George Diaz Jr.’s chances of becoming this area’s next Assemblyman are about as great as Donald Trump jumping to the Democratic Party. Not just because Jeffrey Dinowitz is so entrenched as a longtime politician with no term limits, but because a real threat to Dinowitz would have to come, more or less, from Riverdale.
That’s because Assembly district lines almost ensure that no other larger community is fully represented — certainly not Wakefield, or Diaz’s home of Norwood. In those communities, you’re either represented by Dinowitz, or Assemblywoman Nathalia Fernandez, the former chief of staff to her predecessor, Mark Gjonaj.
Up until the 2020 census, Assembly districts were literally drawn by the victors. That means the Assembly drew their own districts, and the senate drew their own districts. And if you were a lawmaker who was a member of the majority party, you had plenty of influence over how your particular district was drawn.
Dinowitz blames the law requiring districts be drawn based on population, not communities. And to an extent, that could indeed be a constraint. But there is more than enough wiggle room to stretch a boundary here, and tuck a boundary there, to at least allow full communities to have a single representative to get behind.
Whether intended or not, it does muffle what could be community enthusiasm toward a hometown candidate. Even if Diaz was able to drum up support and excitement in Norwood, it would only be partially effective, because a good chunk of Norwood is represented by Fernandez.
Just imagine if Riverdale and Kingsbridge were broken up that way — somehow these communities seem to survive the need to provide population balance to Assembly and even state senate districts. But not so much for some of the communities that historically have had less influence on government.
Luckily that will change in 2022 when lines are redrawn again. Instead of the party in power drawing lines for themselves, a bipartisan committee will take this task on.
When we do redistrict, communities need to be part of the discussion. Norwood and Wakefield deserve to be united under one lawmaker. There is no need to split.
Because if it’s good for Riverdale, it should be good for everyone.