As the commission appointed to redraw the City Council’s district lines prepares to release its proposed plan this Friday, October 18, the city’s largest minority groups are poised to do battle for political control of key turf in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.
The Latino Voting Rights Committee of New York last week said the 2000 U.S. Census data, which shows a 45 percent growth in Queens’ Latino population and a 22 percent growth in the Bronx, justifies creating three new City Council districts in which Latinos are in the majority. The group’s plan, which it presented to the New York City Districting Committee on Thursday night, proposes that Latino voters be made the majority in districts in the Queens neighborhoods of Jackson Heights and Corona–where the community is now split–as well as in Northern Manhattan. The way the lines are drawn now, Latinos hold the majority in 10 districts.
“We’re trying to make sure these communities are not ignored in the political process,” said Angelo Falcon, policy analyst for the Voting Rights Committee, a nonpartisan volunteer group.
While Asian and African American groups agree with aspects of the Latino group’s proposal, they have pitched proposals of their own to the Districting Commission to make sure their communities maintain and, in some places gain, political power.
The areas to watch: West Harlem and western Washington Heights, where Robert Jackson, an African American, now holds office. Over the last decade, the Latino population there has grown to 60 percent, while African Americans have dropped to 26 percent. While Falcon’s group would like to see that district gain more Latinos from the 10th District just to the north and east, which is about 70 percent Latino, the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College hopes the commission keeps things as they are there.
In the Queens neighborhoods of Jackson Heights, Elmhurst and Corona, the Latino Voting Rights Committee wants to see two new districts that are majority Latino. With a growing Asian population in those areas as well, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund has called for more of a concentrated presence in districts there.
Population analysts expect other major changes to occur in central Brooklyn, where the black population hasn’t grown for years, as well as in Sunset Park, where both the Latino and Asian populations have grown but are split between two City Council districts. And in Manhattan’s Chinatown, Latino and Asian analysts alike agree that Chinatown should be brought into the Lower East Side’s district to give the Asian community more power.
The commission, whose 15 members were appointed by Mayor Bloomberg and the City Council, has held a public hearing in each borough over the last month in advance of its own redistricting proposal. According to the City Charter, the commission must divide the city into districts with a relatively equal number of residents, and those districts must have “fair and effective” representation of minority groups.