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Redistricting revamp could spark Manhattan congressional free-for-all

BY DASHIELL ALLEN | The new and probably finalized congressional redistricting maps were released today — and they will likely mean sweeping changes for the Downtown Manhattan political landscape.

On Wed., April 27, lawmakers and political observers were shocked when the Court of Appeals, the state’s highest court, threw out the newly drawn state Senate and Congressional district lines that had been written and approved by the state Legislature. The court determined said the redistricting was gerrymandered to favor the Democratic Party. This past winter, the Democratic-contolled Legislature had seized control of the process, after voting down two recommended maps drafted by the Independent Redistricting Commission.

Redistricting occurs every 10 years, after new Census data are released. It’s meant to keep the size of each district roughly proportional, compesnating for population shifts from the previous decade.

The newly drawn congressional lines were created by court-appointed “Special Master” Jonathan Cervaz. The lines create a new District 10 that includes virtually all of Lower Manhattan below 14th Street, along with much of “Brownstone Brooklyn” (Park Slope, Brooklyn Heights) and Borough Park.

The current 10th District includes the Upper West Side, which is where its representative, Congressmember Jerrold Nadler, lives. In a quirk of American politics, congressmembers actually do not have to reside in a district either to run in an election or to represent it. So Nadler hypothetically could run for the new Downtown seat without moving.

However, in fact, Nadler plans to run for District 12, north of 14th Street — which is currently represented by Carolyn Maloney. Currently, District 12 covers the East Side and also includes parts of the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn. The redistricting could set up a primary election clash between the two veteran Washington pols for the new north-of-14th-Street seat.

Meanwhile, in a tweet earlier today, state Senator Brad Hoylman announced that he’s “seriously considering” throwing his hat into the ring for the new 10th District congressional seat. Assemblymember Yuh-Line Niou — who is currently running for state Senate in an effort to unseat Brian Kavanagh — also gave the impression she might be interested. Another possible contender could be Scott Stringer, the former city comptroller and mayoral candidate, who was previously rumored to be considering succeeding Nadler. A former Upper West Sider, Stringer currently lives in the Financial District.

Ben Carlos Thypin, the founder of the “Build, baby, build!” prodevelopment group Open New York, was leery of the creation of a new Downtown congressional district that would also take in Brownstone Brooklyn and Borough Park.

The area in Lower Manhattan encompassed by the new District 10 was previously divided between three congressional districts, represented by Nadler, Maloney and Nydia Velazquez.

Meanwhile, New York City Council lines are also poised for redistricting. However, the Council process — especially in solidly blue Manhattan — likely won’t be fraught with the chaos and uncertainty of the state process, according to Daniel Kaminsky, policy manager at the New York government watchdog nonprofit Citizens Union.

In this year’s city City Council redistricting cycle, a Districting Commission composed of 15 members — seven appointed by the mayor, five by Democrats in the Council and three by Republicans — has until June 7 to release a first draft of new district maps. After public hearings on July 7, the maps will be submitted to the Council on Aug. 7.

If the City Council rejects the first set of  maps, like the state Legislature did, the commission then has until Oct. 7 to draft a second version, to be followed by required hearings on Nov. 7. Unlike in Albany, though, the City Council would then have no choice but to accept the maps submitted to them on Dec. 7.

Kaminsky is encouraged that none of the 15 commissioners are former politicians, but he noted that only four of them are female, which raises concerns about the lack of gender diversity.

The districts must be drawn to “have roughly equal population size,” offer representation to minority communities and maintain contiguous boundaries. Only one district can cross over into another borough.

“If you were involved in the state process, spent all this time creating these maps, only to have them all thrown out, I am totally understanding of that disillusionment,” Kaminsky said in an interview with The Village Sun. “We saw what happened with the state process, but that cannot happen with the city process.”

Based on Census data, the shape of Council District 3, currently represented by Erik Bottcher (Greenwich Village/Chelsea/Hell’s Kitchen) will likely change the most significantly, given that it grew by 20 percent, or 34,000 people, over the last 10 years. Much of that growth was due to booming new residential construction in Midtown West and Hudson Yards.

The East Side’s Council District 2, represented by Carlina Rivera, by comparison grew by just 3 percent, or a little more than 5,000 people. Lower Manhattan’s District 1, represented by Christopher Marte, grew by 10 percent, adding more than 17,000 people.

That means both Districts 1 and 3 are likely to contract in size, while District 2 might grow modestly.

Kaminsky has been busy over the past several weeks, training political clubs, such as the Downtown Independent Democrats and Village Independent Democrats, to engage in the process, thanks to funding by the New York Community Trust. As Kaminsky explained it to the politicos, districting takes into consideration the importance of keeping “communities of interest” together, with these interests ranging, for example, from schools and transportation to the types of work residents do and whether they are immigrants.

He points to a report from the 2012 Redistricting Commission as evidence that “citizens do have a sway in this process.”

The report from that cycle, cites “testimony from the Asian American Community Coalition on Redistricting and Democracy (“ACCORD”) and other groups” in Council District 1, that collectively advocated “a desire to join Lower East Side and Chinatown together in one district to unite socioeconomic interests.” Their testimony, however, was counterbalanced by “the views expressed by Asian Americans for Equality and the Chinatown Partnership, which expressed that such a configuration could threaten the chances of a minority candidate being elected and urged the Commission to keep the district as currently drawn.”

Kaminsky encourages everyday New Yorkers to use sites such as representable.org to build their own “dream district,” which they could then use when testifying before the commission. Similarly, the Department of City Planning’s Population Fact Finder tool demonstrates population and demographic data in each Census tract.

2 Comments

  1. fuelgrannie fuelgrannie May 16, 2022

    An “absolutely terrified” Ben Carlos Thypin is good, actually.

  2. Seth A. Seth A. May 17, 2022

    I do not understand why Jerry Nadler would run for District 12 instead of sticking with 10, given that there is no requirement that he live inside the district lines. Instead, we have a local mess as well as a loss of national influence.

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