Pol Position: District Shuffle

Political district lines are redrawn every 10 years as a result of new figures provided by the U.S. Census.

However, this year, while the newly drawn district maps were expected to pass the approval of a bipartisan commission, the Democratic-led state legislature took control of the process after the efforts to redraw district lines broke down.

The end result was a series of new district maps that were released in February, reshaping the boundaries of several electoral districts. However, members of the Republican Party were displeased with the new maps and responded by filing a lawsuit, disputing that the process was gerrymandered by the Dems.

The State Supreme Court ruled in favor of the GOP’s lawsuit, in March, determining that they were able to prove “beyond a reasonable doubt the map was enacted with political bias.” As a result of this decision, Justice Patrick McAllister ordered that the legislature draw up new maps by April 11.

Democratic lawmakers immediately appealed the case, and on April 21, a panel of judges with the Appellate Division ruled in favor of the court regarding U.S. Congressional districts, while reversing its decision regarding the State Senate and Assembly.

The court decision requires district lines to be redrawn by April 30, in order to resolve the conflict before the primary in June.

Meanwhile, the Dems have continued to appeal the case to a higher court, which plans to hear the case on April 26, after press time. Its decision will ultimately set a precedent over the decision of the two lower courts.

What is Gerrymandering?

Simply put, it is an unconstitutional practice in which district lines are redrawn with the purpose of influencing the outcome of who will get elected.

The word tends to get thrown around a lot by politicians and the media, but it’s important to understand the impact such decisions have during any given election year.

What does this mean for my district?

Based on the proposed redistricting maps, Brooklyn voters in the Sunset Park and Park Slope communities could potentially be included in the newly reshaped 11th Congressional District.

Presently the district includes all of Staten Island as well as southern Brooklyn communities including Bay Ridge, Bath Beach, Dyker Heights, Sheepshead Bay, and parts of Bensonhurst.

In a previous Pol Position editorial, back in February, we took a look at the possible reshaping of this district, which voted predominantly Republican in the 2020 general election.

The district has been strongly Republican since 2013 when redistricting allowed former Congressman and convicted felon Michael Grimm to lay claim to the seat. After being sentenced to eight months in prison, the seat was left vacant until Dan Donovan was elected in a 2015 special election.

Dems briefly regained control of the district in 2018, when former Congressman Max Rose defeated incumbent Donovan, but this victory was short-lived. Rose was later defeated by Republican Rep. Nicole Malliotakis in the 2020 general election, who staked claim to the district seat by a small six percent margin.

Should the courts approve the redistricting maps, the 11th District would be reshaped to incorporate more left-wing allied communities including Sunset Park and Park Slope. This could certainly provide Rose with a leg-up against his successor, pending a possible Democratic primary, as he campaigns to try and reclaim his seat in Congress.

While experts say it is rather unlikely, should the decision be made in favor of the lower courts, it would require the legislature to return to the drawing board. This could also potentially cause primary dates to be pushed back.


The courts have ruled that the redistricting maps were unconstitutionally drawn to favor the Dems. As a result, the state has until April 30th to submit new maps.

Star Boxing comes to Queens

Boxing in the borough may never be the same. Star Boxing is bringing professional boxing to the famous Carnesecca Arena at St. John’s University in Queens on Saturday, May 7.

Star Boxing CEO Joe DeGuarida said he is excited to be partnering with such a prestigious institution as St. John’s University to bring boxing to the Carnesecca Arena for the first time ever.

“The Queens boxing culture represents a no-nonsense, bite down mentality which will be showcased in the ring come May 7,” DeGuardia said. “Be sure to grab your tickets now for what will be a thrilling night of fights.”

The fight card for the event will include a four-round light heavyweight showdown between New York’s own Emanuel Etienne against Tunde Fatiregun of New Jersey, the pro debut of former two-time New York Ring Masters (formally “Golden Gloves”) Champion Ronny Reyes, and more to be announced.

“St. John’s University is excited to work with Star Boxing to bring boxing to historic Carnesecca Arena this May,” Scott Lemperle, executive director of conference and auxiliary services at St. John’s University said.

Tickets for “Borough Boxing” are on sale now and can be purchased online at or via Ticketmaster. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and fists will fly at around 7:30 p.m.

Community greenhouse celebrated at Astoria Houses

A community greenhouse lab in Astoria Houses is being celebrated as a first-of-its-kind facility which offers students a hands-on opportunity to learn about urban agriculture and environmental science.

Emani Smith, 9, was eager to show off the sprouting cucumbers, heads of lettuce and even watermelons growing in the hydroponic garden inside the community room of the western Queens NYCHA development building.

“I can’t wait to eat the watermelon,” said Smith. “It’s my favorite.”

The green classroom will be operated under the auspices of the New York Power Authority as part of its Environmental Justice program, which provides educational resources to students from underserved communities.

HANAC, a citywide nonprofit, will host and maintain the lab for its afterschool programs.

Community members and elected officials gathered at the greenhouse lab for a ribbon-cutting event, as well as inspiring students like Smith to engage in STEM learning and sustainability programming.

Council member Tiffany Caban spoke to students about the importance of feeding our own communities, especially in the face of a climate crisis.

“You’re at the forefront,” Caban said. “We are bearing the brunt of the challenges we’re facing from the climate and this is part of the solution.”

New York Sun Works, a nonprofit organization that builds hydroponic classrooms, helped to set up and organize the garden that has seen two harvests already in the past few months.

Over the past three years, 18 classrooms and two green community laboratories have been developed in New York City, with its average hydroponic classroom producing more than 500 pounds of vegetables per school year.

NYPA and New York Sun Works will offer programs available to both students and adults, eventually expanding to intergenerational programming.

“The Astoria Houses garden is a learning lab that integrates science and sustainability into a fun program that everyone will enjoy,” said Lisa Payne Wansley, NYPA’s vice president of Environmental Justice. “Families will learn about cutting-edge technology through sustainable urban farming and be inspired to ask questions, investigate systems, and design solutions. Learning about STEM concepts will open up opportunities for young people and others who want to benefit from being part of New York State’s emerging clean energy economy.”

Former City Council member Costa Constantinides said that learning about energy efficiency and how a garden works could spark an interest in science in the city’s youth. He said the room used to be used for senior programming, but a recent transformation project now turns the room back over to the kids.

“We are looking forward to many more years of great things happening at Astoria Houses,” said Constantinides. “It was long overdue.”

Maspeth Federal Savings turns 75

Maspeth Federal Savings was joined by the community in celebration of its 75th anniversary.

Around 100 residents, students, and local elected officials gathered at the Maspeth location ⁠—the site of the original storefront that first opened in 1947 with a staff of only seven employees.

President and CEO Thomas Rudzewick said that Maspeth Federal Savings has grown to become an institution with seven different locations, nearly 200 employees, and $2.2 billion in assets over the last 75 years.

“We stayed to our mission. We wanted to make sure that this institution was a safe place to put your deposits and to get your home loan,” he said.

“Our mission is to create and maintain a professional environment that fosters the confidence of our board of directors, invites the ideas of our employees and exceeds the expectations of our customers,” he continued. “We are here to treat you like family, and we hope all of you feel the same way from myself and the board of directors that are here today.”

Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, NYS Assemblyman Brian Barnwell, and Councilman Robert Holden congratulated Maspeth Federal Savings on their achievements and presented them with citations.

“Maspeth Federal Savings has become a trusted financial institution admired for its fiscal management and deep commitment to the community,” Richards said.“Thank you for contributing to financial literacy for community based organizations. Think about the impact that this has had on families and businesses, and how it has kept Queens such a vibrant borough.”

In the spirit of family, the St. Stan’s Players gave a musical performance, which included Sister Sledge’s 1979 hit, “We Are Family.”

Upon pointing out that the bank’s former President and CEO Kenneth Rudzewick, has a story quite similar to George Bailey from “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Holden said: “It’s rare that a bank is the center of the community for all celebrations, but Maspeth Federal has always been that. That’s because of men like Kenny and Tom Rudzewick.”

“With your help over the last 75 years, you did make living in Maspeth and the surrounding communities a wonderful life,” Holden said.

Queens firefighter killed in blaze

FDNY Firefighter Timothy Klein, 31, died in the line of duty while fighting a residential fire in Brooklyn that killed two people.

FDNY responded to the house fire at Avenue N in Canarsie five minutes after reports of smoke in the area. Conditions in the building worsened quickly before the Incident Commander ordered all members to evacuate the building, according to the FDNY Office of Public Information. Flames engulfed the building before part of the ceiling collapsed, injuring four firefighters inside. In total eight other firefighters, besides Klein, were injured in the three-alarm blaze.

“New York City has lost one of its bravest today – Firefighter Timothy Klein,” NYC Mayor Eric Adams said in a statement. “He lost his life doing the job we asked of him every day – bravely fighting to save others from fire. We pray for his family and his fellow Firefighters during this terribly painful time.”

Klein, a six-year FDNY veteran from Rockaway Beach, was first assigned to Ladder Company 170 in Canarsie after his graduation from the academy.

“The Department is heartbroken today at the loss of Firefighter Timothy Klein, who died risking his life to save others. His family has a rich history of service in the FDNY, and he bravely followed in their footsteps,” Acting Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh said in a statement, “The hearts of the entire Department are with the Klein family and with the members of Engine Company 257 and Ladder Company 170.”

His hometown community in Queens was devastated upon hearing the news of Klein’s brave sacrifice.
“. Klein represented the very best of us, both on-duty and off-duty,” Councilwoman Ariola said in a statement about the Rockaway native. “He was a man who spent much of his free time involved with the Fight for Firefighters Foundation, which works to raise funds for and support firefighters in need, and he was well known throughout his neighborhood in Rockaway for his kind and giving nature. Klein gave his life doing what he loved – helping others – and for that he will always be remembered. He is a hero to everyone in this city, and while I cannot imagine the grief that the Klein family is experiencing right now, I want them to know that we will never forget Timmy’s sacrifice. The people of New York City are eternally grateful, and we are all forever in your debt.”

“It is always a tragedy for the City when we lose one of our brave first responders, but it really hits home when one of those people is a resident of your community,” New York State Senator Joseph Addabbo, Jr. said in a statement. “And that is the case with Firefighter Timothy Klein who died on Sunday after battling a blaze in Brooklyn. Klein grew up in Breezy Point and lived in Rockaway. Klein gave his life protecting others, and his bravery and memory will live on through his family and the people that he has saved. I want to send my condolences to Klein’s family and friends, as well as Ladder Co. 170, during this most difficult time, and I wish the other Firefighters injured in that fire a speedy recovery.”

Klein is survived by his retired FDNY Firefighter father Patrick Klein, his mother Diane and three sisters. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Members of the Canarsie firehouse paid tribute to the fallen hero on Monday, for his devotion and dedication to protecting those in the Brooklyn community.

Elmhurst resident Helen Sokol turns 100

Born in 1922 in Nanticoke, Penn., Helen Sokol eventually moved to Queens as a young woman to spearhead her life, career, and family.
Now, Sokol celebrates 100 years of life and nearly 80 years of calling Queens home.

Her friends at AARP Elmhurst Rego Park Chapter 2889 organized a birthday celebration for her, in which representatives of local elected officials and other community members attended.

Sokol, whose family came from Slovakia, lived with relatives in Middle Village when she first moved to the city in the 1940s.

She later moved into a one bedroom apartment in Elmhurst, after she married her husband, Emil.

The Sokols had three sons: Emil, Thomas and Edward, and two grandchildren: Katie and Brian.

Edward Sokol, who owns Ace Wine & Liquor on Grand Avenue in Elmhurst, said that his mother is known for many things, but most notably, she’s known as a hard worker.

Before she had children, Sokol worked in communications for American Airlines at LaGuardia Airport. She was also heavily involved with different trade publications, including Billboard.

“Even though she only had a high school diploma at that point, she was able to work herself up and become involved with different publications,” her son, Edward said.

“She was a hard worker from the day she started, to the day that she retired,” he continued. “I could celebrate her every day.”
People also remarked upon her sense of humor and love of swing music and dance.

In celebration of this milestone, New York City Councilman Robert Holden, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer, NYS Senator Joseph Addabbo, NYS Assemblyman Brian Barnwell, and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards presented Sokol with various certificates.

As for her secret to a long, healthy life, Sokol said she made sure to always keep busy and surround herself with people who make her feel young.

“A big part of my life was taking care of my mother who had health problems, and then my husband. But I always dealt with young people,” Sokol said.

“I never heard people complain about their aches and pains and things like that, so I never knew what to expect,” she continued. “As long as you’re around young people, you’re curious. And the young people I worked with accepted me as one of their own… as long as you’re feeling young, that’s what matters.”

Queens BP endorses Juan Ardila for Queens Assembly seat

State Assembly candidate Juan Ardila has earned the endorsement of Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.

The Borough President’s endorsement is the latest for Ardila’s campaign, which also holds the endorsements of State Senator Jessica Ramos, State Assemblymember Catalina Cruz, City Council members Tiffany Caban and Jennifer Gutiérrez, as well as former Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Ardila, a progressive running for the 37th Assembly District in Queens, is looking to replace Cathy Nolan, who announced her retirement after 36 years earlier this year.

Juan Ardila has always been a passionate advocate for the community,” said Borough President Donovan Richards. “He is a leader who understands the need for protecting tenants, expanding healthcare access, and fixing the climate crisis here in Queens. I’m excited to support Juan for Assembly because I know he will be a strong champion for progress in Albany.”

The 37th State Assembly district includes the diverse neighborhoods of Long Island City, Maspeth, Ridgewood, Sunnyside and Woodside.

Ardila’s campaign also has the support of the Working Families Party, DC37, New York Immigration Action, Make the Road Action, Open New York, Community Voices Heard (CVH), Churches United For Fair Housing Action (CUFFH) and local Democratic leaders including Emilia Decaudin, Jesse Laymon, and Derek Evers.

I’m honored to have the support of a dedicated public servant like Borough President Richards. He works hard every day to help educate our kids, keep our community safe, and he has a plan for addressing climate change,” Ardila said. “It is wonderful to have the backing of the people who understand the needs of our community and the challenges we face.”

Ardila announced the launch of his campaign earlier this year, as the Maspeth native is looking to garner enough votes in a crowded field of candidates including Johanna Carmona, Jim Magee and Brent O’Leary. Last year, Ardila fell in a tight race against City Council member Robert Holden in the 30th Council District, garnering 45 percent of the vote.

The Democratic primary for the open seat will be held on Tuesday, June 28th.

Fatal shooting at Parsons Blvd/Archer Ave subway station

A 24-year-old Brooklyn man was fatally shot in the chest inside the Parsons Boulevard/Archer Avenue subway station on Monday afternoon.

Police say that at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, a verbal dispute quickly turned physical, eventually leading to five shots being fired inside the subway station.

NYPD Transit Chief Jason Wilcox said that the victim, Marcus Bethea, was standing near the token booth when the suspect initially approached him. When police arrived, first aid was rendered and Bethea was transferred to Jamaica Hospital where he was pronounced dead.

“During the course of that fight, the suspect pulled out a firearm and fired several rounds that hit the victim in his torso,” Wilcox said during a Monday night briefing on the incident.

Camera footage was captured inside the subway station, police say, and it is currently under review by the department.

There is no arrest as of press time. Police urge anyone with information to call Crimestoppers at 1-800-7577 (TIPS).

Innovation QNS met with community backlash

The development team of Innovation QNS — a project that seeks to rezone five city blocks to build a mixed use residential and commercial district in Astoria — held a town hall meeting at the Museum of the Moving Image last week to discuss community outreach efforts.

Representatives from Kaufman Astoria Studios, BedRock Real Estate Partners, Urban Upbound, and Silverstein Properties gave a presentation and took questions from the hundreds of guests who attended the meeting.

The presentation was met with mixed reactions from union construction workers seeking employment and protestors who were holding signs and chanting “Our neighborhood, not your playground.”

The town hall meeting was announced shortly after Councilwoman Julie Won demanded more transparency and community outreach in a letter to the Innovation QNS team.

“This project has been in the works since 2020 and claims to have done extensive outreach in the community. Community Board 1, local residents, and housing organizations have all expressed concern about a lack of adequate community outreach especially in Spanish and Bangla,” Won wrote in the letter.

“Thus far, the amount of community engagement is insufficient for a project of this scale that will deeply impact not only those in the immediate vicinity, but also will have lasting impacts on the neighborhood as a whole.”

Despite numerous claims from elected officials and concerned residents of a lack of community engagement, the developers maintain the notion that they have and will continue to perform adequate outreach.

“We’ve tried to put this town hall together, we’ve done street canvassing at subway stations throughout the Community Board district and we went door-to-door canvassing in the neighborhood proximate to the sites,” Tracy Capune, vice president at Kaufman Astoria Studios, said.

“We’ve presented a variety of Zoom presentations to over 80 community-based organizations, we’ve held focus groups, we’ve done an online survey that got about 1,200 responses and we’re spreading the word in multiple languages across multiple channels,” she continued. “We are happy to continue to do this outreach, and we look forward to speaking with our local Council Member on how we can address the concerns to the outreach.”

A rally outside the town hall, organized by CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities, Astoria Not For Sale, Woodside on the Move , Astoria Tenants Union, Justice For All Coalition and Western Queens Community Land Trust , pointed out the flaws in Innovation QNS’ outreach approaches, as well as other reasons why they believe the project would be a disservice to the community.

Evie Hantzopoulos, an Astoria resident, member of Community Board 1 and executive director of the Queens Botanical Garden, referred to their community engagement efforts as “a joke,” citing the fact that the town hall meeting was held during the Orthodox Holy Week, Ramadan, and spring break — a time while many people are unavailable.

“I went to one of those places in the development, talked to the people working there, and they had no idea that their building, where their restaurant is, is part of this proposal and is going to be razed,” Hantzopoulos said.

She added that these types of rezonings are a “ripple effect,” and will further displace local tenants and small businesses in the surrounding area.

“Sometimes the qualifying rent is well above what the median income is for the people who live in that community. The people who desperately need this housing will not be able to qualify, let alone apply — and it’s a lottery system,” she said. “If you are going to construct this huge development, which is going to be over 75 percent unaffordable to the community, you have to know what you’re going to be charging for those. You’re not being transparent about that.”

Tracey Appelbaum, co-founder of BedRock Real Estate Partners, responded by saying that the development team understands the housing crisis present in New York City, and that they would provide 700 permanently affordable housing units. Twenty-five percent of the 2,800+ units would be affordable for those making $50,000 annually, and 60 percent of units would be within the price range of area median income.

The proposed $2 billion development would build 12 towers between Northern Boulevard and 37th Street, ranging from nine to 27 stories tall.

The towers would house over 2,800 apartments, offering more than 100 dedicated homes for seniors, as well as 5,400 on-site jobs and two acres of permanently publicly accessible open space.

NYS Assemblyman Zohran Mamdani, who rallied alongside the community groups, said that Astoria is in the midst of a massive displacement crisis.

He argued that developments like Innovation QNS actively contribute to the problem.

“If you have more than 2,000 market rate apartments coming here without a guarantee or commitment as to what those prices will be, we will simply see more and more landlords looking at those projected units as the new going rate for living in Astoria,” Mamdani said.

“I will never stand in opposition to affordable housing. What I will stand in opposition to are projects that masquerade as such,” he said. “That is where the genesis of my critique and opposition to this project comes from.”

Doreen Mohammed, a resident and CB1 member said: “As a working class, first generation Bangladeshi-American who grew up in Queens, I have seen firsthand how luxury developments like Innovation QNS are harmful for working class New Yorkers. They spike up the rents and cost of living in the immediate and surrounding areas. They yield violent displacement of people.”

“We need deeply, truly affordable, and accessible housing for all working class and poor New Yorkers,” Mohammed said.. “Innovation QNS will displace our vulnerable immigrant, working class, communities of color. This is why we must oppose this rezoning and fight to end this project.”

2022 New York International Auto Show highlights electric vehicles

The annual New York International Auto Show returned to the Javits Center in Midtown for the first time in two years, with a showcase featuring close to one thousand different vehicles and exhibitors on display.

For the first time ever the auto show also included a section dedicated exclusively to micro-mobility, featuring a range of different electric bikes and scooters from companies such as Jetson, Jupiter Bike, Radio Flyer, Spark Cycleworks, and Veo Ride.

Electric cars were a major focal point of this year’s exhibition, shedding light on the many different ways car companies are breaking from the dependency on fossil fuels. One exhibit even included an indoor test track, giving people a chance to take a ride in one of several new EV model cars.

The auto show also served as a platform for major car manufacturers to debut several soon-to-be-released 2023 models of vehicles including the Hyundai Palisade, Jeep Wagoneer, Kia Telluride, Kia Niro, Nissan Leaf, Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Outback, VinFast, and Volkswagen ID. Buzz – a tribute to the classic microbus.

The two-week-long auto show also featured a variety of vintage cars dating as far back as 1909. Included among them were Mario Andretti’s formula-one racecar, and Elvis Presley’s 1956 Lincoln Continental Mark II.

Another interesting highlight was variety of different concept models vehicles, such as the Toyota Rhombus, Chrysler Airflow Graphite, Deus Vayanne, and Genesis X Spedium.

Strangely missing from this year’s event were new vehicles from Honda and Mazda manufacturers.

To see more of the vehicles and different exhibits at the 2022 New York International Auto Show, visit

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