Tuesday, March 6, 2012

WRBA Opposes Special Master's Plans for Woodhaven

The Woodhaven Residents' Block Association opposes the congressional district lines proposed by a court-appointed Special Master. The lines would make Woodhaven one of the only Queens neighborhoods in a predominantly Brooklyn-based district, and would split Woodhaven between two congressional districts.

Yellow lines: proposed district borders.  Red lines: Woodhaven's borders.
Magistrate Judge Roanne Mann, the Special Master, released proposed maps that would place nearly all of Woodhaven in the same district as Williamsburg, Bushwick, Red Hook, Sunset Park, and other Brooklyn neighborhoods, as well as Chinatown and the Lower East Side in Manhattan. The proposed district spans three boroughs and is shaped like a crooked boomerang.

Mann was appointed a little over a week ago and had until March 12 to craft congressional district maps.

"I understand that the Special Master needed to work in a hurry, but this proposal sloppily tosses Woodhaven into a district that includes almost none of the neighborhoods we've shared a district with for decades," said WRBA Director Alexander Blenkinsopp. "We certainly didn't expect our congressional lines to look exactly the same post-redistricting. This proposal, however, splits up Woodhaven and essentially separates us from the rest of Queens. It will be extraordinarily difficult—and unlikely—for a member of Congress from this district to represent Woodhaven well."

Woodhaven is currently in Congressional District 9, which includes portions of only two boroughs. The Special Master's proposal places Woodhaven in a different congressional district than most or all of the nearby Queens neighborhoods of Richmond Hill, Glendale, Ozone Park, Middle Village, Kew Gardens, and Howard Beach. The proposed district appears to pay little heed to the neighborhoods with which Woodhaven shares a Community Board, a police precinct, a school district, bus lines, shopping strips, and countless other common elements.

The proposal also divides Woodhaven, locating the majority of the neighborhood in a different district than Forest Park—which is core to the community's identity—and the Forest Park Co-ops, home to thousands of Woodhaven residents.

"We sincerely hope that Albany gets its act together and agrees on more sensible congressional lines so that the Special Master's proposal doesn't become law," said WRBA Director Vance Barbour. "We don't favor gerrymandering; that's why we criticized gerrymandering of Woodhaven's state senate representation. But Judge Mann's proposal doesn't do much better for our neighborhood."

The WRBA plans to submit to Judge Mann written feedback on the proposal by the deadline of 9 a.m. tomorrow.

Update (3/7/2012, 9 a.m.):  The WRBA's letter to Judge Mann can be viewed here.

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WRBA office: (718) 296-3735