Press Release

AALDEF files appeal against NYC Districting Commission over City Council map’s division of Asian American community in Queens

Image for AALDEF files appeal against NYC Districting Commission over City Council map’s division of Asian American community in Queens
February 2023, on the steps of New York City Hall, AALDEF staff attorney Patrick Stegemoeller speaks to AALDEF's lawsuit on behalf of the Asian American community of Richmond Hill/ South Ozone Park, Queens and is joined by community activist Harpreet Singh Toor. Credit: Stuart J. Sia/AALDEF

NEW YORK, NY — On Tuesday, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), filed an appeal to the trial court’s decision in its suit against the New York City Districting Commission, the New York City Board of Elections, and the New York State Board of Elections, challenging the lawfulness of the New York City Council district map under the New York City Charter.

AALDEF represents D.R.U.M. (Desis Rising Up and Moving) and 18 Indo-Caribbean and South Asian residents of Richmond Hill/South Ozone Park (RHSOP), Queens who had their voting power diluted and their community unlawfully split into three different city council districts this past redistricting cycle—despite explicit protections in the New York City Charter, which states that districting commissions must draw maps that, “to the maximum extent practicable,” ensure “the fair and effective representation of racial and language minorit[ies].”

"Asian population growth in New York City has been concentrated in Queens communities like Richmond Hill/South Ozone Park for over thirty years. Even though the community votes cohesively in city council elections, they have been unable to have any meaningful impact on city politics due to gerrymandering,” said Jerry Vattamala, Democracy Program Director of AALDEF. “The trial court’s decision solely looks at compliance with the federal Voting Rights Act, and it unlawfully neglects to acknowledge the NYC Charter, continuing this discriminatory cycle of dividing, marginalizing, and disenfranchising communities of color. This decision sets a terrible precedent that jeopardizes the supplemental protections the Charter provides for all minority voters.”

The Queens neighborhood of RHSOP is a hub for New York’s Asian community, a home to many immigrant and native-born New Yorkers of Guyanese, Punjabi, Trinidadian, Surinamese, and Bengali descent. Yet, historically, this Asian neighborhood has been divided up in redistricting processes. This was further cemented in 2022when the City conducted its latest round of decennial redistricting, and the NYC Redistricting Commission wrongfully drew a final map that split the community even more, drawing a line through the community’s main thoroughfare, Liberty Avenue. That map will make it even harder for this vibrant and cohesive community to have a voice in city government.

"We continue to see the council map silence our community, but this does not deter us from continuing to fight. Our resilience is stronger than the unnecessary division of the Asian community in Richmond Hill/South Ozone Park. We demand equitable representation, and rightfully deserve a seat at the decision-making table in the city that has been our beloved home for decades,” said Jagpreet Singh, Political Director of Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM).

Latham & Watkins serves as co-counsel with AALDEF.

Please use the links below to access the filed appellate brief and other relevant documents:

Appellate Brief

Record on Appeal (ROA) 

Trial Court’s Decision 

Press Release: AALDEF Sues NYC Districting Commission over Council Map’s Splintering of Asian American Community in Queens 


For additional information, contact:

Julia Johnson
Communications Assistant
212.966.5932 x203