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District lines or lines in the sand?

HERB BOYD Special to the AmNews | 3/1/2012, 4:06 p.m.
Deadline has a double meaning when it comes to redistricting in New York. Tuesday was...
Assemblyman Keith Wright to serve as co-chair of State Democratic Party

Deadline has a double meaning when it comes to redistricting in New York. Tuesday was the deadline for legislative action on the redistricting, but an impasse remains over where and when the lines will be drawn.

As even the most semi-informed New Yorker knows, every census year means that the party in power--in most states--is responsible for determining new voting district lines. That action is frozen along partisan lines at the moment in New York State and no thaw is imminent. Even the alleged heat between Assemblymen Keith Wright of Harlem and Carl Heastie of the 83rd District in the Bronx isn't melting the ice, and if there's any credibility to a recent article by Fred Dicker in the New York Post, the only line they've drawn is one in the sand.

The crux of their apparent disagreement, according to Dicker's insiders, none of whom are named, is Wright's contention that Heastie is "intentionally obstructing" a resolution that could possibly end the logjam in Albany. "Wright--who plans to run for Rangel's seat when the 81-year-old disgraced congressional veteran retires, perhaps in 2014," Dicker wrote, "has...[accused] Heastie of trying to 'snatch an historically Black Harlem district for the Bronx so [Heastie] can run for the seat himself.'"

Or, as a possible alternative, Dicker continued, he says Heastie will "turn the seat into a new 'Latino district' sought by Hispanic Manhattan and Bronx Democrats."

Both Wright and Heastie, with brief comments, downplayed any possible differences they may have, tamping down what might be a serious breach. "Negotiations are ongoing," Wright said in a phone interview Tuesday. "It's a very difficult situation."

Heastie, through his spokesperson, seemed equally unwilling to give the article any credence, saying that the assemblyman is making every effort to end the dispute and move on.

While the redistricting lines offered by the Democrat-controlled Assembly differ from those proposed by the Republican-controlled Senate, neither will get the governor's approval, and he has promised to veto them should they reach his desk. No lines have been offered for the Harlem congressional district, and this is a critical year in which the state may have to relinquish two seats because of a decline in population.

Expect some flak and a response from Harlem's leaders to last Sunday's march by hundreds of Latinos demanding a resolution of the stalled process. Several banners and posters suggested it's "Hispanic Time" and "The Future Looks Latino!"

Meanwhile, the legislative boondoggle may be resolved in court after a panel of federal judges ordered attorneys representing the legislative leaders to appear in court last Monday.