Redistricting Is A Done Deal
By Howard Schwach
The redistricting dance that includes the legislature, the courts, some special masters and lots of political blood, a dance that takes place each ten years, is over for now.
And, with all the bloodletting, Rockaway and Broad Channel came out relatively unscathed while, for example, the Howard Beach Congressional line was cut right down the center of Cross Bay Boulevard.
This year’s redistricting for the Assembly increases minority isolation to a small degree. Audrey Pheffer, who had represented the 23 District for many years, will get more of non-minority Bayswater, while losing some of her minority areas in Far Rockaway. On the other side of the coin, Michelle Titus, who recently won a special election to take the seat formerly held by Pauline Rhodd-Cummings, will gain more minority voters while losing a number of non-minority constituents.
Prior to this year’s redistricting, Pheffer’s district was 60 percent White, 11 percent Black and 18 percent Hispanic. Under the new plan, approved last week, her district would now be 75 percent White, 7.3 percent Black and 12.5 percent Hispanic.
"I am sorry to lose those areas of Far Rockaway that I have worked so closely with for the past ten years," Pheffer told The Wave. "I am glad, however, to be getting back some of my old Bayswater constituents. That is my home."
The original State Senate lines were drawn in such a way that Senator Malcolm Smith and Senator Ada Smith would have changed places and districts. Malcolm would have picked up much of Ada Smith’s district in central and eastern Queens, while she would have picked up Rockaway.
After some intense negotiation, however, that was changed, and Malcolm Smith will once again be representing all of Rockaway, while Ada Smith will continue to represent much of Queens, including Broad Channel.
While Rockaway will continue to be represented in Congress by both Anthony Weiner and Gregory Meeks, their district lines have shifted slightly, with the net effect of reducing minority isolation a bit.
In the last redistricting, completed in 1992, the Congressional districts were drawn strictly along racial lines, placing White census tracts in Weiner’s district and minority census tracts in Meeks’ district, leaving "strange shapes" up and down the peninsula, according to one long-time political observer.
This year’s redistricting puts the line between districts straight across the peninsula from north to south at
Beach 74 Street.
Everybody who lives east of Beach 74 Street will now be represented by Meeks, while everybody west of that street will be represented by Anthony Weiner.
"This is a lot neater and is less of a racial gerrymander," Congressman Weiner told The Wave during a recent visit to the newspaper’s office. "Look at where the subway comes into Rockaway and that is the line."
While Weiner is unhappy that he lost some of his Brooklyn constituents, especially those neighborhoods he grew up in, he says that he is happy that he has more of Queens and more of Rockaway.
Meeks now has the only Congressional District that is wholly in Queens, The Congressman picked up part of "Old Howard Beach," a section famous for its racial unrest in the past.
The new lines will be used for the coming elections in November.