AALDEF Sues NYC Districting Commission over Council Map’s Splintering of Asian American Community in Queens
NEW YORK — Today, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) filed a lawsuit against the New York City Districting Commission, the New York City Board of Elections, and the New York State Board of Elections over the city’s adoption of the city council districting map that denies the Asian American community of Richmond Hill/South Ozone Park in Queens any reasonable chance of fair and effective representation.
AALDEF is suing to defend the rights of the Asian American community in Richmond Hill/South Ozone Park, to enforce the clear and important protections of the New York City Charter, and delay petitioning for the upcoming city council primary election until a district plan is put in place that complies with the Charter and ensures the fair and effective representation of this community. The lawsuit is filed on behalf of 18 individual petitioners who are all residents of Richmond Hill/South Ozone Park, as well as one community organization, D.R.U.M. (Desis Rising Up and Moving) that has members who reside in Richmond Hill/South Ozone Park.
“As one of the fastest growing populations in the city, Richmond Hill/South Ozone Park has a thriving Asian American community made up of immigrant and native-born New Yorkers of Guyanese, Punjabi, Trinidadian, Surinamese, and Bengali descent. Yet despite the protections of the NYC Charter and our warnings throughout the redistricting process, the council map carved up the community and muffled their voices, continuing our city’s painful history of dividing, marginalizing, and disenfranchising communities of color. This is an important community whose members contribute to our city every day, and they deserve a reasonable opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice,” said Jerry Vattamala, Democracy Program Director of AALDEF.
Historically, this Asian American neighborhood in Queens has been divided up and prevented from electing candidates of their choice by the redistricting process at multiple levels of government, splitting the area into seven state assembly districts and three city council districts. Last year, the New York City Districting Commission divided Richmond Hill/South Ozone Park among three city council Districts. This action was done in violation of the New York City Charter’s mandate that the Districting Commission “ensures the fair and effective representation of racial and language minority groups” to “the maximum extent practicable.”
“Throughout the redistricting process, we and our neighbors have showed up to urge the Commission to keep our community whole and to preserve Richmond Hill/South Ozone Park as one district. The council map continues the historic oppression and silencing of our community — but we won’t be quiet. We demand the representation we deserve. We belong here as much as anyone else and should be allowed to take part in the decision making of the city we give so much to,” said Jagpreet Singh, Political Director of Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM).
“It’s unfortunate that the New York City maps unnecessarily divide Asian community members in Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park. Our Unity map shows that the long-established Asian community of interest can be kept together. There is no rational basis to divide these communities, especially in the face of such significant growth over the past decade. We stand in solidarity with our partners at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund and call for maps that ensure fair representation and keep our communities of interest united,” said Cesar Ruiz, Attorney at LatinoJustice PRLDEF.
Please use the links below to access the verified petition and other relevant documents:
For additional information, contact:
Stuart J. Sia