The decennial redistricting of electoral district lines has sparked cross-boundary grandstanding, as politicians seek to be seen supporting popular causes in front of influential groups outside of their current districts.
Watch the video above. Notice anything strange? Sure, to the untrained eye it’s the usual report from elected officials about Plumb Beach – the “We’ve got a plan, we’re just waiting for federal funds” line that’s been dogging the Plumb Beach erosion narrative for the past year. But what you’re also seeing is two power-broker politicians from opposite parties staking a claim for future credit in an issue that has plagued the neighborhood for decades.
One of them, State Senator Marty Golden, does not represent the area, and in my three-and-a-half years of covering the neighborhood, has never once talked about Plumb Beach. In fact, both Golden and Turner were cut out of a major press conference in October announcing a Jamaica Bay management deal that affected huge swaths of their constituents.
But here he is last week, talking before the Sheepshead Bay Plumb Beach Civic Association, a group whose residents largely live in State Senator Carl Kruger’s district, about the importance of preserving the beach from further erosion.
“It does come down to priorities, and to me, Sheepshead Bay is a priority,” Golden said. “There are businesses and people that live in that area and I do believe that we will find a way, working with the congressional team – working with Michael Grimm and working with Bob Turner – to be able to come up with that priority and the dollars needed.”
Three Republicans – two of whom don’t represent the area – are suddenly usurping credit for a cause that had previously been championed by the fiercely Democratic Congressman Anthony Weiner, backed closely by Democrat Lew Fidler, and aided by Democrats Carl Kruger and Alan Maisel? What’s going on here?
Oh, yeah, 2012 is a State Senate election year – and it’s going to be a really weird one. Let’s back up a bit.
We reported on Friday about Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s appearance before the Manhattan Beach Community Group – one of four Brooklyn appearances the beep made last week – noting that the presumed mayoral candidate’s presence may have kept Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz and his reps out of the room. What we didn’t mention is that City Councilman Lew Fidler was also there, and State Senator Marty Golden had planned to be there but was detained in Albany.
Neither Fidler nor Golden represent Manhattan Beach, and political insiders tell Sheepshead Bites that the two might be gearing up for a face-off depending on how the new district lines take shape.
Redistricting sees political boundaries redrawn every 10 years at the city, state and federal levels to ensure fair representation, based on census results. The state legislature is required to devise a plan and the governor must approve or veto it. The latter would put the remapping in the hands of a judge.
In our area, the State Senate lines are believed to be the result of a deal between Golden (District 22) and State Senator Carl Kruger (District 27), leaving two of the most obviously gerrymandered districts in the state. They connect distant, disparate neighborhoods – sometimes by a one block stretch – meant to solidify the incumbents’ power.
But with Senator Kruger facing corruption charges, candidates have been lining up to vie for his seat. The problem is that new political boundaries could be drawn before Kruger gives up (or is forced to give up) power, meaning it’s not clear where they should be campaigning.
Meanwhile, City Councilman Lew Fidler, about to be term-limited out of the city legislature, is one of the most oft-mentioned contenders for the seat. He admitted earlier this year that he was fundraising for an “unspecified” state office widely believe to be the State Senate.
Fidler currently lives in the Marine Park section of Kruger’s district. However, once lines are redrawn, he could find himself in Golden’s district. Similarly, Golden’s district could be expanded to include Plumb Beach (and Manhattan Beach, for that matter), which is why, after years of community complaints about erosion and the need for repairs, Golden is now taking up the cause as his own.
And you can expect to see more of this over the weeks to come. Until the redistricting is complete, politicians – particularly state senators and others up for a contested 2012 election – will be showing their faces in areas outside of their district.
The upshot? Major issues, like the required repairs at Plumb Beach or the dredging in Sheepshead Bay, now have more names attached to them – including two congressmen and a state senator – than they did before, hopefully urging faster action.
The problem? Their names are being attached to it at the expense of credit to those who deserve it, like former Congressman Anthony Weiner and Lew Fidler – both of whom have been unrelenting in their support for repairs to the beach.
But that doesn’t bother Fidler much.
“Senator Golden and I kid each other from time to time,” Fidler said. “We don’t care about your party affiliation when it comes to a community issue. We work together, we’re happy to work together. If it gets results for the neighborhood, it doesn’t matter. There’s no Democratic or Republican way to pick up garbage.”