NYC Districting Commission releases preliminary plan; a Brooklyn district looks promising for Asian Americans

NYC Districting Commission meets on May 11 to review the redistricting process | Screengrab/NYC Districting Commission

NEW YORK – A preliminary plan, voted on by the independent New York City Districting Commission, was released July 15 after receiving public testimony from nearly 500 city residents at public hearings held from May through July in each borough. Testimony was heard in person and received via Zoom and email.

The draft plan, comprised of newly drawn maps of the city’s 51 Council districts, is available for public review online. A physical copy is also displayed at the Surrogate’s Court on 31 Chambers Street in Manhattan.

Elizabeth OuYang, coordinator of the APA VOICE Redistricting Task Force — the most significant Asian American task force on City Council redistricting — applauded the newly created district plan. It will cover parts of Sunset Park, Dyker Heights, and Bensonhurst. Among its highlights is an Asian opportunity district in Brooklyn with a voting population of approximately 57 percent.

“The commission’s creation of a majority Asian American City Council district in Brooklyn is a recognition of the 43% increase of the Asian American community of interest in Brooklyn and corrects the egregious cracking of our community in 4 districts,” OuYang wrote in a statement. “The proposed commission district complies with the federal voting rights act and local laws.”

She believes the 33 percent increase in the number of Asian New Yorkers in the last ten years is a “game changer” that will boost Asian political power. There are currently six Council members of Asian descent.

According to the Census, the city’s population grew from 8.2 million in 2010 to 8.8 million in 2020. This increase aligns the city with federal, state, and local laws, and the new plan raises the average number of residents per district from 160,710 to 172,882.

Murah Awadeh, the executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, said the Commission “failed” in keeping immigrant communities intact.

“By splitting several immigrant communities and not maintaining all of the City Council’s plurality minority districts, the NYC [Districting] Commission did not meet its mandate of keeping communities of interest together,” said Awawdeh. “The proposed district lines split up communities of color in Woodside, Ridgewood, Kensington, Richmond Hill, and the historically connected Latino communities in Red Hook and Sunset Park, making it harder for immigrant New Yorkers in these areas to elect the leaders that will represent their interests in the City Council.”

Council Speaker Adrienne Adams said the 51-member body is “reviewing the preliminary maps of Council Districts released by the NYC Districting Commission.”

“It is critical for the public to provide input on these first drafts as part of the ongoing redistricting process,” Speaker Adams wrote in a statement. “We strongly encourage all New Yorkers to participate, and we will continue working to ensure communities’ interests are prioritized and protected.”

There will be another round of public hearings in each borough in August, and the Commission will submit to the City Council in September. Once adopted, the new maps will go into effect in February 2023, ahead of that spring’s elections.
The NYC Districting Commission is tasked with, among other things, keeping communities of interest together, which are defined as distinct neighborhoods, communities, or groups of people who have common policy interests.

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