New districts cannot divide immigrant neighborhoods in Queens, advocates say

Michael Gianaris

September 09, 2011

The Daily News wrote about how redistricting could affect various immigrant groups in Queens.

State officials must draw new district lines that give growing Queens immigrant groups a stronger voice, advocates demanded this week during a nearly six-hour public hearing.

A joint Senate-Assembly body that oversees redistricting has held public sessions throughout New York since July - and the meeting Wednesday in Queens drew one of the largest crowds in the state.

"There's a constant need to pay attention to new immigrant enclaves," said state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), who testified at the hearing. "It's our obligation to do what we can to integrate them into society and into government, [and] the best way to do that ... is to unite them as a community of interest."

States across the country are preparing to redraw district lines based on Census 2010 data. At Queens Borough Hall, nearly 100 speakers asked the state to avoid gerrymandering politics and instead use the demographic statistics to draw boundaries.

"The Asian-American community spoke together with one voice," said Jerry Vattamala, a staff attorney with the Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, which is part of a coalition of local Asian groups advocating for fair redistricting. "We suffered for 10 years with current district lines. It would be unbearable to suffer another 10."

In Queens, which the Census Bureau tallied at around 2.2 million, growing Asian populations have been fractured, making it difficult for them to get the attention they need, advocates said.

"We're supposed to have a system where voters choose representatives, not one where representatives choose their voters," said Gianaris.

Read the full article here.