Baldeo Marshalls Troops for United Richmond Hill/South Ozone Park District

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By JOSHUA HARRIS

District Leader, Albert Baldeo, a fierce advocate and defender of the Richmond Hill, Ozone Park and South Ozone Park community, has led the fight for the representation and empowerment of this area, commonly referred to as “Little Guyana, Trinidad and India.” This community owes its name to the large number of expatriates and immigrants from those countries who have collectively made this area the largest diaspora outside of these countries, in pursuit of the American Dream.

Baldeo provided guidance, organized rallies and planning sessions, researched the issues, assisted in writing testimonies and framing arguments, printed maps and diagrams, provided free transportation and meals, and rallied the troops at multiple hearing before the NYS and NYC Redistricting Commissions over the last hearings, as testimonies were provided by several members of the community. The South Queens Women’s March, DRUM (Desis Rising Up), Jahajee Sisters, Caribbean Equality, the United Communities Alliance, and several other supportive organizations joined hands in solidarity with him, and was clearly the largest group that lobbied both commissions.

Their combined efforts, which also consisted of virtual testimonies due to the COVID-19 pandemic, led to the State Senate district also being re-configured to unite Richmond Hill, Ozone Park and South Ozone Park together, a groundbreaking achievement in 2022. This was achieved when a State Court Judge ordered new maps to be drawn and threw out the gerrymandered maps submitted by Democratic incumbents, and ordered a Referee to draw the maps, while chastising them that “the voters should choose who represent them, not the other way around!”

This also led to the postponement of the configuration of the State Assembly districts to this year, and these advocates endorsed map “AL,” which garnered bipartisan support by both the Republican and Democratic factions of the Commission. Dozens of these advocates, leaders and organizations from Richmond Hill, Ozone Park and South Ozone Park testified at the last hearing last February 16th at York College for their community to be kept together, as the new map mandated, and urged the NYS Independent Redistricting Commission to approve the unity draft map that united these communities together for the first time.

They made the most impact at the hearing, as Baldeo’s maps flooded the room, and his rally cry to “tell the Commissioners that we want to be kept together and not continue to be treated as orphans and step children, while our children and essential workers fight and die for our nation,” left a visible and indelible impact on the Commissioners. “You will also be acting in contempt of the Court’s order to be fair and just,” Baldeo warned the Commission.

In collaboration with the Asian American Legal Defense Fund (AALDEF), Baldeo has also initiated a lawsuit asking the Court to set aside and equitably redraw the NYC City Council map pertaining to the area. Rochdale Village, the second largest co-op in the world, has been drawn together with Richmond Hill, Ozone Park and South Ozone Park, and overwhelms the latter, which belies redistricting principles and common sense, as there is no interaction, contiguity, commonality and similar heritage between the two communities, and natural geographic and demographic boundaries like the Van Wyck Expressway were eviscerated. Little Guyana and Little India consists solely of one and two family homes, of people who trace their ancestry to South Asia, and their issues are very distinct. “They both deserve representation, but justice and good, effective solutions cannot be addressed for either in a single City Council district. Common interests do not apply, nor will common solutions be found. Everyone deserves a voice,” Baldeo explained.

Joshua Harris
124-06 Rockaway Boulevard
South Ozone Park, NY 11420
(718) 529-2300

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The views expressed in this article are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the position or policy of the THE WEST INDIAN. For questions or comments, contact the writer at 718-529-2300.