Tag Archives: districting commission

New council district lines in effect in time for election


| tcullen@queenscourier.com


Time to line up for the new council districts.

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) approved the city’s 51 new council districts on Monday, May 20. It was the last step in making the lines official.

DOJ had to review the lines along with testimony from residents under Article 5 of the Voting Rights Act, which protects Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx from discrimination on grounds those boroughs have large minority populations.

Carl Hum, executive director of the city’s Districting Commission, said in an open letter the lines will be in effect for this year’s City Council elections.

New lines in Queens faced criticism from residents as neighborhoods were either broken up or divided into two or more districts.

According to Hum, almost 500 people delivered testimony about the lines citywide during three rounds of public hearings. Nearly 1,500 comments were also submitted to the commission either through email or in hard copy.

 

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Districting commission files final map for approval


| tcullen@queenscourier.com


The lines have been drawn and they’re staying.

New York City’s Districting Commission filed Monday, March 4 its final map to the City Clerk for approval. The final of three drafts had been submitted to the City Council on February 8, after which the legislature had three weeks to vote or the new districts would automatically be adopted.

And that’s just what happened.

The Commission will now file the map with the Department of Justice, who will have 60 days to ensure the plan is kosher with Section 5 the Voting Rights Act. Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan are all covered under this part of the law to ensure that minority voting rights are ensured and protected.

There are 35 minority districts in the city under the new plan, according to the Districting Commission, in which racial and language minorities are the dominate block in the district. This is a five district increase from the 30 of such created in 2003.

 

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Final redistricting lines released


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Queens_Feb6

The final district lines that will go before the City Council were released on Monday, February 4, with moderate changes to the map that was released just two months ago. The new maps were released two days before the Districting Commission was to vote on the lines and discuss the changes district-by-district and borough-by-borough.

Several neighborhoods opposed the lines released in early December, mainly insisting the plans would divide neighborhoods and certain demographics. Independent residents and civic organizations made their unhappiness known at several hearings.

The Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) opposed the December map, as the neighborhood would continue to be divided between two councilmembers. The district currently represented by Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley was essentially flipped with that represented by Councilmember Eric Ulrich.

Members spoke out against the lines at a January 14 hearing. WRBA President Ed Wendell said he was disappointed, but realized at this point change probably would not have come. He said the WRBA would “have to work twice as hard to get our elected officials’ attention.”

Kris Gounden, an Ozone Park resident who’s been active in the West Indian community, said he was disappointed that parts of South Ozone Park were still incorporated into the 32nd District, despite pleas by residents.

“We want someone that’s born of us,” he said. “That looks like us. That’s more likely to speak of our own interest.

 

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WRBA will keep up fight for unity


| tcullen@queenscourier.com


In an attempt to keep the community in one piece, members and residents of the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association (WRBA) said they plan on attending and speaking at the January 14, 2013 hearing on redistricting at Queensborough Community College.

At the organization’s December 15 meeting, several residents voiced concern over the latest set of district lines, which have been sent back to the drawing board after several neighborhoods were chopped up.

Attendees sat at tables designated to show what City Council district they would potentially be in. Some worries included who was in which district, or what landmarks would be included in certain areas.

“These are the things that define us as a community,” said WRBA President Ed Wendell. “They are splitting it and taking it away from us, so we are not pleased with it.”

The WRBA sent letters of testimony to support earlier lines that kept Woodhaven within one district, Wendell said. The most recent update, however, backtracked on all that the neighborhood said was right about the lines.

“They decided to do the opposite of what we suggested,” said WRBA Communications Director Alex Blenkinsopp. “And that’s a little odd.”

Districting Commission withdraws map, will hold new round of public hearings


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Map courtesy of NYC Districting Commission

Opponents of the city’s new district maps got their wish for another round of public hearings thanks to Assemblymember Vito Lopez, though confidence significant changes will be made remains low.

When the city’s Districting Commission unveiled the maps on November 16, District 34 was redrawn to include the residence of the embattled assemblymember, reportedly at the request of Councilmember Erik Dilan, allowing Lopez a path to run for City Council. Following a letter from Council Speaker Christine Quinn to withdraw the map, the commission announced at a public meeting on Tuesday, December 4, that Lopez would be moved back into District 37, though he was not mentioned by name, and a new round of public hearings would take place.

“We wanted a third round of hearings, we demanded a third round of hearings, so it’s good we have an opportunity to make further changes to the map. It is in sort of an unexpected way, but here we are,” said Jerry Vattamala, attorney with the Asian American Legal Defense Fund (AALDEF), who added he’s not convinced any adjustments will be made.

The apparent reason for the map’s withdrawal, placing Lopez back in District 37, does not preclude him running in District 34. Lopez would only have to move within the district’s boundaries prior to Election Day to be eligible to run for the seat.

Mitchell Gardens and the Linden Houses were also voted to both be placed in District 20 at the meeting after an error separated them.

While former state Senator Frank Padavan agreed with the two changes made, he questioned voting on only portions of the map.

“Why are we doing the vote piecemeal? It doesn’t make sense to me. If we take a vote it should be what we end up with because a vote here implies that’s all we want to do,” he said at the meeting.

Woodhaven advocate Ed Wendell also wondered whether the commission will actually go back to the drawing board.

“We’re not optimistic at this point, but we’re going to do our best so our needs are heard loud and clear,” he said.

Lack of transparency has led to the lowered expectations people have in the process, said Rachael Fauss, policy and research manager for Citizens Union.

“Any process suffers from legitimacy and public perception when you have political actors who seemingly are circumventing the process,” she said.

New public hearings have yet to be announced, though they will likely be held in January. The commission will then approve and submit a new map to the City Council which will have three weeks to object to it.

Though confidence is lacking, Vattamala said the commission has one last chance to produce a well-crafted map.

“Regardless of what’s happened thus far, if they can pull it together and correct the districts that need correcting, I think we’ll be in good shape and it will restore people’s confidence in the commission and the process,” Vattamala said.

Woodhaven on redistricting: Send lines back to the drawing board


| tcullen@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of Woodhaven Residents Block Association

The newest set of proposed city council district lines, set to take effect next year, have some Woodhaven residents upset that they might once again be split into two districts.

The Woodhaven Residents Block Association (WRBA) has taken a stand against the proposed redistricting lines, saying they would split up the neighborhood and exhaust and overlap the efforts of city representatives. “We just feel overall you should never split a community,” said WRBA president Ed Wendell. “I just don’t believe in that.”

If the neighborhood has a problem, such as downed power lines after a storm, Wendell said the WRBA, as a resource for information, would have to either sift through who lives in which district or provide both city council offices with a full list of complaints. The result would be over-exhausting resources from the two offices.

“Not only do I think it’s bad for the community, I don’t think it’s fair to the elected officials,” Wendell said. “Now they have to cover a lot more ground. There’s overlapping — it’s doubling of efforts.”

Woodhaven, in the preliminary map released earlier this year by the NYC Districting Commission, had the bulk of the neighborhood within the boundaries of Council District 30.

The new map, released last month, however, divides the neighborhood back into two districts. City Council District 30 would include all streets bordered by Park Lane South and Atlantic Avenue from north to south, and 75th Street to Forest Parkway from east to west. The district, according to the new map, would also encompass the co-ops in the northeastern corner of Woodhaven. The rest of the neighborhood would be represented by Council District 32.

Roughly two thirds of Woodhaven is served by Councilmember Eric Ulrich; the other third by Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley. Both have represented the neighborhood since 2009.

Alexander Blenkinsopp, communications director for the WRBA, hopes that the City Council would vote the new lines down and send them back to the drawing board.

“The Commission decided to throw Woodhaven under the bus,” Blenkinsopp said. “It should be embarrassed about how its final proposal treats our community. Now that the final decision is in the hands of the city council, we want all city councilmembers to know that a vote in favor of this gerrymander is a vote against Woodhaven.”

During a September WRBA meeting, when the first draft of the map had come out, both councilmembers made it apparent that Woodhaven would be completely within one district.

Neither Ulrich nor Crowley was able to comment at deadline.

Districting Commission approves City Council map


| brennison@queenscourier.com

Map courtesy of NYC Districting Commission

Another round of redistricting is complete and new City Council lines are one step away from taking effect.

The city’s 15-member bipartisan Districting Commission unanimously approved the redrawn map on November 15 before presenting it to the City Council for approval. If the council does not object to the map, the new council districts will take effect in 2013.

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

During the two rounds of public hearings, advocacy groups spoke out against current district lines that, they said, split minorities, diluting their vote. The newly submitted map includes five additional districts containing a majority of minority groups, bringing the number to 35 out of 51.

“The commission believes that the revised plan reflects what was shared with the commission, within the legal restrictions set forth by the New York City Charter,” the group said in a statement.

While improvements have been made, Jerry Vattamala, of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), said they did not go far enough, calling it a “mixed bag.”

Some communities saw no improvement in the new map or in other cases were made worse, according to Vattamala.

In Queens, dozens of locals advocated for placing Oakland Gardens in District 19 with Bayside, but instead a larger area of the neighborhood was placed in District 23. Briarwood and Jamaica Hills, which shared a district, are now split up.

Among the positives included in the new map, the second draft released by the commission, was a greater portion of the Indo-Caribbean community being placed in District 28 and the Elmhurst/Jackson Heights area closely conforming to the “unity map,” said Vattamala,

Several groups advocated for the “unity map,” which complied with all the legal requirements set forth in the city charter and was designed to protect the voting rights of minorities in the city.

The submitted map will not be subject to any further public review unless the council rejects it, which Vattamal said “violated the spirit of the city charter.”

“The map was presented to the public Thursday evening and less than 24 hours later was submitted to the New York City Council,” he said.

At this time the AALDEF is not considering legal action, but as they continue to analyze the map, it remains an option.

If there is an objection, 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.