GOTHAM GAZETTE: SEARCHLIGHT 2002: Redistricting JUMP TO YOUR DISTRICT
 
 

New York City Redistricting

The New York City Districting Commission has released its proposed plan to redraw the lines that separate New York's 51 City Council districts. While the recommendation calls for boundaries to shift somewhat, the plan provides for few major changes to the city's political landscape.

Every 10 years, the city appoints a Districting Commission to insure that district lines reflect the results of the most recent Census. This decade's plan, released October 23, will go through a series of public hearings, comments and possible revisions before being submitted to City Council in December (see hearing schedule below). City Council comments could be incorporated and another round of public hearings held early next year. The final plan must go to the city Board of Elections and the U.S. Justice Department in March, so that the new lines can be in effect for the 2003 council elections.

So far, the debate over City Council seats this year has been far less acrimonious that it was in 1991 when the council had been expanded from 35 to 51 seats, and sharp fights broke out over which seat would go where.

This year's plan, said Districting Commission executive director William Floyd, expands on the work done last time and uses the current district map as a starting point. In addition, he says, the commission staff sought to preserve districts with a predominantly minority population (dubbed majority minority districts by redistricting aficionados), respect borders of existing communities, minimize the number of districts that crossed borough lines, acknowledge emerging immigrant populations, and, where possible, have districts where there could be a "fair fight" between Democrats and Republicans. The ideal district should have 157,025 people although a district can have several thousand more or less.

Under the plan, each borough would essentially keep the number of seats that it now has. District 50, which currently crosses Brooklyn and Staten Island, would be entirely in Staten Island. Instead, District 34, previously all in Brooklyn, would also include a piece of Queens. Lines in Northeast Queens have been changed to reflect burgeoning population there.

Several advocacy groups drew up their own maps. Some expressed disappointment with the commission's proposal. "This plan is incumbent focused and Staten Island focused," said Raquel Batista of Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund. It does not, she said, focus on communities of color. For example, she said, proposed districts in Staten Island have far fewer people that those in central Brooklyn or than District 14 in the Bronx.

Margaret Fung, executive director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, criticized the board's lines for Lower Manhattan. Instead of leaving Chinatown in District 1, which includes Soho, Tribeca and Battery Park City, she said the commission should have moved it to District 2, a largely Latino district. The residents of Chinatown, according to Fung, have more in common with Latinos on the Lower East Side, in terms of issues such as services for immigrants, housing, and schools, than with the more affluent, white residents of District 1.

Both Floyd and commission chair Henry M. Calderon said the commission's current plan is not final. "This does not represent a definitive take on how these lines should be drawn," Floyd said.

People seeking to review the plan can view it on the commission's web site. Large maps of the proposed districts will be on display at each of the borough halls beginning October 28, and copies are available from the commission office at 59 Maiden Lane, 24th floor. In addition, public access computer terminals will be placed at several locations throughout the city to enable people to not only view the commission's plan but to propose changes.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed seven of the 15 commission members, including Calderon, the chair. City Council Speaker Gifford Miller named five members and Council member James Oddo, the minority leader of the council, selected three.

Click here to view the Districting Commission's proposed new maps.

2002 REDISTRICTING SCHEDULE
(* Meeting is open to the public, but does not provide an opportunity for public participation.)

November 19th
What: Manhattan Public Hearing
Where: City College of New York, CUNY
Aronow Theatre NAC Building
Convent Avenue (b/t 136th and 137th )
Ground Floor
New York, NY 10031
Time: 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

November 20th
What: Districting Commission Stated Meeting*
Where: NYC Economic Development Corporation
110 William Street, 4th Floor
New York, NY 10038
Time: 9:30 a.m to 11:30 a.m.

November 21st
What: Brooklyn Public Hearing
Where: Medgar Evers College, CUNY
Medgar Evers Auditorium
1650 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11225
Time: 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

November 26th
What: Queens Public Hearing
Where: Queens College, CUNY
LeFrak Concert Hall
Music Building
65-30 Kissena Blvd
Flushing, NY 11367
Time: 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

December 2nd
What: Bronx Public Hearing
Where: Hostos Community College, CUNY
Center for the Arts & Culture
450 Grand Concourse
Bronx, NY 10451
Time: 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

December 3rd
What: Manhattan Public Hearing
Where: John Jay College of Criminal Justice
445 West 59th Street, between 9th and 10th Avenues.
New York, NY
Time: 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

December 4th
What: Staten Island Public Hearing
Where: College of Staten Island, CUNY
The Williamson Theatre
Building 1P, Center for the Arts
Staten Island, NY 10314
Time: 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

December 11th
What: Districting Commission Stated Meeting*
Final Review of Plan before submission to City Council
Where: City Hall
City Council Hearing Room
Time: 9:30 a.m.

December 18th
What: Submit Plan to City Council

For more information, visit the Districting Commission web site

Last updated October 24, 2002