Leaders from more than a dozen eastern Queens civic groups met in Bellerose last week, demanding their communities be united by the state task force that will redraw the area’s legislative lines for the coming decade.
The state Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment is expected to release its first-draft maps within the next few weeks, and the members of Eastern Queens United stressed the importance of seeing their neighborhoods represented by one state Assembly district.
Currently, Glen Oaks, New Hyde Park, Bellerose, Floral Park and Queens Village are represented by Assembly members David Weprin (D-Little Neck), Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) and Barbara Clark (D-Queens Village).
“It’s difficult to get any of them to come to my civic association because we are on the fringe,” said Nagassar Ramgarib, president of the Queens Village Civic Association, in the auditorium of the Queens High School of Teaching, Liberal Arts and the Sciences.
Bob Friedrich, president of Glen Oaks Village, said all of these neighborhood share common quality-of-life issues and that the different civic groups all work together.
“It’s important that whoever represents us understands that when our civics speak, their words are backed up by tens of thousands of votes,” he said.
The group invited a number of politicians to the meeting, asking them to pledge their support for its cause, testify at public meetings and pledge to vote “no” on any map that divided the community.
Before leaving to attend a personal engagement, Weprin said he “fully supported keeping the communities united” and would testify at the public meeting that will be scheduled once LATFOR releases its map.
When Friedrich asked the assemblyman to make the pledge, Weprin replied, “I can’t commit to voting ‘no,’” which drew boos from a handful of the approximately 150 attendees.
“I didn’t like that he wouldn’t commit,” said Charlie Vaicels, of the Queens Colony Civic Association in Bellerose. “He probably has commitments to other people.”
Braunstein was attending an event in Whitestone that evening, and Clark did not respond to an invitation, Friedrich said.
“It goes to show you, if you’re on the periphery of their district, they don’t care,” he said.
Eastern Queens United also wants to be represented by one state Senate district.
“I’ll go to those hearings and scream my head off, but the issue will be decided behind closed doors,” said Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who affirmed Friedrich’s pledge.
City Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens), who used to hold his brother’s Assembly seat, wrote a letter to the heads of LATFOR urging the task force to create a district that resembled the one he represents in the council.
He said the real problem is that the current process is set up so that each political party can keep its majorities in the two legislative houses.
“Independent redistricting is important today because people don’t respect the government,” he said.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said he would veto any map not created by an independent commission, sending the decision to the courts to be decided.
“That might be the best way to go,” the councilman said. “I like that I can say, ‘The politicians didn’t do it.’”