BK Reader: Unity Map Demonstrates Fair Election Districts are Possible for BK’s Communities of Color

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The Unity Map for New York State Senate and Assembly districts.

By Nigel Roberts/BK Reader

Communities across Brooklyn voiced their concerns on Tuesday about the proposed state Independent Redistricting Commission’s (IRC) competing electoral district maps, which were supposed to be bipartisan and compliant with constitutional principles of fairness and equality.

On the eve of the hearing at Medgar Evers College, Central Brooklyn residents gathered in person and virtually to share their opinions about the IRC maps.

On Nov. 4, the Unity Map Coalition unveiled its proposed redistricting plan for the city.

The group is comprised of LatinoJustice PRLDEF, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) and the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College.

Sen. Zellnor Myrie’s Senate District 20 is an example of what’s wrong with the current map that must change, AALDEF’s Democracy Program Director Jerry Vattamala told BK Reader.

The district is centered in predominantly Black neighborhoods that include Brownsville, Crown Heights and East Flatbush.

But it also includes Sunset Park, which is predominantly Asian.

“They don’t share many things in common, and they’re geographically not even close to each other. In terms of communities of interest, they don’t share many things in common with those other communities in the district,” Vattamala said.

State Senate Republicans created the district 10 years ago when they were in the majority. That configuration dilutes the voting power of Sunset Park’s Asian residents, as well as the collective voting power of Asians across Brooklyn.

AALDEF proposed a district map that places Sunset Park and Bensonhurst in the same Senate district. They both have a large population of Asian residents and are located in close proximity. This would also enable Asian Brooklynites to elect an Asian representative to Albany.

Vattamala said right now, Bensonhurst is “sliced and diced into multiple state Senate districts.”

“The problem with having your neighborhood in three or four different districts is that all the work that a lot of groups do on voter registration, getting out the vote and census all go out a window, and they are unable to elect the candidate of their choice,” he stated.

The coalition’s work isn’t a zero-sum game that pits the interest of one community of color against the others, Vattamala stated. The coalition arrived at a consensus on the maps through a give-and-take process.

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