New York State may lose two congressional seats because it has been losing population, but a plan to reshape the state's political landscape could send the first Asian American from Queens to Congress. Borough reporter Ruschell Boone filed the following report.
The Asian population in Flushing, Queens is booming and so might their political clout, if a federal judge's congressional redistricting proposal is adopted. The plan calls for a new 6th district that would make Asians the largest single ethnic group there.
In the new district, Asians would make up 39.1 percent of the population, slightly ahead of whites making up 38.5 percent. Hispanics would account for 18 percent and blacks would be 5 percent.
Some community advocates are also excited about the plan, saying it would allow Asians to flex their political muscle.
"We have no representation on the congressional level and only a handful on the city and state level, and I think that with the judge's preliminary plan that takes into consideration of this growing, underserved population," says Christopher Kui of Asian Americans for Equality.
Some say the new lines would properly reflect the Asian community's tremendous growth over the last decade.
"The population has grown 32 percent in New York City alone, with over 500,000 Asian Americans in Queens. That is a significant population, a huge explosion of people in that county, as well as in the city overall," says attorney Jerry Vattamala of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund.
The new district would have the highest concentration of Asian Americans ever created.
Under the plan, the current 5th district, which is represented by Democrat Congressman Gary Ackerman, would fold into the new district which would include areas like Flushing, Bayside and Elmhurst.
Ackerman says he will run for the 6th congressional seat if the plan is adopted.
Experts say, unlike before, Asians would play a great role in the race.
"Ackerman will probably face a serious Asian challenger or he will have to seriously take into account the concerns of the Asian community," says Queens College sociology professor Andrew Beveridge.
If not, he could be squeezed out as the Asian-American community continues to push for greater political power.