The committee charged with reshaping New York City Council district lines wants even more public input on how to reconfigure them, and is delaying the preliminary release of the proposed maps.
Like congressional districts, Council lines are redrawn every ten years with the most recent U.S. census data. The NYC Districting Commission, a 15-member panel of mayors and council members, was set to release the maps on June 7, nearly two weeks after holding what would have been its only hearing asking New Yorkers how the maps should look like. With about 200 people attending the May 26 hearing at Pace University, the committee decided this week there was enough public interest to expand the number of hearings.
“We really want to go more into the communities, into the five boroughs, and really hear from the public what their views are about their particular neighborhood and then factor that into our decision-making,” Dennis Walcott, the committee’s chairman, said. week on the Brian Lehrer Show on WNYC.
The times and locations of the hearings are still being worked out. A final decision is expected on Wednesday.
There will be one meeting per borough, excluding Manhattan, given the May 26 public hearing, the committee said. It will ask New Yorkers to think about how to redesign the contours of the Council’s 51 districts, in particular by demarcating their neighborhood boundaries. The cards should be in place by February, when all of the current 51 Council seats are elected, two years after the members won their seats in last year’s city elections. A typical term for a councilor is four years.
The commission is bound by a set of rules to ensure maps are contiguous, maintain roughly the same number of residents (about 173,000 people), and keep historically marginalized neighborhoods under one district.
Walcott said the public will not be subjected to the kinds of hijinks it saw during the state-led reclassification process, which resulted in delays, lawsuits and ultimately two primary games scheduled for this year.
“We’ve worked as a full team of commissioners with the goal of drawing really fair and balanced cards and not allowing partisan gerrymandering,” said Walcott, later adding: “I just don’t see that happening and that’s just not our style. “
Once the draft maps are released, they will be submitted to Council members for review. The committee, unlike a similar state-sanctioned reclassification body, will have the final say on the appearance of the cards. They must be in place by February 7, 2023 so that those seeking office can collect the necessary signatures needed to campaign in a particular district.
The reclassification process has prompted coalitions such as the Asian Pacific American VOICE Redistricting Task Force to host a series of workshops to help New Yorkers better understand the map-making process. Asian communities saw a 33% increase in the five boroughs and now represent 15% of the city’s population.
Mohamed Amin, executive director of the Caribbean Equality Project and member of the APA VOICE Redistricting Task Force, testified at the May 26 public hearing, insisting that the Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park neighborhoods be kept under one district. The areas are currently divided into three.
“These district lines have diluted our political power, vote and vote for decades,” Amin said. “Redistricting is a matter of racial justice, immigrant rights and quality of life.”
Walcott said the commission takes into account the growth of these ethnic populations.
Linda Lam, an Elmhurst resident, testified that her neighbors in a residential area of the 25th Council District have often expressed concerns about property valuations, sidewalks and city transport to the incumbent 30th Council District member. Lam said the district is more in line with her neighborhood’s interests and should be merged into the 30th district.
†[W]When we go to ask for services, our voice can be louder and we don’t have to say, ‘I’m sorry, I’m not from your district, but I would like to have services from your offices’” Lam said.