City voters may have barely turned out in the recent Congressional and state senate primaries, but when it comes to the new city council lines they have a lot to say.
The New York City Districting Commission reported today it is sifting through more than 8,300 submissions it received from diverse New Yorkers: in person and via Zoom during 24 and half hours of hybrid public hearings in each of the five boroughs and one fully-virtual session; sent by mail; and online. This public input will enable the Commission to further refine proposed maps.
By comparison, the New York State Independent Redistricting Commission, responsible for state legislative and congressional districts, last year generated 3,700 submissions.
“We made a decision early in the process that we were going to throw as wide a net as possible to solicit public opinion for the Preliminary Plan,” said Districting Commission Chair Dennis Walcott.
The 15-member commission is charged with drafting new City Council district maps following the 2020 U.S. Census, which is conducted every 10 years. This process ensures that council districts reflect population and demographic changes. It includes compliance with relevant laws and regulations, including the U.S. Constitution, the Federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the New York City Charter.
Joshua Schneps, one of the commissioners, is CEO and publisher of Schneps Media, which owns PoliticsNY.
The Commission’s first stage of mapmaking produced a Preliminary Plan which Commissioners voted to publish on July 15. This is the plan about which so many New Yorkers have been sharing their comments.
“We had such a tremendous response we had to extend our Queens hearing past midnight and added a morning Zoom hearing because demand to testify was so high.” continued Walcott. “And we’re still receiving testimonials by mail and online daily.”
To get a head start, the Commission has been tracking responses to the Preliminary Plan since it was published. Now it is preparing to revise the Preliminary Plan based on this public testimony to create a Revised Plan.
Among those who submitted testimony decrying the preliminary proposal was City Council Member Justin Brannan, who saw his southern Brooklyn district change considerably to create a new Asian American-majority District 43. Under the preliminary plan, Brannon and City Council Member Alexa Aviles (D–Brooklyn) would see their districts combined into the new District 38, possibly pitting the two incumbents against each other in next year’s City Council Democratic primary.
“It is an objective fact that the first round of maps presented by the NYC Districting Commission divided historic communities of interest,” said Brannan in his testimony.
“I’m lucky to represent an ever-growing Asian constituency and I appreciate the push to create a new majority Asian council district; however, this could be accomplished without turning southern Brooklyn completely upside down by blindly slicing us up into a million puzzling pieces. Creating any new district should not require pitting immigrant communities against each other. A new district in southern Brooklyn must not lead to the dissolution of Red Hook and Sunset Park in District 38 while slicing up Dyker Heights in District 43 as an afterthought or collateral damage.”
The Commission’s website is www.nyc.gov/districting. Public testimony can still be submitted by email to [email protected] or by mail to 253 Broadway, 3rd Fl., NY, NY 10007. Follow the Commission on Twitter and Instagram @districtingNYC.
The Commission is projected to vote on this Revised Plan and submit it to the City Council by late September.