Queens advocates push for ‘unity map’ in Council redistricting


| brennison@queenscourier.com |

THE COURIER/Photo by Billy Rennison
THE COURIER/Photo by Billy Rennison

Advocates were vocal at the second round of redistricting hearings in Queens that the current lines are diluting minorities vote.

One phrase was continually repeated at the second round of the city’s public hearing on redistricting — déjà vu.

The chorus of voices, whose pleas went unheard at the first round of city council redistricting hearings, returned with much the same message.

“Little has changed since August when we were commenting on the current district lines,” said James Hong, of the Asian American Community Coalition On Redistricting and Democracy (ACCORD).

In August, advocates submitted a “unity map” that was mostly ignored in the preliminary redistricting map. The unity map complies with all the legal requirements set forth in the city charter and Voting Rights Act, said Gerry Vattamala, staff attorney at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), and is designed to protect the voting rights of minorities in the city.

“We are committed to making sure that redistricting helps strengthen democracy not undermine it,” said Steven Choi, executive director of the Minkwon Center.

At the hearing at LaGuardia Community College on Wednesday, October 10, the redistricting commission said they are looking at and considering the changes suggested in the unity map.

The preliminary map leaves Richmond Hill split into quarters, Oakland Gardens separate from Bayside and places a greater portion of Elmhurst into District 29 which also contains Rego Park, Forest Hills and Kew Gardens. These lines, advocates say, dilutes the votes of minorities.

“Being divided among different districts, the fracturing or cracking of minority populations is today the greatest problem New York City’s Asian Americans are facing,” Hong said.

The decennial council redistricting is done to account for fluctuations in the census.

The preliminary map will continue to be reworked and a new design will be presented to the City Council November 5, which will have three weeks to approve or reject it.

If rejected, there will be a third round of public hearings before a final plan is presented to the city clerk’s office for approval by March 5 before heading to the Department of Justice for clearing.