Residents in Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park are focused on politically unifying two neighborhoods that are split among a number of districts. The neighborhoods are represented by seven Assembly district alone.
For South Queens Women’s March founder and director Aminta Kilwan-Narine, the redistricting fight for her neighborhood is nothing new.
“We’re through with being gerrymandered,” said Kilwan-Narine at town hall on the issue last week. “It’s been three decades since our community started advocating for lines that served to bring equity to our historically marginalized people.
“We are finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel with the Letters AL map for State Assembly,” she added, referring to one proposal by the Independent Redistricting Commission, which is redrawing political boundaries based on the 2020 Census. “Yet both State Senate proposals continue to egregiously divide a community of interest right down its core.”
Kilwan-Narine urged the 70 people at the town hall at Royal India Plaza to register to testify at the upcoming November 17 public hearing before the Independent Redistricting Commission. “[We] stand no real chance of electing candidates of our choice because we are the most egregiously divided community in the entire city,” said Kilawan-Narine. “We’re all united in the same message tonight: keep us whole.”
The Asian Pacific American Voting and Organizing to Increase Civic Engagement (APA VOICE) Redistricting Task Force started meeting last December
We’ve met with elected officials, and we organized the first ever teenage redistricting art contest to get our teenagers involved in the issue of redistricting,” said coordinator Liz OuYang.
A presentation by Jerry Vattamala, director of the Democracy Program for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund distributed a draft redistricting map created by community members.
“We have not seen another community that is divided like this,” said Vattamala. “Even if everyone went out on Election Day and they are able to vote, they can never elect a candidate from this community.”
Mohamed Q. Amin, founder and executive director of the Caribbean Equality Project, said he was concerned with disenfranchised communities, but gave hope to building political power.
“For decades, the gerrymandered residents of Richmond Hill, South Ozone Park, and Ozone Park have endured neglect and political disenfranchisement,” said Amin. “The historic redistricting town hall was a powerful demonstration of a united community of interest fighting for justice for Richmond Hill.”