Districting Commission almost unanimously passes newly revised maps onto City Council for review

Districting Commission, City Council
NYC Districting Commission passes newly revised City Council maps onto the council for review. Thursday, Oct. 6, 2022.
Screenshot by Ethan Stark-Miller

The New York City Districting Commission voted almost unanimously to pass twice-revised new City Council maps onto the council in a virtual meeting Thursday morning, after rejecting an earlier set of revised lines two weeks ago.

Redistricting Commission
NYC Districting Commission Chair Dennis Walcott

The maps passed the 15 member body by a 13 to 1 vote with one commissioner – Maria Mateo – absent, following tweaks the commission made during two public mapping sessions last week intended to address concerns that led several commissioners to vote “no” on the last plan. In a statement released after the vote, Commission Chair Dennis Walcott applauded the redistricting process so far.

““Overall, the redistricting process has revealed New Yorkers’ diversity, dynamism and public participation, despite the pandemic and socioeconomic challenges,” Walcott said. “New York is still growing, ever changing, and our urban democracy is alive and well.”

The lines will now be submitted to the City Council, which will then decide whether to approve them or direct the commission to make further adjustments.

“The plan will then be in the hands of the city council, [which] will determine whether they will object to this revised plan,” Walcott said. “If a resolution objecting to the plan is passed within the next three weeks, then the commission will prepare a revised plan and make it available to the council and the public for comment, including public hearings. In the meantime, the commission’s work is on hold.”

Michael Schnall – a consultant for the non-profit Asphalt Green, who hails from Staten Island – was the only commissioner to vote “no ” on this round of maps. He said he was mostly happy with the plan but still gave it a thumbs down because it still lumps part of southern Brooklyn in with the majority Staten Island District 50. Schnall has consistently made keeping Staten Island’s three districts intact a sticking point throughout the process.

The commission rejected the last set of maps, which were revised from an initial draft released on July 15, in a surprise 8 to 7 vote on Sept. 21. The body is made up of members appointed by Mayor Eric Adams, City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams and Council Minority Leader Joe Borelli – who appointed seven, five and three commissions respectively.

Following the last vote Politico New York reported that Mayor Adams tried to sway his appointees on the commission to reject the maps, an effort that was mostly successful. The outlet then reported Thursday that hizzoner tried to again put his thumb on the scale this time around, but didn’t get his desired result.

While the maps ultimately passed by an almost unanimous vote, it seemed like Thursday’s proceedings were either going to be derailed or significantly delayed earlier in the meeting. That was because one of the commissioners — Joshua Schneps, who’s the CEO of Schneps Media, which owns PoliticsNY — put forward a motion to delay the vote until adjustments were made to Council Districts 47 and 48 in southern Brooklyn.

“So I know that everybody wants to get this off to the City Council,” Schneps said during the session. “But obviously, I think all of us have seen a lot of feedback, particularly over the last week, from a lot of different districts. And I really would like to take this opportunity to have a motion to amend the maps today with really minor adjustments, particularly in Brooklyn, for the 47 and 48 Districts.”

Schneps’ main concern was that the five buildings making up the Amalgamated Warbasse Houses – a housing cooperative near Coney Island – were split between the two districts during the mapping sessions last week, with two buildings in District 47 and three in District 48. His motion proposed adjusting the maps to unite all of the buildings in District 47 before voting on whether to send the maps to the council.

That motion was ultimately defeated, however, by an 8 to 4 margin, with Mateo also absent. Several of the commissioners who voted “no” on the amendment emphasized that there had already been extensive deliberations on the maps and it was past time to send them to the City Council.

“If we keep the door always open to the latest round of testimony that comes in, then we leave ourselves always open to keeping that door there,” Walcott said. “And I think we’ve reached that threshold point to submit it to the City Council, and then have the City Council review. And then if they decide to get back to us with specific questions, whether about this or other things, then it is part of our responsibility to do that.”

In an emailed statement, the good government group Citizens Union appluaded the commission for passing the maps after holding public mapping sessions and urged them to avoid further delays in order to meet their Dec. 7 deadline for the final maps.

“We are pleased that the NYC Districting Commission has come to an agreement. Once again, we commend the Commission for deliberating on this set of maps in public, allowing New Yorkers to understand the rationale behind proposed changes to the lines,” they said. “The December 7 deadline for the final maps is only two months away, and any delay will only minimize the time for public feedback on a revised map, if the Council objects to the current plan.”

This story was updated at 2:57 p.m. on Oct. 6 2022.