There will be a new face in local politics if the new district lines released on Jan. 26 by a committee of legislators take effect.
Instead of being represented in the state senate by Rev. Ruben Diaz Sr., most of the Hunts Point peninsula would be attached to a district that snakes from Riverdale, as far north and west in the borough as it’s possible to go, to Hunts Point, Soundview and Throgs Neck, as far south and east.The redrawn district, which also includes a piece of Westchester, is currently represented by Jeff Klein, who has become a senate powerhouse by virtue of leading the Independent Democratic Caucus, which broke with the Democrats in the chamber to work with its Republican majority.
Diaz’s district would continue to include Longwood and a small portion of the peninsula bordered by Tiffany and Faile streets, along with Mott Haven and Melrose.
Good government groups blasted the new district lines. They are “clearly the most gerrymandered lines in recent New York history,” said Bill Mahoney, research coordinator for the New York Public Interest Research Group, in a statement.
Gov. Mario Cuomo has said for months he would veto any lines drawn by the legislature. He wants an independent commission to create the districts. Reacting to the release of the new maps, his spokesman, Josh Vlasto, issued a statement saying, “At first glance, these lines are simply unacceptable and would be vetoed by the governor.”
Redistricting, required every 10 years following the census, is always a political process in which incumbents seek to protect their seats and parties seek to protect their power. This year’s exercise is particularly contentious because the Republicans, who have controlled the senate for decades, lost their majority briefly two years ago and the Democrats are close to regaining control of the upper chamber.
The Republicans are seeking to shore up their control by creating a 63d senate district and drawing lines that will favor their candidates.
The reverse is true in the assembly, long controlled by the Democrats and dominated by the New York City delegation. Hunts Point and a portion of Longwood would remain in the 84th assembly district, currently represented by Carmen Arroyo. The rest of Longwood would be in the 85th district, represented my Marcos Crespo.
Ethnic empowerment is also a factor in plotting the political map. The census showed that the white population of the city and the Bronx has dwindled; the black population has also declined. Asian demands for seats in Queens can have a domino effect elsewhere in the city. In Manhattan and the Bronx, Dominicans are seeking a larger share of the pie. In addition, the federal Voting Rights Act requires so-called majority-minority districts.
The new 34th senate district, which would include most of Hunts Point, along with Klein’s strongholds in Riverdale, Morris Park, Pelham Parkway and Westchester, would be 42 percent non-Hispanic white, 35 percent Hispanic and 14 percent non-Hispanic black.
Currently, Klein represents a majority-white district that covers the north Bronx and a much larger slice of Westchester. But Republicans, believing they can gain a seat in Westchester now held by a Democrat by redrawing the lines, moved Klein out of most of his suburban turf, replacing it with more of the Bronx.
The 32nd district is nearly 60 percent Hispanic and 33 percent black.
The newly-released lines are subject to change after public hearings, and could wind up in court if the governor vetoes them or if good government groups challenge them.