Queens Daily Eagle: Advocates sue city over redistricting lines in Queens
By Ryan Schwach/Queens Daily Eagle
A lawsuit filed in New York City Supreme Court on Friday may have the potential to throw a wrench into this year’s City Council elections.
The lawsuit, which was announced by advocates on the stairs of City Hall, argues that newly approved district lines for the New York City Council go against the City Charter because they unfairly split the South Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities of South Ozone Park and Richmond Hill into several districts.
The neighborhoods, which residents argue are culturally, ethnically, racially, religiously and economically similar, have seen division throughout nearly all levels of government over the past several decades. As redistricting processes have taken place over the past two years, advocates and residents of the neighborhoods have come out in force to urge a unified district.
“The Asian community in Richmond Hill/South Ozone Park has consequently long been denied fair and effective representation in local, state, and federal legislative bodies,” the lawsuit alleges. “The most recent example of unlawfully separating the Asian community came with the New York City Districting Commission certification of its 2022 redistricting plan splitting Richmond Hill/South Ozone Park into three city council districts — despite immense community support for a unified district.”
The approved lines currently have those neighborhoods split mainly into three districts: Council Speaker Adrienne Admas’ 28th District, Councilmember Lynn Schulman’s 29th District and Councilmember Joann Ariola’s 32nd District.
Represented by Jerry Vattamala of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the petitioners cite Section 52, Subsection B of the City Charter, which says redistricting plans must ensure “the fair and effective representation of the racial and language minority groups in New York city which are protected by the United States voting rights act of nineteen hundred sixty-five.”
As far as Vattamala is aware, this is the first time a lawsuit has been brought up on that particular provision in the City Charter.
“It’s supposed to have a prioritized list that the Districting Commission is supposed to follow, and unfortunately, they didn’t follow the list in the order they were supposed to,” he told the Eagle. “Where they really failed to do this is Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park. This is an Asian American community, and they divided it basically in half and prevents that community from having any voice at all.”