Bay Ridge is famously divided by its Assembly district lines — and the neighborhood is also divided about what to do about it.
The Bay Ridge Democrats, a new political club, hosted a panel discussion earlier this month about the general topic of redistricting — but the specific subject of Bay Ridge’s five Assembly districts kept coming up all night long.
In leading the discussion, Brooklyn Paper Editor Gersh Kuntzman tried to keep his panelists — veteran journalist Wayne Barrett, good government guru Alex Camarada of Citizens Union, election lawyer Jerry Goldfeder and former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern — focused on the coming state-wide redistricting and what it will mean for the city in general.
But the panel had other ideas, dropping bons-mots after bons-mots about politics and power.
“There are only two political parties,” Stern said at one point. “Those who are in power and those who want to gain power.”
But some say that’s the issue when it comes to Bay Ridge, which was cut up into five Assembly districts to dilute Republican voting power. As a result, only one of the Assemblymembers who districts touch Bay Ridge wears elephant-themed clothing.
Supporters of the current lines say that having more representatives helps.
“When I want something, I can call five different people,” said former District Leader Ralph Perfetto.
During a question-and-answer session, former cop and local activist Peter Killian made a long speech about the importance of having one voice in Albany for the neighborhood. Rising to his feet, he called on all four dozen attendees to raise their hands and “take the pledge” to fight for a single district. Perfetto refused to raise his hand.
The man who beat Perfetto, new District Leader Kevin Peter Carroll, took the pledge months ago. He believes that having a single elected official will give the neighborhood a unified voice.
“We have vacant store fronts and problems keeping small businesses open,” explained Carroll, who was not at the forum. “Even potholes are a problem, but there is no one here to see them.”
None of the Assemblymembers — Dov Hikind (D–Boro Park), Nicole Malliotakis (R–Staten Island), Peter Abbate (D–Dyker Heights), Alec Brook-Krasny (D–Coney Island) and Felix Ortiz (D–Sunset Park) — has an office in Bay Ridge. And none focus exclusively on the neighborhood.
“We need someone in Albany saying what’s best for Bay Ridge,” said Carroll. “We have different needs than Staten Island, Sunset Park and Borough Park.”
Perfetto has pointed out that there’s a problem with Carroll’s push for a single Assemblymember: that person would likely be a Republican!
And party affiliation is not the only concern of local Democrats; in a Democrat-controlled Assembly, Republicans lack power.
“A Republican would not have the clout that Bay Ridge needs,” Perfetto said.