Simotas Addresses LATFOR Public Hearing
The following speech was delivered by Assemblymember Aravella Simotas at the LATFOR Public Hearing Testimony at Queens Borough Hall on February 7.
Voters should pick their elected officials, not the other way around.
This is a principle that politicians of all stripes have paid lip service to in recent years, yet now senate Republicans would flaunt it in the name of holding on to power. In their proposed redistricting lines, the senate Majority has carved out part of Astoria, dividing Western Queens to accommodate an obviously partisan agenda and threatening to destroy the unity of a longstanding community of interest.
The proposed lines for District 12 represent a brazen attempt to exclude Senator Michael Gianaris from the district he has represented as both a member of the state Assembly and the state senate. It is no coincidence that Senator Gianaris has been an outspoken opponent of the partisan nature of the reapportionment process and has called on members of the senate Majority to uphold their campaign promises and establish an independent system of redistricting. For his actions, the senate Republicans have sought retribution, but the true penalty is visited upon the residents of Western Queens.
The deliberate division of a cohesive community will cost its residents the unified representation they have long enjoyed. Lifelong neighbors will be separated by absurd district lines. Parents with children in the same school will not be able to approach their elected representative together. Seniors and individuals with disabilities will be unable to travel to far-flung district offices. It is their voices that will be sacrificed to the Republican majority’s craven attempt to maintain their grasp on state government.
State Senator Mike Nozzolio, a Republican from Seneca County and co-chair of LATFOR stated, “You have to maintain communities of interest.” Astoria clearly forms a community of interest with Long Island City, East Elmhurst, Woodside and Sunnyside, and to split the neighborhood in two further exposes the selective and partisan nature of this process.
Long Island City, which historically consisted of Astoria, Hunters Point, Steinway and Ravenswood, was the fourth municipality incorporated into what is now New York City. In the years since, Western Queens welcomed immigrants from Ireland and Germany, Italy and Greece and more recently from the Middle East, South Asia and Latin America. In recent years, we have also seen an influx of young professionals from Manhattan who have made their own significant contributions to our community.
These diverse groups form a multicultural tapestry in which distinct identities are maintained but neighborhood cohesion is strengthened. Should the proposed senate lines be enacted, that tapestry will be ripped in two.
I hope that senate Republicans will restore unity to the Western Queens community in its final lines, and should they not, I call on Governor Cuomo to veto any lines that reflect partisan politics rather than the interests of Western Queens residents.