Leaders from Morris Park spoke in unison at a legislative hearing about their concerns on preliminary district lines for the 80th Assembly district in their effort to keep their community intact.
Morris Park Community Association president Al D’Angelo, the Morris Park Alliance’s Robert Ruggiero, Bernadette Ferrara of the Van Nest Neighborhood Alliance, 49th Precinct Community Council president Joe Thompson, 49th Precinct Community Council vice-president Silvio Mazzella, and business leader and member of the Taxi and Limonsine Commission Mark Gjonaj all offered similar testimony before the New York State Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment held at the Bronx Musuem of the Arts at 1040 Grand Concourse on Tuesday, January 31.
All questioned the preliminary district lines for the 80th and 82nd Assembly District for the next 10 years as released by LATFOR, which is in charge of drawing Congressional, Senate, and Assembly lines in New York State in response to the 2010 Census.
The group called on the commission to keep the Morris Park community in a single assembly district, and brought with it almost 2,500 signatures gathered in less than two days, that support the one assembly member sentiment.
“I thought it went well and that we presented a viable case as to the reasons we want the plan for the proposed assembly district lines to be recinded,” D’Angelo stated.
The proposed lines leave an area bound roughly by Tenbroeck, Radcliff, Morris Park, and Sackett avenues out of the 80th Assembly District, currently represented by Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera, and place them into the 82nd Assembly district, currently reprsented by Assemblyman Michael Benedetto.
If the community is split during redistricting, it will no longer be a significant enough portion of either district, greatly diminishing the power of the Morris Park Community Association to act as a voice of the community, D’Angelo stated.
During his testimony, D’Angelo said that it seemed like the elected officials got together behind closed doors and decided to do what is best for themselves, and that the lines are dividing up a community that was a solid voting block.
“I don’t like the idea that we are a pawn in a political game,” D’Angelo said.
Describing Morris Park as the “anchor” of Community Board 11, Thompson highlighted the community’s stability.
“I see no legal or practical reason for dividing the Morris Park community,” Thompson said.
“We do need a strong and unified Morris Park, represented by one senate person, one assembly person, and one city council person,” Thompson stated.
To draw assembly district lines in the way being proposed will only disenfranchise and discourage voters, Gjonaj stated.
LATFOR consists of Senator Michael Nozzolio, Senator Martin Malavé Dilan, Assemblyman Robert Oaks, Assemblyman John McEneny, Dr. Roman Hedges, and Welquis Lopez. The group from Morris Park was told that the task force will strongly consider their testimony. The LATFOR’s decisions are governed by the state Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
The MPCA will soldier on, with a letter-writing campaign in the works before any final decision on district lines are made, D’Angelo stated. The association is in talks with both Rivera and Benedetto, who both sympathize the MPCA, D’Angelo stated.