Thursday, September 18, 2014

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Protesters Turn Out To City Council Redistricting Hearing

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A political fight brewing over proposed new district lines for the City Council brought dozens of protesters out in Harlem Thursday. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.

Redistricting is ordinarily a topic of interest only to political insiders. But Thursday, hundreds turned out at a raucous public hearing, both inside and out, to protest newly drawn City Council districts they say divide their communities.

Of particular concern is District 8. Currently represented by Melissa Mark-Viverito, it now covers East Harlem and part of West Harlem. The new map would shift most of the district to the Bronx.

"With the proposal of the commission, it's like, do they even understand the neighborhoods for which they're drawing these lines?" Mark-Viverito said. "If you look at East Harlem and the way they've shifted these boundaries, when you have an iconic landmark like La Marqueta, which belongs to East Harlem, it is the heart of that community, to have it just veer into another district, to me, it raises concerns."

The commission charged with drawing district lines is a 15-person panel appointed by the mayor and City Council leaders. Maps released last month are just preliminary, but Council members from upper Manhattan say they fail to keep communities intact and, if adopted, could hurt minority representation.

"We have to be sure that at the end of this process, the black, Latino and Asian community doesn't lose the political empowerment that took us so many decades," said Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez.

Asian American advocacy groups have also objected to the preliminary map, saying it fails to account for their tremendous growth.

"According to the 2010 census, the Asian American population in New York City grew 32 percent, said James Hong of the Asian American Community Coalition. "This is while the city as a whole grew maybe just about 2 percent."

Thursday night's hearing was the second of five being held around the city. A revised map must be submitted to the City Council by Nov. 5. There could then be further changes, depending on feedback from the Council, but the deadline for a final plan to be submitted is next March.

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