The Morris Park Community Association held a town hall meeting at P.S. 83 with local leaders and residents expressing displeasure over proposed State Assembly District lines that slice Morris Park in two.
Among the speakers on Tuesday, February 21 were MPCA president Al D’Angelo, local business leaders Mark Gjonaj and Sal Paljevic representing the Morris Park Alliance, 49th Precinct Council president Joe Thompson, Bronx Republican county chairman Joseph Savino, Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance vice president Bernadette Ferrara, 80th Assembly District leader Kenny Agosto and a representative from Common Cause, a citizen’s organization supporting independent, non-partisan redistricting.
Also speaking were Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera and Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, representing the 80th and 82nd Assembly District respectively.
A plan that was made public on Thursday, January 26 released by LATFOR, the legislative body in charge of drawing district lines for New York State’s congressional, senate, and assembly district in response to the 2010 Census, would place a portion of Morris Park roughly bound by Tenbroeck, Radcliff, Morris Park, and Sackett avenues out of the 80th Assembly District and into the 82nd Assembly District for the next decade. This would weaken the political power of the MPCA and other organizations in the Morris Park community, D’Angelo said.
“It splits the power of the community, and the law says that you are supposed to keep communities of interest together,” D’Angelo stated.
The individual members in the majority party in the assembly and senate play a large role in drawing the lines of their districts every redistricting, said Savino, an attorney who also stated that he had been involved in redistricting in 2000.
In her remarks, Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera, who did not respond to questions from the audience, said that the federal government requirements also have to be taken into consideration, and that it was difficult for her to know that the Morris Park community would be split among two assembly members. Rivera, who spoke highly of Assemblyman Benedetto, said that her commitment to the Morris Park community remains firm whether the final lines show that she represents a portion or the whole of Morris Park.
“This is my community and it doesn’t matter if I am sitting on one side of the street or the other,” Rivera stated, adding she doesn’t believe that the community should be divided by lines on a map. She does not believe that she saw the proposed district lines prior to them being made public, Rivera said.
Benedetto stated that he knew that he might be getting a portion of Morris Park prior to the proposed lines being made public, but that he did not know where or how much of the community his district would include.
The voters of Morris Park should look at this as an opportunity to have two members of the assembly fighting for its interests, Benedetto said to the crowd. Benedetto also did not take questions from the audience.