Hundreds Attend Packed Redistricting Plan Hearing
"This is politically oriented. It’s unethical and immoral. It’s ridiculous...it makes a mockery of the whole damn system," said United Canarsie South Civic Association Vice President Lenny Fogel.
His remarks were loudly and forcefully echoed throughout the halls of Brooklyn’s Borough Hall last week. Hundreds of Brooklyn residents, mostly from Canarsie and adjacent communities representing a broad spectrum of community, civic and religious leaders, arrived on a convoy of 14 buses last Friday morning to attend a special public hearing to convince a seven-member New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Appointment, not to modify Kings County’s current Assembly and Senate district lines, which had recently been proposed. The redistricting proposal would significantly alter the 19 and 21 state senatorial districts that are respectively represented by Democrats John Sampson and Carl Kruger.
"Basically it would divide Canarsie," said Sampson. "We would be represented by two state senators. A portion I will have, a portion Carl Kruger will have. Our main goal is to keep the areas I represent — Canarsie and East Flatbush — together. I don’t mind getting additional constituents, but move me in a natural progression...west. Move me into East Flatbush. Move me over to Georgetown, but to move me to Manhattan Beach and Brighton Beach, to really cross all other communities, will be doing a disservice to the people in those areas."
Senator Kruger added, "The issues raised (at the hearing) resonated well. Alternate plans will now be submitted. I’m optimistically guarded there will be positive revisions to insure that neighborhoods continue to be linked — not ripped part.
"As the proposal now stands, several communities will be forced to share the same school boards and the same problems."
It was apparent that the majority in attendance agreed with the senators stating that the redistricting plans would tear apart existing communities that have grown and flourished over the last 10 years.
Borough President Marty Markowitz explained in testimony to the panel that the planned changes "violate the basic principles that districts should be drawn as compactly as possible." In addition, he urged them to draw new Senate lines "that do not shortchange Brooklyn."
He also noted that the targeted districts "contain at least two noncontiguous communities, separated from each other solely by highways, water or very narrow population corridors only one block wide."
Barry Garman, who lives in the BayView Housing complex and is a community activist and Canarsie resident for nearly 40 years, said, "I think it’s wrong for people to make decisions in splitting up communities...I live in Canarsie, my representative would be in Bay Ridge...we need representation where we live."
"Dividing a neighborhood dilutes our voting strength," said Wanda Ihrig, spokesperson for the Canarsie civic group, Informed Voices. "It gives us less of a cohesive voice when we fight for the needs of a community in which we all live."
Even though most in attendance agreed that the redistricting plan would hurt communities, some people were disturbed to hear some people oppose the plan by bashing and demeaning certain communities. "(I’ve heard people from) District 21 disrespecting East New York, Brownsville and Canarsie, saying that people like us should never be involved with District 21 (and people) from Sheepshead Bay, Bay Ridge," said Garman’s son, Bret. "Disrespecting other people because of their color is a lot of crap."
Despite the controversy, everyone simply wants the best for their communities. As Sharon Borno, who represented the Glendale Court and Avenue H block associations, stated in her comments to the task force, "I like my community and I want it to stay as it is."
Kruger said a final decision on the redistricting plan is due the first week of April, but it is subject to challenge in the courts.