City Limits: As NY Redistricting Forges Forward, Asian American Groups Push for ‘Unity Map’

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The “Unity Map” version of New York’s State Senate and Assembly districts. Credit: Unity Map Coalition

By Ese Olumhense/City Limits

The “Unity Map” was drawn by three civil rights legal groups—the Asian American Legal Defense Fund, the Center for Law and Social Justice, and Latino Justice—and features districts drawn to preserve a community’s political power, the organizers said, particularly important given the growth of the Asian population in the city according to last year’s census.

A coalition of New York City civic groups is urging Gov. Kathy Hochul and the state legislature to adopt the “Unity Map”—a draft redistricting map developed by civil rights groups instead of those created by the state Independent Redistricting Commission (IRC).

In a Monday afternoon press conference, organizers of several groups, including the MinKwon Center for Community Action and the Chinese-American Planning Council, criticized the redistricting commission’s process of drawing its map, which culminated in a partisan stalemate and two different sets of draft maps being sent to the state legislature earlier Monday.

“We are disappointed, but we are not surprised by the IRC being deadlocked,” said Liz OuYang, coordinator of Asian Pacific Americans Voting and Organizing to Increase Civic Engagement (APAVOICE), a group of nearly 20 organizations aimed at increasing Asian American representation in civic life.

While coalition members at Monday’s press conference said that the IRC draft maps did include some of their input given during last year’s public comment process, initial analyses of the draft maps suggest they did not fully remedy some of the issues relayed by members of the community.

“We look at … the whole map to make sure all of the communities that are protected under the Voting Rights Act had fair maps and had their communities kept whole to the extent possible,” said Jerry Vattamala, director of the democracy program at the Asian American Legal Defense Fund, on Monday. “And what we found was that the Unity Map, just at every legislative level, overall did a much better job at keeping all these communities whole and together where possible.”

“Overall,” Vattamala added, “the Unity plan is still much better than both of those plans that were put out today.”