The Congressional Lines
The redistricting lines proposed by a state panel heavily favor the Democrats, befitting of their supermajority in Albany. While the state will lose a Congressional seat based on last year’s census results, the Party seeks to pick up representation among those remaining by drawing Republican incumbents into districts where party registration leans heavily toward Democrats.
The most dramatic Congressional examples within New York City are in District 11, which covers Staten Island, but whose Brooklyn portion was switched from Dyker Heights to Park Slope and Sunset Park. In the last Congressional election, Nicole Malliotakis defeated Democrat Max Rose in a district that also gave its vote to President Donald Trump. But under the new lines, Rose could make a comeback by relying on the district’s new constituents. Should he succeed, the city’s Congressional delegation would be entirely represented by one party.
Besides the advantage given to the party, the lines also favor Democratic incumbents, in particular those who have faced primary challengers from the left. The 10th District, held by 15-term Rep. Jerry Nadler, always covered a long stretch between the Upper West Side and Borough Park, but the new lines give Nadler a neck of just a couple of blocks in downtown Brooklyn to connect these two voting blocs. On social media, critics gave the district a new spelling: Jerrymander, noting that the Democratic map is as unusual as those drawn by Republicans in southern states to maintain their seats.
“This is why people don’t trust politicians,” tweeted NY1 news anchor Pat Kiernan. “And the Democrats have given up any high ground they had over Republicans on gerrymandering.”
Although Nadler was criticized by many of his Jewish constituents when he voted for the Iran nuclear deal, he is also the only Jew in the city’s Congressional delegation from a district with more Jews than any other in the country.
In the Bronx, the 15th District, held by self-described pro-Israel progressive Ritchie Torres, will receive Riverdale’s sizable Jewish constituency. It is a reversal of fortune, as that neighborhood is currently represented by Jamaal Bowman, who was elected with the backing of the DSA. Torres’ diverse district will stretch across the Bronx, from Mott Haven to Fieldston.
In Queens, the districts appear more compact. Rep. Grace Meng will lose a portion of Bayside but will receive Woodside in return. Her district will continue to have the largest number of Jewish voters in the borough.
In Jamaica Estates, voters will have an open election later this year, as their neighborhood was drawn into the 3rd District, being vacated by Tom Suozzi. They will be sharing their next Member of Congress with voters in Great Neck, Glen Cove, and Plainview.
Previously, Jamaica Estates was represented by Rep. Greg Meeks, the chair of the House Foreign Relations Committee and the county Democratic organization. His district will continue to cover Far Rockaway, with new constituents in Woodhaven, Ozone Park, and Howard Beach.
Leftist superstar Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will also have a safe seat that will include additional blocks in Astoria, and likely – to the dismay of conservative voters – expanded borders in Whitestone.
State District Lines
On the State level, local incumbents have districts whose lines differ by a few blocks from a decade ago. Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal will lose Kew Gardens but will gain Whitestone. Both of these neighborhoods have centrist to conservative voters, discouraging challengers from the left. Kew Gardens will be lumped in the same Assembly district as Rego Park and Forest Hills, with which it already shares the same Council district and Community Board.
As was the case a decade ago, the lines for State Senate districts are more complicated, as they zigzag through the street grid. This time, most of Kew Gardens Hills will be within one district that also covers Hillcrest, Fresh Meadows, Hollis Hills, and Glen Oaks.
“They are great and they’re a huge win for Kew Gardens Hills and the community. If people are happy with their electeds, they will reelect them,” said JFK Democratic Club president Jeff Kohn. “We fought to put Kew Gardens Hills in one Senate district. Our community did very well.”
Last year, ahead of the redistricting, the public had the opportunity to submit comments that would shape the new lines. The big story in Queens for many reporters was Richmond Hill, where the South Asian community sought to unite that neighborhood in one district with the goal of electing a member of that community to state and city offices. But in Kew Gardens Hills, Howard Schonfeld, Sorrolle Idels, and nearly 30 other activists sent out text messages, emails, and announcements in shuls for their neighbors to participate in submitting comments on redistricting.
“Our comments helped a lot, and it made a difference,” Schonfeld said. “Kew Gardens Hills is united in one district.”
Within this newspaper’s readership area there is one community where party representation will be reversed. West Hempstead was previously divided between the Assembly Districts of Republican Ed Ra and Democrat Judy Griffin. Under the new lines, Ra will have nearly the entire community in his district, except for the blocks south of Eagle Avenue.
“They probably recognized that most of West Hempstead will be Red and they wanted to preserve Judy Griffin’s seat by adding Freeport to her district,” said Owen Rumelt, a West Hempstead resident active in the local Democratic Party. “It also minimizes the criticism as it unites the community.”
The change in representation may be good news to Republicans in West Hempstead, but Rumelt argues that it is not a win for the community in regards to funding local institutions and programs. “It’s more helpful to have an Assembly Member in the majority party as they have clout.”
By Sergey Kadinsky