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January 26, 2012 12:49 pm

New York Senate Places Orthodox in Middle of Political Fight

avatar by Zachary Lichaa

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (left) with state AG Gary Ackerman. Photo: wiki commons.

New York’s re-drawing of district lines – which takes place once every ten years – is facilitating a grand debate on fair representation and the transparency of government processes.

On Tuesday, the NY Daily News reported that New York’s state Senate would seek a consolidation of the orthodox Jewish vote in Brooklyn and the creation of an Asian majority district in Queens, to reflect the addition of 120,000 Asian constituents over the past decade.

“I think it’s wonderful.  I’ve always felt that way with regard to the orthodox and Asian communities.  The argument that people have made sometimes that the more representatives you have the more you can accomplish, it’s not true. It doesn’t work that way.  Having one person is much more effective.  An Asian district, I  think it’s great that communities have so much in common. Midwood and Borough Park would be the same,” Assemblyman Dov Hikind told the Algemeiner.

Assemblyman Hikind, a democrat, represents the 48th District of New York, which includes Borough Park, Dyker Heights, and parts of Flatbush.

“Bourough Park and Midwood are the heart of the orthodox community in New York.  They’re very similar in the things they believe in, the things they care about,” he said.

Not everyone is in favor of the consolidation of Brooklyn’s orthodox vote, including some who believe it’s better to have a plurality of legislators working on behalf of a particular demographic in different district neighborhoods.

“I don’t like the way that this discussion is being framed.  I don’t necessiarly need to have my community represented by an Orthodox Jew, if that’s the intention of the lines.  There’s nothing wrong with Borough Park being a component or part of a district that is not necessarily entirely orthodox,” a political consultant who asked to remain anonymous due to his involvement in the process told the Algemeiner.

As a whole, the proposal put forth by the GOP leadership in the state Senate faces a veto from Governor Cuomo if he believes partisan politics were a factor in the decision making process.

“The process that created these draft lines was done completely behind closed doors and completely by the legislators who are self interested in the process,” said Daniel Burstein of the law firm Wilkie Farr & Gllagher.

The firm has filed a lawsuit on behalf of plaintiffs who believe the redistricting process has become a threat to the state’s 2012 elections.

While Burstein isn’t surprised that partisan politics are at play here, he was adamant that re-drawing district lines should be about representing the interests of the state’s citizens, and nothing else.

“Not taking into account the interest of either party or the locations of incumbents, drawing lines that are compact and take into account the communities interests should be the objective here.”

Assemblyman Hikind said he’s pleased with the proposals he’s seen, recognizing that Republicans control the Senate majority.

“The new district lines, from what I’ve seen, are much more compact  They speak much more to people who want fair districts where people have an opportunity to run.”

He added, “The process is what the process is.”

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