Aug. 13, 2021 By Ryan Songalia
A Filipino advocacy group in Queens will petition redistricting officials in hopes of having the borough’s Filipino community grouped into a single Assembly district to maximize its political voice.
Little Manila Queens Bayanihan Arts, which organizes projects for the Filipino community in Woodside, is one of 14 groups comprising the APA Voice Redistricting Task Force, which seeks to influence redistricting efforts around the city, with the goal of keeping Asian communities together.
Jaclyn Reyes, co-founder of Little Manila Queens Bayanihan Group, says that her organization wants to see areas where Filipinos live grouped together into one Assembly district.
She feels that the community should be represented by one Assembly member, instead of being divided into three. Currently, Little Manila—which is located in the vicinity of Roosevelt Avenue, from 63rd Street to 71st Street—is split among Assembly Districts 30, 34 and 39.
Reyes says the state senate line, which is divided between the districts represented by Jessica Ramos and Michael Gianaris, is splintered, but not nearly as badly as the Assembly.
“I think redistricting is such an obscure thing to get people to care about, so that’s why we’re just focusing on this now,” Reyes said.
Reyes said that the Filipino community would have more influence with a unified voice in one Assembly district. Filipinos would be in a better position to address gentrification and real estate development—as well as the 7 train line, which cuts through the heart of the area.
She fears that the Filipino community, which has been rooted in Woodside dating back to the 1970s, could be displaced by developers.
“As Filipinos, we know that back home with typhoons and disasters, entire communities get uprooted and moved somewhere else,” Reyes said. “We already see real estate developers strategizing, to do what they think is cleaning it up and trying to bring in wealthier people into the neighborhood and pushing people east.”
Reyes says she would like to see district lines redrawn to include places of significance in the Filipino community, like Elmhurst Hospital, where many Filipinos work, and Saint Sebastian Roman Catholic Church, where a number of Filipinos attend mass.
Steven Raga, founding member of another Filipino advocacy group, UniPro, plans to advocate for the community during the redistricting efforts.
He points out that the Filipino business community does not have one assembly member to go to– since the area is split into a number of districts.
He said some restaurants, for example, are in Catalina Cruz’s district while others are in either Brian Barnwell’s or Jessica Rojas Gonzalez’s assembly district. “[Little Manila] is divided into districts, and there goes our political voice,” Raga said.
Reyes is calling on residents to advocate on behalf of the Filipino community at the Independent Redistricting Commission of New York State’s virtual hearing this Sunday, which will take place at 3 p.m.
The hearing will be streamed live on the IRC’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/nysirc/. Participants will have three minutes to give their oral testimony, and are invited to provide written testimony as well. The input will be taken into account, along with the 2020 Census data, when redrawing District maps.
Other groups in the APA Voice Redistricting Task Force include Academy of Medical and Public Health Services, Asian Americans for Equality, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Caribbean Equality Project, CHHAYA, Chinese Progressive Association, Chinese American Planning Council, Homecrest Community Services, Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York, MinKwon Center for Community Action, OCA-NY, Shetu, South Asian Council for Social Services, South Queens Women’s March, and Taking Our Seat.