AALDEF Urges NYC Districting Commission to Reject Newly Revised NYC Council Redistricting Plan
Yesterday, the NYC Districting Commission released its final redistricting plan, the “February 6 Plan,” for NYC Council. The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), which jointly proposed the NYC Council Unity Map with a multiracial coalition of civil rights groups, is disappointed that the February 6 Plan fails to take into account the statements made by numerous advocates and community residents during the three rounds of public hearings.
“Asian Americans repeatedly pointed out the changing demographics of their communities and urged the Commission to keep Asian American neighborhoods together within single districts at the Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens hearings,” said Jerry Vattamala, staff attorney at AALDEF. “Those statements were not reflected in the preliminary and revised drafts, nor in the final draft. We urge the Commission to reject the February 6 Plan at its Wednesday meeting.”
The Commission is required to ensure that Asian Americans will have a full and fair opportunity to elect candidates of their choice, in accordance with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the New York City Charter. The New York City Charter explicitly lists the criteria to be considered in redistricting, prioritized in list order. The first priority is keeping districts within a 10 % deviation. The second priority requires this Commission to ensure the fair and effective representation of African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans, the racial and language minority groups in New York City that are protected by the Voting Rights Act. The third priority requires this Commission to keep intact neighborhoods and communities with established ties of common interest and association, whether racial, economic, ethnic or religious.
“The Commission has violated the Charter by reversing items 2 and 3 on the priority list,” said Vattamala. “Asian Americans are a racial and language minority group protected by the Voting Rights Act, and must first be ensured fair and effective representation, before the Commission considers the surrounding communities of common interest.”
The Commission will vote on the February 6 Plan this Wednesday.
Below is a summary of the Commission’s February 6 Plan:
Bayside (Districts 19 and 23) – Bayside remains divided despite overwhelming public testimony that Bayside should be united in district 19. The portion of Bayside that was removed from district 19 and added to district 23 contains a substantial number of Asian American voters. In the 2009 NYC Council race, the Asian American candidate lost by a few hundred votes, with documented instances of Asian American voters being unfairly challenged and harassed, denied language assistance, and prevented from exercising their right to vote. See AALDEF’s letter to the Department of Justice. The violations of federal and local law that occurred in 2009 are exacerbated by moving the Asian American community in Bayside into district 23, preventing this community from electing a candidate of their choice.
Richmond Hill/South Ozone Park (District 28) – The South Asian and Indo-Caribbean community of Richmond Hill/South Ozone Park is no longer divided in half along Lefferts Boulevard. The community is kept substantially whole in district 28, but South Ozone Park is now further divided than it was originally.
Briarwood/Jamaica Hills (District 24) – Briarwood and Jamaica Hills have been reunited in district 24.
Elmhurst/Jackson Heights (District 25) – Elmhurst and Jackson Heights have been kept substantially whole and together in district 25, similar to the Unity Map configuration.
Queens Village/Bellerose/Floral Park/Glen Oaks (District 23) – The South Asian community in Queens Village, Bellerose, Floral Park and Glen Oaks remain whole and together in district 23, as we had suggested.
Bensonhurst (Districts 47, 44, 43 and 38) – The Asian American community in Bensonhurst, a protected group under the Voting Rights Act, was originally divided among four city council districts. Despite testimony from numerous individuals and organizations, Bensonhurst remains divided among four city council districts.
Sunset Park (District 38) – Sunset Park is substantially whole in district 38.
Chinatown/Lower East Side (Districts 1 and 2) – Numerous individuals and community-based organizations testified that Chinatown and the Lower East Side were one community of common interest and should be united in one city council district. However, Chinatown and the Lower East Side remain largely divided in two separate city council districts.