Monday, January 16, 2006

Possibly The Most Intriguing Local Race

I say "intriguing", because this race for a vacated Assembly seat will pit neighborhoods of very different ethnicities and economic status against each other. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out:
Rare open seat has Queens politicians abuzz


January 16, 2006

Attorney and Democratic District Leader Rory Lancman appears to be the front-runner to replace Assemb. Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing), who will not run for re-election, leaving a rare open seat in the state legislature.

That is, unless Councilman Tony Avella (D-Bayside) decides to run. Or if a strong South Asian candidate appears in southern portions of the district, which runs from Flushing down central Queens to Richmond Hill.

Dilip Nath, 32, a member of McLaughlin's political club who lives in Fresh Meadows, has indicated he is interested in running. However, Nath finished a distant third with 10 percent of the vote last year in the Democratic primary against Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows).

Morshed Alam, 38, of Jamaica Estates, said he is weighing a run. "I think I have a lot of support in the community," Alam said in an interview last week.
Let's take a closer look at these areas mentioned.

Fresh Meadows is a quasi-suburban neighborhood, dominated by single and two family homes and not many multiple unit dwellings. In other words, fairly wealthy, and fairly family oriented. Not much rapid transit makes it out to Fresh Meadows aside from the occasional bus route and express bus, so the residents rely heavily on cars and in particular, the Long Island Expressway, which means a lot of their shopping is done in Nassau County, a few miles down the road.

Bayside, likewise, is predominantly single family dwellings, except that being slightly more urbanized (a Long Island Railroad line passes through and has stops in Bayside), there are condominium developments. Bayside, therefore, tends to attract a larger crowd of young singles and recently married couples. With numerous bus lines running into Bayside, these residents can afford to live way the hell out in Queens while managing to work a-cut-above entry level jobs.

Jamaica Estates is also an upper-middle class neighborhood, bordering on Jamaica, so it has a slightly different make-up. Jamaica proper is a lower-class neighborhood, tending to be highly ethnicized (yea, I'm using code), so Jamaica Estates folks have to be a little bit, um, pioneerish to live here.

Which leaves Flushing. In the past twenty years, Flushing went from a blue-collar neighborhood of mostly ethnic whites, Irish, Italians, to a small-business-owning Asian population. In fact, Flushing now accounts for more Asian-Americans in New York City that Chinatown. Add to this a recent influx of Pakistanis, Indiands, and other South Asian peoples, and you have a highly diverse and highly polarized community. Well, "polarized" may be too strong a word, but as with all recent immigrant ethnicities, people tend to stick to their own.

Richmond Hill, of which a small portion of this district covers, is a blue-collar working class neighborhood and is only now undergoing the transition that Flushing saw in the past two decades.

A clue to how this will all shake out lies in the fact that Democrats outnumber Republicans in the district by four to one. You can discount any Republican dark horse candidate at this point, and focus on the names listed above (as well as anyone else who might emerge).

It's a fractious population, to be sure, and any candidate from Jamaica Estates or Flushing will have to work hard to get his or her name known in Bayside or Fresh Meadows, OR cross cultural lines within the more densely populated portions of this district. Both of these will be tough to do. Any candidate who can come out of Jamaica or Flushing to win this district will be a force to reckon with in the next mayoral election.