Under Public Scrutiny, Council Redistricting Effort Begins Anew
Coming under heavy criticism, the commission in charge of redrawing the city's 51 City Council districts is going back to the drawing board and again facing an angry public. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
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A month and a half ago, it seemed the work of the New York City Districting Commission was over. After two rounds of public hearings, it submitted a revised City Council map back in November that some say, was too far out of the public eye.
"When the commission revealed and then voted on the districting plan, within minutes and within the same meeting, literally no one in the public outside of the individuals at the meeting of the commissioners had a chance to see ho New York City would be divided for the next decade to come," said James Hong, Asian American Community Coalition on Redistricting and Democracy.
But now the commission is back to work, thanks to public outcry after it was revealed one district boundary had been altered to benefit disgraced Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez, potentially paving the way for him to run for City Council.
Under pressure from City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and others, the commission withdrew its plan last month, and scheduled a new round of public hearings beginning Monday night.
"Without information about the choices that were made the public may be understandably cynical about the results," said Rachael Fauss of Citizens Union.
Many of the complaints have to do with District 8, currently represented by Melissa Mark-Viverito. It now covers East Harlem and part of West Harlem, but the new map would shift most of the district to the Bronx.
"If the commission does divide District 8 as proposed they will do egregious harm to the community and interests that is East Harlem," said one meeting attendee.
"This is about our city, this is about a community that has been split, that has been divided," said City Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez.
Another complaint is the decision to shift Randall's Island from a Manhattan-based district to a Queens district.
"To get over to the island you have the RFK Bridge, you have the foot bridge in East Harlem, the bus that goes there comes from East Harlem so why would that become part of Queens," noted one meeting attendee.
Monday's hearing was the first of five -- one in each borough -- with the next scheduled for Wednesday night in the Bronx. The next revised map will likely be submitted to the City Council for approval at the end of the month.