2012-08-29 / Features

At Hearings, Redistricting Process Calls For Fairness

BY RICHARD GENTILVISO

The November 6 presidential election is in its stretch run and the next elections to follow are a long way ahead. But the November 2013 election, when a new mayor, comptroller, public advocate and City Council will be elected, will be all about New York City.

The 15-member New York City Districting Commission (eight members appointed by the council and seven by the mayor) began the process of drafting new council district lines with a series of five public hearings, one held in each borough, from August 13 through August 25. Redistricting for New York Congressional seats and the New York state senate and Assembly on the basis of 2010 U.S. Census numbers was completed last spring, leaving only city council districts to be redrawn. The council comprises 51 districts, representing 160,297 people each. Each district can deviate from this number by a maximum total of plus or minus 10 percent.

In his opening remarks, New York City Districting Commission Chairperson Benito Romano said at the Queens public hearing held in Flushing on August 21 that according to the City Charter, criteria for new council districts are: population; fair and effective representation; communities of interest; compactness; contiguity, and political boundaries as listed by the City Charter.

“The proper configuration of New York City Council districts is an essential component of our right to vote,” Queens Borough President Helen Marshall said in a statement read by Hugh Weinberg, counsel for the borough president, in testimony before the districting commission. “I’m a little concerned about how this process will turn out.”

Queens is New York City’s second largest borough by population (2,230,722) and, according to Marshall, the most diverse, which brings a variety of issues. “Special care must be taken to assure that our communities remain intact,” she said. “Black, Latino and Asian-American leaders have expressed many concerns.”

Citing a 30.6 percent increase in Asian- American population in the city from 2000 to 2010, James Hong of the Asian American Coalition on Redistricting and Democracy (ACCORD) told the commission that city council district lines should reflect community interests. “There are over a half a million Asian-Americans in Queens,” Hong said, noting that the number represents almost a quarter of the borough’s population (22.8 percent). According to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Council District 20, representing Flushing and a portion of Bayside, is 64.1 percent Asian- American. Council District 23, representing Floral Park, Bellerose, Queens Village, Glen Oaks and a portion of Bayside, is 36.6 percent Asian-American and Council District 25, representing Elmhurst and Jackson Heights, is 34.5 percent Asian-American.

The commission will hold a second round of public hearings from October 2 to October 11.

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