Tag Archives: ACCORD

Queens advocates push for ‘unity map’ in Council redistricting

| brennison@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Photo by Billy Rennison

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.

Residents rally against redistricting at public hearing

| aaltman@queenscourier.com

Christina Chang sat calmly in the front row of the hearing room, unshaken by the raging crowd surging behind her. In her hands she held a homemade, neon sign that read “Minority Votes Should Count.” She wore a crisp white T-shirt stenciled with the word “MinkWon.”

It means “civil rights” in Korean.

Representing her group, MinkWon, part of the Asian American Community Coalition on Redistricting and Democracy (ACCORD) — a non-partisan, pan-Asian association reflecting community interests — Chang came to stand for the strength of her neighborhood and the voice of her people.

Residents and officials crammed into a hearing at Queensborough Hall on Tuesday, February 7, combating the redistricting they feel has divided their neighborhoods and diminished their voting power. Based on population transfers noted in the 2010 Census, redistricting resulted in Queens Democrats believing the procedure was an effort by Republicans, who represent the majority in the state Senate, to pit seat holders against one another.

“Allow the public to speak first! This is a public hearing!” yelled Bob Friedrich, founder of Eastern Queens United, which advocates for maintaining unity among ethnically-diverse neighborhoods.

“This is one of the most important meetings we’ve ever had,” said Borough President Helen Marshall, quieting the rowdy audience. “Minority votes should count. We’ve got to make sure the lines are drawn properly.”

Local government officials took to the microphone to state their opinions to the audience and members of the Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR), which held the hearing.

Senator Michael Gianaris referred to the recent redistricting as “disgraceful manipulation” and a “vain attempt to deny minorities a vote.” Armed with maps of Hempstead and Westchester, Gianaris indicated areas of high minority populations and their dissection.

“[This redistricting] is more than just the fragmenting of communities. The procedure and product has been taken as borderline racism,” said Councilmember Ruben Wills.

Freidrich hopes that LATFOR will redraw district lines, reuniting ethnic communities.

If they fail to do this, Freidrich says he will consult the governor, who intends to veto the plan, according to spokesperson Matt Wing.