Redistricting Commission Sends Contentious Draft Maps to City Council After Re-Do
Following a surprising rejection of maps in September, the NYC Redistricting Commission was nearly unanimous in pushing a new set of Council district lines through.
New City Council district maps are moving forward after getting the go-ahead Thursday from the redistricting commission, which just weeks ago threw a wrench into the process when it voted against a previous similar set of new lines.
NYC Districting Commission approved the new districts by a 13-1 vote — a third draft, following a preliminary map released in July and a revised plan that was struck down in September — then delivered them to the full Council for its approval.
The map quest is part of a mandatory once-a-decade process that reflects population changes revealed in the 2020 census. The new district lines have to redistribute the city’s population evenly but can’t dilute the voting power of racial and language minority communities, per the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Before the final tally, commissioners debated minor changes to Council Districts 47 and 48, representing sizable chunks of southern Brooklyn. One mayoral-appointed commissioner, Josh Schneps, pushed for a vote on an amendment to unite a Coney Island housing complex in District 47. But that effort was struck down to hasten the deciding vote.
“It’s time to pass the maps on to the City Council,” Judge Marilyn Go, another commissioner appointed by Mayor Eric Adams, said at the hearing. (Adams selected seven of the commission’s members, and Council chose eight.)
It was a departure from the Sept. 22 vote, when commissioners surprisingly voted their own map down, with seven opposed. City Hall officials had concerns about those maps, focused mostly on the southern Brooklyn district lines, and urged commissioners to vote no, Politico New York reported.
Following that rejection, the redistricting commission then held two more public hearings and a first-ever public mapping session ahead of Thursday’s vote. Those resulted in only minor changes to the maps that the commission had voted down weeks earlier.
The commission received more than 12,500 submissions from New Yorkers from more than 35 hours of public hearings, in addition to submissions by email and mail.
In a statement, Citizens Union Executive Director Betsy Gotbaum urged the Council to review the new lines.
“Since the Commission released their first draft of City Council district maps in July, thousands of New Yorkers have offered feedback on the proposed district lines,” wrote Gotbaum, a former public advocate. “This is a testament to how important this process is to the future of our local democracy.”
Divided and Disappointed
In neighborhoods across New York City, there were concerns about both the initial July map and the September one.
In southeast Queens, some residents protested what they felt was a continuation of a division of communities that have historically been “underserved by the government,” as THE CITY previously reported.
Mohamed Q. Amin, the executive director of the Caribbean Equality Project, said Thursday one of his biggest concerns was the lack of transparency during the redistricting process.
The preliminary July maps split the South Asian and Indo-Caribbean community between five districts, before splitting the community between two districts.
“These lines do not just divide our community, but it divides our resources,” Amin told THE CITY.
The new map, he said, “divides our access to health care, infrastructure, transportation, all of the schools, funding for nonprofit organizations, business development — all of these resources. These lines divide and dilute the amount of resources that could be allocated to Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park.”
But the latest draft also comes with some welcome changes for the area. Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said in a statement he is “glad that Black representation of historically Black districts [in Southeast Queens] remains consistent and kept whole,” after having previously been split up in the preliminary map.
At the same time, he called for fair representation of the area’s South Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities, who were previously pitted against neighboring Black communities in what seemed like a zero-sum game.
“To accomplish this, the city should consider a charter review commission to potentially create more council districts,” Awawdeh said.
The number of Council seats was last expanded by a charter commission in 1989, when there were roughly a million fewer New Yorkers.
The new maps released Thursday split the Amalgamated Warbasse Houses in Coney Island between Councilmembers Ari Kagan, a Democrat, and Inna Vernikov, a Republican.
“Very disappointed that the NYC Districting Commission has ignored the desires of so many community leaders, elected officials, and local residents of Southern Brooklyn by moving forward with a map that disenfranchises countless communities of interest and cuts up neighborhoods,” Kagan told THE CITY in a statement.
“I hope that the City Council will do the right thing and reject the proposal and reunite neighboring communities by restoring a compact 47th District.”
Michael Silverman, the president of the board of directors of the Warbasse Houses and a Kagan ally, said the split could hurt tenants in the crumbling 58-year-old Mitchell-Lama co-op.
“Warbasse is old. The pipes are decaying and rotted,” Silverman told THE CITY.
“Now if we need help from the federal government, normally it starts at the Council level, but now I have to balance that between the two.”