Brooklyn City Council Member Ari Kagan is calling on the New York City Districting Commission to alter a second set of draft new council district maps it’s set to vote on Thursday that would chop up his current district and possibly pit him against fellow Democrat Council Member Kalman Yeger.
The proposed shakeup was first reported by the news site Politico New York, who obtained a leaked version of the draft maps before the commission – which is made up of members appointed by the mayor, city council speaker and council minority leader – votes to release them publicly Thursday. The revised maps seem to have traded a possible face-off between southern Brooklyn Democrat Council Members Justin Brannan and Alexa Aviles for a showdown between Kagan and Yeger.
Both sets of divisive proposals were made in service of forming a new Asian-American majority district in southern Brooklyn – where the borough’s Chinatown in Sunset Park, Dyker Heights and Bensonhurst is located.
But Kagan argues the formation of the new Asian-majority district is coming at the cost of splitting up underrepresented communities in his own Council District 47, which currently includes Coney Island, Sea Gate, Gravesend, Bath Beach and Bensonhurst. Kagan said he doesn’t understand where these proposed changes came from because none of the ethnic or racial groups in his district – including Chinese, Pakistani and Russian communities – advocated for them in the commission’s public redistricting hearings last month.
“It disenfranchises so many communities, I cannot even start,” Kagan said. “Russian Americans, Pakistani Americans, Hispanic Americans, African Americans, Italian Americans, and so on. First of all, nobody asked for it. Nobody advocated for this. I spoke yesterday to so many community leaders. I’m very close [with] and support so many communities and I spoke to everyone yesterday. And nobody advocated for this.”
Kagan also said the new alterations would cut his home – and his district office at 2015 Stillwell Ave. – out of his current district and put it into Yeger’s. Additionally, he said the revised lines remove most of Bensonhurst and Gravesend from his district, while adding much of Bay Ridge, which is currently represented by Brannan.
“My own house now is in Kalman Yeger’s district according to this map,” Kagan said. “And my Stillwell Avenue Office, also cut out of the district. I’m losing almost entire Gravesend and almost entire Bensonhurst. Only a two block stretch, you know, between 82nd and 84th Streets connect entire Bay Ridge and Coney Island.”
Neither Yeger nor a spokesperson for Brannan responded to PoliticsNY’s requests for comment. City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams spokesperson Breeana Mulligan said the speaker won’t comment on the revised lines until they’re released Thursday and referred PoliticsNY to past comments she made on the first set of maps.
It appears Kagan won’t have much luck getting the last minute alterations he’s seeking as commission spokesperson Eddie Borges told PoliticsNY in an emailed statement that making any changes at this point is a non-starter.
“It’s just a few hours before the commission votes to publish and submit the Plan to the City Council Speaker on Thursday,” Borges said. “A major change to the map at this late date would upend the entire plan.”