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After a state body released redrawn lines for New York’s state Senate districts, cries of political gerrymandering were heard from northeast Queens all the way to Albany.
In particular, political sources pointed to the proposed districts of Sens. Toby Stavisky (D-Whitestone) and Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who would have to run against each other if the boundaries are adopted.
A state body called the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment released redrawn political boundaries last week as part of a process that happens every 10 years to accommodate population growth.
Stavisky and Avella’s districts — the 16th and 11th, respectively — were already some of the most gerrymandered seats in the state, according to the two lawmakers.
Avella’s district is only contiguous during low tide, and a portion of Stavisky’s district is the unpopulated Cross Island Parkway.
Neither Stavisky or Avella could be reached for comment on the plan.
The proposed lines, drawn by Senate Republicans, took Stavisky out of her own district.
Every politician has to live, or at least spend a certain amount of time, at a residence in the district. Stavisky lists her address in Beechhurst, which would now lie in the same district as Avella under the proposed lines.
In the previous maps from 2002, the Beechhurst portion of District 16 already looked like a strange addition, an isolated lobe sticking out from the neighborhood of Bay Terrace. Even Stavisky has said the addition of Bay Terrace, which is thinly connected to the rest of the district by the Cross Island Parkway, smacked of gerrymandering.
A source knowledgeable about partisan politics said the Republicans might be trying to create as much infighting as possible in the Democratic Party ahead of the 2013 elections by pitting the likes of Avella and Stavisky in eastern Queens and Sens. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) and Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) in the west against each other.
The infighting could mean expensive primaries between Democrats at a time when Republicans enjoy a large fund-raising advantage statewide, the source said.
According to the state Board of Elections, as of January the state Democratic Senate Campaign Committee had $164,163 in its coffers, while the state Senate Republican Campaign Committee had more than $3.7 million, which means Republicans have about 22 times as much funding as their blue counterparts.
But if Stavisky did not want to run against Avella, who once worked as her chief of staff before rising through the political ranks to his current seat, she could always move somewhere else within District 11.
The proposed District 16 also brought mixed reactions from groups calling for independent redistricting.
The Asian American Community Coalition on Redistricting and Democracy had called for a majority Asian Senate seat to represent the people with ethnic backgrounds ranging from Chinese to Bangladeshi whose population has soared.
The proposed District 16 would be an Asian-majority Senate seat, and the coalition praised the task force for at least hearing its side of the argument, according to spokesman James Hong.
But Hong said the coalition could not support the bizarre and gerrymandered shape of the district in its proposed form and would rather have seen a district centralized more around the Flushing area and eastward toward Bayside.
The proposed lines, however, might not be the final chapter in the redistricting fight. Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the proposed lines “hyper-partisan” in Albany and vowed to veto them.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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