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Local News February 7, 2013  RSS feed

WDHVN. PLEA IS UNHEEDED

Commission’s Latest Proposal Keeps Area Divided
by Sam Goldman and Robert Pozarycki

Communities hoping for major changes in the redistricting plan for New York City’s Council districts found that the City Districting Commission’s latest proposal, released on Monday, Feb. 4, contains more fine-tuning than major revisions.

“During these past six months we have carefully considered the testimony we received from thousands of New Yorkers who took the time to speak with us and submit comments, along with alternative maps or provide written testimony.” said Chairman Benito Romano in a statement. “In assessing public comment, the Commission was constrained by the necessity to honor federal, state, and local requirements. Nonetheless, the Commission did a commendable job in creating a plan that reflects the diversity of our great city.”

Most of the city’s 51 districts contain only small changes; some even only have changes to district boundaries at sea.

What changed and what didn’t

Some of the minor changes had a big effect. For instance, Lefrak City, which was moved to the 24th District under a previous proposal on Dec. 4, 2012 plan, was moved into the 21st District, represented by Ferreras, in the new proposal. Residents living in the Elmhurst development had objected to being in the same district as residents of Hillcrest and Pomonok.

Council District 30, which is represented by Elizabeth Crowley, had its boundaries modified to encompass the entirety of Maspeth.

The boundaries of the 20th Council District in Flushing, represented by Peter Koo, now skew more closely to its current boundaries in the current proposal, partially in order to unite the Mitchell-Linden Co-ops inside the district.

The South Asian communities in District 28 won a victory, as the western border was moved toward Woodhaven Boulevard to 100th Street in Richmond Hill to unite what it called a “community of interest.”

The change also places the Jama Masjid Mosque, Richmond Hill High School, Thirumuti Temple, and the United Hindu Cultural Council Senior Center inside the 28th District, represented by Ruben Wills, as requested by residents during the hearings .

However, Asian-American groups such as the MinKwon Center of Community Action, which had looked to have the boundaries of the 19th and 23rd Council Districts modified to unite the Asian-American community in Bayside, saw no change between the December proposal and the most recent one.

“Many community advocates expressed a desire for Bayside Hills and Oakland Gardens to be united with the greater Bayside community in District 19 throughout the public hearings,” an explanatory memorandum, also released on Monday, stated. “However, this was not possible while still maintaining compliance with the Constitutional and [City] Charter mandated population proportionality requirements.”

In addition, although Richmond Hill and South Richmond Hill had their boundaries modified to skew more closely to their current Council boundaries, Woodhaven remains divided between the 30th District represented by Crowley and the 32nd District represented by Eric Ulrich.

Members of the Woodhaven Residents Block Association (WRBA) had attended hearings of the city Districting Commission attempting to convince the panel to unify the neighborhood under one city lawmaker.

“We’re extremely disappointed by the Districting Commission decision,” the WRBA’s Alex Blenkinsopp told the Times Newsweekly. “It is painfully obvious that our neighborhood should not be split. The block association made its case over and over, but our arguments were ignored.”

“This is what happens when you have a process that is independent in name only,” he added. “The numerous reports of backroom deals by the commission didn’t inspire confidence and here is the result: a united community gets split three ways across two districts and most of us will end up switching from one City Council member to another.”

Perhaps the largest change, in terms of land mass, comes in northwestern

Queens and northeastern Manhattan, as Randalls Island, which was to be represented by Peter Vallone Jr. in the 22nd District under the December proposal, was moved to the 8th Council District represented by Melissa Mark-Viverito, who represents Harlem and the Bronx.

Randalls Island contains a small population who live in psychiatric care facilities and homeless shelters. Bronx and Manhattan residents expressed concern that the redistricting was related to city plans to redevelop the island.

In turn, Vallone would now represent Rikers Island, which under the previous proposal would have been represented by Julissa Ferreras in the 21st District.

If the revised plan is approved by the Commission, the plan will then be submitted to the City Council for approval.

After the plan is submitted, the City Council will have three weeks to take action or the plan will be adopted.