Redistricting plans are on their way to city council
The New York District Commission ultimately voted 13 to 1 on the revised redistricting maps. The next step will be for City Council members to review and approve the new City Council district lines.
“Overall, the redistricting process revealed the diversity, vibrancy and public participation of New Yorkers, despite the pandemic and socio-economic challenges. New York is still growing, ever-changing, and our urban democracy is alive and well,” Commission Chairman Dennis Walcott said in a statement.
According to the 2020 census, which kicks off the redistricting process every 10 years, the city’s non-Hispanic black population has shrunk by 84,000 and the white population by 3,000. During this time, the city’s Hispanic and Asian populations grew. The job of the commission is to redraw the district lines to reflect these populations.
Recently, the commission completed its two-day process to draw maps, which was streamed live for the public to watch. Community groups applauded the “transparency” and appreciated an overview of the mapping process to get a sense of why commissioners make certain decisions. Basically, there are many reasons, some legal and some evidence-based, that shape neighborhoods in our city.
The maps sent to the city council created a Staten Island-Brooklyn in District 50 where part of the city council district will extend into Brooklyn. The necessary decision is to balance the other 48 districts, but this remains an extremely unpopular idea in the island borough. In the 1991 redistricting, Staten Island’s District 50 was extended to southern Brooklyn, but in 2012 the then-commission relocated the SI City Council districts entirely to the island.
The maps also create an Asian Opportunity Neighborhood in Brooklyn’s District 43, also a somewhat controversial decision by the commission as it cuts off surrounding neighborhoods.
“We appreciate the work of the NYC Districting Commission and look forward to reviewing its official maps. The public has engaged in the redistricting process at record levels over the past several months at public hearings across the city, which is an encouraging indication of New York City’s healthy civic engagement,” President Adrienne Adams said in a statement.
“This public flurry of contributions and testimonials about protecting protections for communities of color and historically marginalized communities of interest, as required by the Voting Rights Act and the New York City Charter, seems been taken seriously by the Commission in its reviews. The Board will review and discuss these new district maps, as well as our next steps. I thank the Commission and its members for their work, as well as all New Yorkers who have thus far engaged in this process,” she continued.
Of course, not everyone is completely satisfied with the current maps.
“After the Commission voted last month not to move forward with their current maps, we were hoping to see them implement some positive changes to how New Yorkers are represented in this city. Although the Commission has improved transparency by making its meetings public, it is clear that more work needs to be done,” said Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) and NYIC Action.
Awawdeh said they were happy to see the black representation of historically black districts in southeastern Queens remain consistent and whole. But, he was unhappy with the exclusion of growing South Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities as well as Latino groups in the northwest Bronx.
Awawdeh even floated the idea that the city should consider a charter review commission to create more municipal districts to add to the 51 the city already has in an effort to fairly represent minority groups. This idea of adding more seats is a growing movement spearheaded by council member Justin Brannan and Southeast Asian community leaders in Queens. They are looking to add up to eight district seats.
Fontas Advisors, a political advice group, predicted calls to add more city council seats are unlikely to happen. The city council has not been expanded since the 1991 redistricting process, which expanded from 35 to the current 51 seats. Fontas felt this could pit even more board members against each other in the fight for funding and programs.
The final deadline for approved cards is December 7.
The revised plan and video of the district committee meeting can be viewed at nyc.gov/districting.
Ariama C. Long is a member of the Report for America corps and writes about New York culture and politics for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps him keep writing stories like this; please consider making a tax deductible donation of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w