The lines are now out. The proposed district lines for our New York State Assembly and Senate seats for the next ten years have been released to the public. The politicians, if they are part of the right crowd, have known about them for weeks.
Why should ordinary citizens be concerned about legislative district lines? Let's take a look at the Far Rockaway section of the proposed 23 A.D. The 23rd A.D. covers the Rockaway peninsula from the Nassau County line to the tip of Breezy Point. It also includes Broad Channel, Howard Beach and some of Ozone Park.
What the 23 A.D. does not include is the center of Far Rockaway, the Mott Avenue and Wavecrest subway stations, the Community Board 14 office, all of the shopping areas and the blocks of densely populated apartment houses are part of another district, the proposed 31 A.D.
The center of Far Rockaway has been joined with communities on the other side of Jamaica Bay and JFK Airport. The majority of the voters in this district are residents of Rosedale, Springfield Gardens and South Ozone Park. They, and the representatives they are likely to elect, do not ride the A train, attend Far Rockaway schools, or try to shop in Far Rockaway.
Political clubs in New York City are based on Assembly District lines. Instead of bringing Far Rockaway residents together to solve common problems, the structure of political clubs in Far Rockaway serves to separate people who need to work together.
The population of each district is identical, 123,854 or 123,855, but the ethnicity of the residents is not. In round numbers, the three largest groups of residents over 18 in the 23 A.D. are white, 63%, black 10% and Hispanic 18%. In the 31 A.D. the largest groups are white, 10%, black 57%, and Hispanic 18%.
There are those who may say that the creation of geographically tortured districts is necessary to increase the representation of historically underrepresented groups. The elimination of districts, which denied the rights of minorities to have a reasonable chance to elect representatives of their choice was a high priority in the 1960s to the 1980s.
The priority today is to create districts where all residents can work together to solve their mutual problems. Minority representation can be increased through the use of multi-member districts and proportional representation.
Public hearings on the proposed districts will be held in the coming months. There are likely to be protests against the way Democrats who control the State Assembly and Republicans who control the State Senate have proposed districts that are likely to keep them in power for the coming decade. It would be good if local readers discussed the issues of legislative representation and prepare to participate in the public hearings.