New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Greek Americans living in Astoria and beyond are outraged! After succeeding to have 2 elected officials representing the largest Greek inhabited area in the US, in Albany, a redistricting plan masterminded by another Greek American, Senate Majority leader Dean Skelos, if applied will take the senate seat held by Mike Gianaris away.
The state Senate GOP majority wants to merge four Queens districts currently held by Democrats into two. The one covering Astoria is held by Michael Gianaris, chair of the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.
Michael Gianaris would face a reelection dogfight against a Latino incumbent, Jose Peralta, in a heavily Latino district. The other draw for Democrats would pit longtime Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky against freshman Tony Avella.
Speaking to the “Greek News”, Michael Gianaris said that “The Republicans that are led by Dean Skelos have decided to propose splitting Astoria in half, because I am a Democrat and they are trying to achieve a political gain. It’s not final and we still have a chance to change it. Governor Cuomo has already declared this proposal unacceptable so we still have a chance to reverse it.
Gianaris added that tt is very disappointing, after decades of efforts the Greek community put in to finally be united and have representation in Albany, because of the Republican politics this could be destroyed.
Gianaris explained the goal of the Republican calculations is to put the Democrats fighting each other, so they won’t be able to focus beating the in the election.
“For example, in Bay Ridge Brooklyn we have a young Greek American, Andrew Gounardes, running for the State Senate seat. They are trying to distract us and create as much turmoil as possible by putting two Democrats together in the district to fight each other instead of fight them. They think I will be busy fighting a colleague of mine in Senate and not spending much time trying to help Gounardes getting elected.”
The Democratic proposal about redistricting is the lines to be drawn by an independent body, such as the Supreme Court.
“This is what the Governor supports and that what the Republicans promised to support. But they broke their promise, because they want to play politics. At this point we support the court to draw the lines as a neutral party, instead of one or the other party does it”.
Governor Cuomo has stated to veto the Republican proposal, forcing the court to interfere.
The Republican proposal pushes Gianaris future district closer to Corona, where the Latino community is stronger. The Asian community that is concentrated in Flushing wants to be able to elect their own representative, but the Republican proposal divides Flushing.
“If they wanted an Asian representative to get elected they would have kept Flushing intact”, Gianaris said.
A public hearing will be held on Tuesday, at 3 pm, at the Queens Borough Hall, in order for the various views to be heard. Prior to the hearing (at 2:30 pm) the Democrats organize a rally on the steps of the Borough Hall in protest of the Republican calculations. Gianaris is going to be testifying at the hearing and he encourages anybody who also wants to testify to contact his office to get more information.
It is expected 2-3 weeks after the hearing a second proposal to be presented, before it hits the Senate floor.
As the Republican proposal is hearting mostly Senator Gianaris, a Greek American, many members of our Community where disturbed with Dean Skelos’ insensitivity. Skelos – a Greek American himself – is the majority leader in the NY State Senate.
A Greek American leader in Astoria described what Skelos is doing as “outrageous”.
Gianaris told Greek News that “It’s a shame that Skelos is not sensitive and he is trying to punish me, because I am a Democrat”. He also said that the Republicans in their excitement trying to punish him, they didn’t think that they are splitting the Greek Community in half.