The New York City Districting Commission has finally voted 13-1 on the revised version of the redistricting maps. The next step will be for city council members to review and approve the new city council district lines.

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

According to the 2020 Census count, which kicks off the redistricting process every 10 years, the population of non-Hispanic Blacks in the city decreased by 84,000 people and the white population decreased by 3,000 people. Meanwhile the city’s Hispanic and Asian populations grew. The commission’s job is to redraw the district lines to reflect these populations.

Recently, the commission completed their two day process for drawing maps, which was livestreamed for the public to watch. Community groups applauded the “transparency” and appreciated a look into the mapping process to get a sense of why commissioners make certain decisions. Basically there are many reasons, some legal and some based on testimonies, that shape our city’s districts.

The maps sent to the city council created a Staten Island-Brooklyn in District 50 where part of the city council district will extend into Brooklyn. The necessary move is to balance the other 48 districts, but it remains a wildly unpopular idea on the island borough. In the 1991 redistricting, the Staten Island District 50 was expanded into South Brooklyn, but in 2012 the then commission put the SI city council districts wholly back on the island. 

The maps also create an Asian opportunity district in District 43 in Brooklyn, also a somewhat controversial move by the commission since it cuts into surrounding districts.

“We appreciate the work of the NYC Districting Commission and look forward to reviewing its official maps. The public engaged in the redistricting process at record levels over the last several months at public hearings across the city, which is an encouraging indication of New York City’s healthy civic engagement,” said Speaker Adrienne Adams in a statement. 

“This public outpouring of input and testimony about safeguarding protections for historically marginalized communities of color and communities of interest, as mandated by the Voting Rights Act and New York City Charter, appear to have been taken seriously by the Commission in its revisions. The Council will review and discuss these new district maps, along with our next steps. I thank the Commission and its members for their work, as well as all New Yorkers who have so far engaged in this process,” she continued.

Of course not everyone is totally satisfied with the current maps.

“After the Commission voted to not move forward with their current maps last month, we were hopeful to see them put in place positive changes in the way New Yorkers are represented in this city. Although the Commission improved transparency by making their meetings public, it’s clear that more work needs to be done,” said The New York Immigration Coalition (NYIC) and NYIC Action Executive Director Murad Awawdeh. 

Awawdeh said they were glad to see the Black representation of historically Black districts in Southeast Queens remain consistent and kept whole. But, he wasn’t happy with the exclusion of growing South Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities as well as Latino groups in the Northwest Bronx. 

Awawdeh even floated the idea that the city should consider a Charter Review Commission to create more council districts to add to the 51 the city already has in an attempt to fairly represent minority groups. This idea of adding more seats is a growing movement led by Councilmember Justin Brannan and leaders from Queens’ Southeast Asian communities. They’re looking to add up to eight district seats. 

Fontas Advisors, a political consulting group, predicted that calls to add more seats to the city council will probably not happen. The city council has not been expanded since the 1991 redistricting process, which went from 35 to the current 51 seats. Fontas reasoned this may pit even more councilmembers against one another in the fight for funding and programs.

The final deadline for approved maps is Dec. 7.

The revised plan and video of the meeting of the districting commission can be watched at nyc.gov/districting.
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w

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