NEW YORK — Yesterday, the New York State Legislature introduced bills to adopt new state senate and assembly maps that have the potential to drastically shift power for voters in New York. The Legislature had similarly introduced bills for new congressional districts on Sunday. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) is disappointed to see common themes among all three sets of maps: incumbency protection and a disregard for communities of interest.
“Redistricting is a critical part of our democratic system and is supposed to reflect demographic shifts in the past decade” said Jerry Vattamala, director of AALDEF’s Democracy Program. “AALDEF, and the other members of the Unity Map Coalition provided the Unity Maps to illustrate what fair maps look like that preserve communities of interest, and to prove to map-drawers that it could be done equitably. Unfortunately – there are too few places where the Unity Map configuration was adopted by the Legislature. And in Richmond Hill/South Ozone Park, the Legislature’s plans divide the Asian American community of interest into three separate districts. The Unity Map keeps communities whole.”
Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial group in New York City and the country and were the main driver of population growth in the city – which ultimately limited New York State to losing one congressional seat, not two. The Asian population grew by 43% in Brooklyn, by 29% in Queens, and 24% in Manhattan. The new district lines at all levels must reflect the tremendous growth in this community and the demographic shifts that have occurred over the last decade – unfortunately, the proposed lines fall far short of achieving this.
AALDEF conducted the following detailed analysis of the legislature’s proposed redistricting plans:
District 30 (Elmhurst, Woodside, Jackson Heights) – This proposed district is a new plurality, almost Asian-majority district (49.6% Asian). District 30 mostly adopts the Unity Map configuration (UM AD16), moving it westward and including more White population to the south – and excluding portions of Woodside. This configuration disrupts the surrounding Latino-majority districts unnecessarily. The Unity Map (UM AD16) was able to draw a majority Asian district (57% Asian) without disrupting districts 34 and 39.
Districts 24, 31, and 38 (Richmond Hill/South Ozone Park) – The Asian American community of interest of Richmond Hill/South Ozone Park is currently divided among seven state assembly districts. The Unity Map (UM AD10) and both plans submitted by the Independent Redistricting Commission drew substantially similar district configurations for this community, which would allow it to remain almost entirely whole within one assembly district. The legislature’s proposal, however, continues to divide this community, but among three districts: 24, 31, and 38. This configuration will continue the decades long disenfranchisement of this community of interest, and guarantees that the community will not be able to elect a candidate of its choice.
District 65 (Chinatown/Lower East Side) – This White plurality district (39% White) is largely maintained, but no longer includes the World Trade Center area (37% Asian).
District 49 (Sunset Park/Bensonhurst) – This Asian majority assembly district in Brooklyn is largely maintained (57% Asian).
District 47 (Bensonhurst) - This Asian plurality assembly district in Brooklyn is largely maintained (42% Asian).
District 24 (Richmond Hill, Briarwood, Jamaica Hills) – This Asian plurality district has decreased from 38% Asian to 34%, and has shifted westward, adding more population to the west of the Van Wyck Expressway, farther into Richmond Hill/South Ozone Park, and losing Glen Oaks/Floral Park. The Unity Map (UM AD2) was able to improve this Asian plurality district (to 43% Asian) by removing the Richmond Hill/South Ozone Park portion to the west of the Van Wyck Expressway, and including more Asian American communities of interest along the Hillside Avenue corridor, including the community of interest of Queens Village/Bellerose/Floral Park/Glen Oaks. This community of interest is divided among three districts in the legislature’s proposal: 33, 26, and 24.
District 40 (Flushing) – This Asian majority district (69%) largely remains the same but makes similar adjustments to the Unity Map (UM AD8) along the southern boundary with District 25 to allow South Asian communities to stay whole within District 25.
District 25 (Flushing, Fresh Meadows, Bayside/Auburndale, Oakland Gardens) - This Asian majority district (59%) largely remains the same but loses portions of Oakland Gardens to District 26.
District 26 (Bayside/Auburndale, Oakland Gardens, Glen Oaks/Floral Park) – This district increased the Asian population and decreased the White population, but it remains a plurality White district (from 47% White, 37% Asian to 42% White, 41% Asian). The Unity Map (UM AD1) creates a plurality Asian district (44% Asian, 42% White) in eastern Queens that crosses into Western Nassau.
District 27 (Sunset Park and Bensonhurst, Brooklyn) - The most significant improvement appears to be in District 27 (46% Asian). Sunset Park is currently grouped with communities that do not share many characteristics or concerns, such as Brownsville and Crown Heights, in an extremely odd district configuration. Bensonhurst is currently divided among several different districts as well. Keeping communities of interest together and grouping these communities with similar surrounding communities, benefit all residents. This configuration remedies some of the divisions caused by the extreme gerrymandering of these communities in the last redistricting cycle. The Unity Map (UM SD15) was able to draw a similar district that was over 50% Asian.
District 19 (Chinatown/Lower East Side) – This district is also an improvement, which keeps Chinatown/Lower East Side whole, and in one district that no longer goes into Greenpoint and other areas in Brooklyn. The district is completely within Lower Manhattan and is similar to the Unity Map (UM SD19).
District 15 (Richmond Hill/South Ozone Park) – This district divides the community of interest of Richmond Hill/South Ozone Park and groups it with communities that do no share common interests with it, including: Howard Beach, Broad Channel, Breezy Point (all to the south), and Middle Village and Maspeth to the north. SD15 is (21% Asian, 22% Latino and 40% White). The Unity Map was able to draw a potential coalition district in the same area, in a much more compact configuration - UM SD7 (22% Asian, 33% Latino and 26% White).
Districts 11 and 16 (Flushing, Bayside/Auburndale, Oakland Gardens, Queens Village/Floral Park/Bellerose/Glen Oaks, Elmhurst) – These two districts swap Asian-majority and Asian-plurality status — District 11 changes from plurality Asian (42%) to majority Asian (58%) and District 16 changes from majority Asian (59%) to plurality Asian (42%). District 11 now includes Flushing, Bayside/Auburndale, Oakland Gardens, and Floral Park/Bellerose/Glen Oaks. District 16 is no longer anchored in Flushing, and includes the Asian American communities of Elmhurst and Fresh Meadows. The Unity Map configuration for this area of Queens (UM SDs 1 and 5) maintained and improved both districts allowing SD16 to remain anchored in Flushing and grouped with Elmhurst, which allows for a better opportunity for these communities to elect a candidate of their choice.
District 6 (Flushing, Bayside/Auburndale, Oakland Gardens, Elmhurst) – This Asian plurality district was essentially maintained (44% Asian).
District 7 (Chinatown/Lower East Side, Sunset Park) – This district is substantially changed, with Latino and Asian population decreasing and White population increasing (District 7 was 37% Latino, 31% White and 20% Asian – now it’s 36% Latino, 35% White and 13% Asian). Chinatown is separated from the Lower East Side and grouped with the Asian portion of Sunset Park and most of Bensonhurst in District 10. Sunset Park, Brooklyn is split, and the Latino portion of Sunset Park is removed from District 7, and now in District 11 with Staten Island. The Unity Map (UM CDs 7 and 10) was able to maintain communities of interest, as well as racial composition, in District 7, and keep these established communities of interest whole and together within the district, consistent with judicial precedent.
AALDEF is a member of the UNITY MAP COALITION, alongside Latino Justice/PRLDEF and the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, CUNY. The Unity Map Coalition released a joint statement on this recent development, available <em>here</em>.
For additional information, contact:
Stuart J. Sia
Director, Democracy Program