Districting Commission Proposes Randall’s Island Move To Queens
City Council lines proposed by the New York City Districting Commission will move Randall’s Island into Astoria’s District 22 and Rikers Island to neighboring council District 21 which comprises Elmhurst, East Elmhurst, Corona and Jackson Heights.
With the November 5 election now less than a year away, 51 council districts based on the 2010 Census have yet to be redrawn and the commission, charged with that task since last summer, began a third round of public hearings last week to solicit input on a December 4 revision after the commission’s November 16 plan was withdrawn before the city council could act on it.
“The commission heard the public’s call for additional hearings,” said Commission Chair Benito Romano at the January 7 Manhattan hearing held at Hunter College.
Historically, Randall’s Island has been a part of Manhattan within East Harlem’s District 8 and Common Cause New York has charged the move to Queens violates the City Charter provision against moving council districts across borough borders unless necessary.
“Public concern has been raised regarding Randall’s Island and its inclusion into District 22 and there has not been sufficient explanation of this decision,” said Rachael Fauss, policy and research manager for Citizens Union at the hearing.
David Nocenti, executive director of the Union Settlement Association of East Harlem said the “people of East Harlem should have a say” and charged the move was motivated by “political retribution” over protests by the East Harlem community for private school use of public parkland on Randall’s Island.
The city has spent $155 million for 65 new ball fields, bike and hiking paths, comfort stations and other infrastructure improvements on Randall’s Island since 2003. Randall’s Island Park, at 265 acres, would be the sixth largest in Queens after Flushing Meadows-Corona, Forest, Alley Pond and Cunningham Parks. The borough currently has 7,106 acres of parkland, the most of all five boroughs.
Testifying at the January 7 hearing, East Harlem’s District 8 Council Representative Melissa Mark-Viverito said, “It is unclear to me why this level of public outcry has been largely disregarded by the commission.”
The commission next meets on January 23 to consider any amendments to the December 4 map and on February 6 to vote. The city council then has three weeks to accept, reject or take no action. If the council approves or takes no action, new district lines are adopted.
If rejected, a fourth round of public hearings ensues.