Rep. Gregory Meeks (D)
New York 6th District
The eastern edge of Queens has been an important transportation hub for New York for almost 250 years. In the 1750s, the British laid out what is now Jamaica Avenue to help them defend Long Island. In the 1830s—nearly a century before most present-day commuters would have guessed—the Long Island Rail Road was built. Today, this corner of Queens is sliced by the Belt Parkway and the Van Wyck Expressway—two integral parts of Robert Moses’s midcentury highway network. And it is home to John F. Kennedy International Airport, a major hub for air travelers entering the United States. The neighborhood of Jamaica is so well situated with transportation links that officials have worked mightily to improve its commercial vitality. The old elevated subway line on Jamaica Avenue has been buried underground, so that shoppers have a less claustrophobic experience. Now, billions of dollars are being spent for a Long Island Rail Road line from Queens to Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan. Property seizures have prompted citizen protests, but the massive project has spurred downtown revitalization in Jamaica.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
This part of Queens is home to New York City’s largest concentration of middle-class black homeowners, with a median income higher than white households in Queens. A half-century ago, there was a small black community in South Jamaica, and since then many African-American families have bought houses and raised their families in neighborhoods that fan east from Jamaica. They fought to maintain the relatively spacious streets, relishing the plenitude of natural light, safe schools, and good neighborhood stores. There is block upon block of low-rise, frame and brick houses, built mostly from the 1920s to the 1950s, in the neighborhoods of Springfield Gardens and Laurelton (the home of financial-scam mastermind Bernard Madoff), St. Albans and Rosedale, Cambria Heights and Queens Village. These middle-class areas never experienced the kind of riots that damaged Harlem and parts of Brooklyn.
The 6th Congressional District of New York contains all of these southeast Queens neighborhoods, plus others less affluent and orderly in southern Queens. It is bounded on the north, more or less, by Jackie Robinson Parkway; on the east by the Nassau County line; and on the west by Cross Bay Boulevard. To the south, it includes part of the Rockaway Peninsula across Jamaica Bay from the rest of Queens. Richmond Hill and Ozone Park, previously white ethnic neighborhoods, now have sizable numbers of Latinos and Asians. South Ozone Park is home to many immigrants from Guyana, Jamaica, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago. Despite being just a few blocks from the beach, the Rockaway portions of the district are a relatively undeveloped backwater, leveled by urban renewal in the late 1960s but never completely rebuilt. The 6th District is 52% African-American, 17% Hispanic, and 13% Asian. The common denominator is the amount of time that residents spend on the road: The district is among the nation’s worst for commuters, at 41.7 minutes of mean travel time to work. Politically, the district is overwhelmingly Democratic.
Rep. Gregory Meeks (D)
Elected: Feb. 1998, 6th full term.
Born: Sept. 25, 1953, Harlem .
Home: Far Rockaway.
Education: Adelphi U., B.A., 1975, Howard U., J.D., 1978.
Family: Married (Simone-Marie); 3 children.
Elected office: NY Assembly, 1992–98.
Professional Career: Asst. dist. atty., Queens Co., NY, 1978–84; NY St. Comm. of Investigations, 1984–85; Judge, NY St. Workers Compensation Bd., 1985–92.
The congressman from the 6th District is Gregory Meeks, a Democrat elected in 1998. Meeks grew up in public housing projects in Harlem. He was inspired by his mother, who went back to school when her four children were older and encouraged community service volunteerism. Meeks’s childhood hero was Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. After graduating from college and law school, Meeks moved to Far Rockaway. He became an assistant district attorney in 1978 and a workers’ compensation judge in 1985. After losing a City Council race in 1991, he was elected to the New York state Assembly in 1992. He became an ally of Democratic Rep. Floyd Flake, a minister whose Allen A.M.E. Church congregation grew from 1,400 members in 1976 to 12,000 in 2000. When Flake retired, Meeks won a majority of Democratic committee members at a January 1998 endorsement meeting and thus became the party’s nominee. Democratic state Sen. Alton Waldon and Assemblywoman Barbara Clark ran as independents. With the support of Flake, influential Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, and civil-rights leaders Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, Meeks won with 57% of the vote, to Waldon’s 21%, and Clark’s 13%.
|Gregory Meeks (D)||Unopposed||($1,756,925)|
|Gregory Meeks (D)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (100%), 2004 (100%), 2002 (97%), 2000 (100%), 1998 (100%), 1998 (57%)
Meeks has a mostly liberal voting record on social issues, but his stance on economic issues is more pro-business than most other New York City Democrats. In 2009, he became chairman of the House Financial Services Committee’s International Monetary Policy and Trade Subcommittee. That role gives him oversight of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. He has said he plans to focus on reducing poverty and on global economic growth and stability. As a committee member, he sponsored a bill to enable more accounting firms to conduct audits of large companies.
In 2000, Meeks was a pivotal vote in the proposal to normalize trade relations with China. Both sides lobbied him furiously, including Rangel and President Bill Clinton, and he went on a White House-sponsored trip to China to meet with senior officials to discuss the country’s economic growth. After Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert agreed to extend tax breaks and public investment to distressed urban and rural areas, Meeks voted for the measure. Later, in 2005, Meeks also voted for the Central American Free Trade Agreement, citing increased traffic for JFK Airport.
Meeks has shown a desire to advance within the party. When several House Democratic leadership positions opened up in late 2002, he campaigned for vice chairman of the Democratic Caucus but was bested by Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina. In 2004, Meeks spent considerable time on the campaign trail with Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry and advised Kerry on relationships with minority groups across the nation. After the election, Meeks sought a leadership post at the Democratic National Committee, but he lost out to Rep. Mike Honda of California. In 2008, Meeks endorsed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York in her pitched primary battle with Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois for the presidential nomination.
Meeks has sought to bring business deals to Queens by meeting with leaders of other nations, and his many overseas trips have attracted attention. His personal life has caused some political problems. A Federal Election Commission audit in 2006 reprimanded him for using more than $6,000 in 2004 campaign funds for a personal trainer. When his wife, Simone, expressed interest in running for the New York City Council in 2007, Meeks refused to endorse her and she deferred to the candidacy of her husband’s aide. In 2008, Meeks became chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus’s political action committee. He reportedly was considered for appointment to the Senate after Clinton resigned her seat to become President Obama’s secretary of State.