which formed a coalition to give the Republicans the majority in the chamber during the past decade — said his team was undoing decades of Republican gerrymandering.

“As we are unraveling the gerrymandering of the past we’re just bringing things back to where they should have been from the outset,” Gianaris said Tuesday, Feb. 1 on WNYC. “These are districts that are drawn fairly. If they had been drawn fairly at the outset this is perhaps what they would have looked like.”

Republican Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis claims the process has been rigged by Democrats by adding progressive Brooklyn neighborhoods to her mostly conservative 11th District on Staten Island and parts of southern Brooklyn.

Queens has been spared from drastic redistricting in the proposal. But change would come to the south and northeast sections of the borough.

Screenshot of map via Redistricting & You for New York State/CUNY

According to the new maps, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries would no longer represent Howard Beach, which would move into Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez’s Congressional District 7. While Congressman Gregory Meeks would retain his district as is, Congresswoman Grace Meng would see her district add Bayside and Bay Terrace, while Whitestone and College Point would become part of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s 14th Congressional District.

“As far as AOC’s district, it remains largely the same Bronx-Queens district,” Gianaris said. “I think she gains some more of Queens in the proposal and other than that it’s a very similar district to what she currently has.”

The state GOP has vowed to challenge the Congressional redistricting proposal in the courts.

“Litigation is inevitable and guaranteed every time there is redistricting,” Gianaris said. “We’ve had our lawyers look at these maps backwards and forwards and when the time comes we’re confident we will make our case to the courts and be successful.”