Dominican political leaders split

The creation of a new electoral district that aims to bring the first Dominican to the United States Congress is threatening to break down the relationship between New York’s Dominican political leaders and the Dominican-American National Roundtable (DANR), according to leaders in the community.

It was clear last weekend during the 14th Annual National Leadership Summit organized by DANR at Lehman College that the two groups were drifting apart.

The topic of the summit was, “Our progress in education, economic development, and community empowerment: paving the way.” No Dominican political leader attended except for Assembly member Guillermo Linares.

Word got around that State Senator Adriano Espaillat had organized a boycott, but Espaillat denied the claim, saying that he had not attended the summit because he was already obliged to attend other events, among them the Dominican Book Fair in New York.

“I have supported the Dominican Roundtable from the beginning, and I will continue to do so,” said Espaillat.

Dr. María Teresa Feliciano, president of the Dominican American National Roundtable.

The president of DANR, Dr. María Teresa Feliciano, dismissed the notion of weakened relations between her organization and political leaders, but she admitted that the two groups do have different views on the re-drawing of electoral districts, which would leave New York with two fewer seats in the House of Representatives in 2013.

“Three of these maps were accepted by DANR and were created to form a congressional district to represent Latinos, in addition to the two that already exist–District 16, represented by José Serrano, and District 12, represented by Nydia Velázquez. The Roundtable submitted a proposal where District 15, represented by Charles Rangel, would change a little. Serrano’s district would remain the same, and the proposal suggests that District 14, represented by Carolyn B. Maloney, become a Latino district,” said Feliciano.

Feliciano indicated that DANR met with elected officials from all districts, not only with Dominican leaders, to draw up the maps that they presented to the group charged with analyzing the process of re-drawing districts, the New York State Legislative task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR).

The differences between the so-called “Espaillat maps” and those of DANR is that in the DANR maps, instead of starting in the Bronx at 181st Street, the maps begin further north, at 214th Street, and cover part of Mt. Vernon.

Espaillat stated that no such “Espaillat maps” exist and that as far as he understands, there isn’t a huge distinction between the maps that he is presenting to the New Coalition for Fair Representation and those of DANR.

“What I support is an independent process, just like what Governor Andrew Cuomo wants,” said Espaillat.

But according to Dr. Rafael Lantigua of Alianza Dominicana (Dominican Alliance), it isn’t about a personal issue between Espaillat and the Roundtable, but a matter that concerns the community.

Lantigua is a member of the New Coalition for Fair Representation, which is striving to create a new district that includes northern Manhattan and the eastern part of the Bronx, but that begins at 181st Street in the Bronx where, according to the coalition, the Latino population has exploded.

“I was at the meeting where leaders agreed with the Roundtable to present one map only that would allow us to get a Dominican or Latino elected to Congress, because we deserve it,” said Lantigua, who was also an advisor to the DANR.

Máximo Padilla, president of El Comité del Dominicano en el Exterior (the Committee of Dominicans Abroad), said that the DANR “was formed by particular interests of Dominican elected officials,” and he believes that the most important thing right now is that the Bronx be taken into account during the process of re-drawing districts.

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