Inwood Could Be Unified in Single City Council District, Members Say

By Jill Colvin on August 27, 2012 9:56am 

INWOOD — Inwood could be unified into a single City Council district as part of a once-a-decade redrawing of the city’s Council lines, local officials said.

The neighborhood is currently divided between two council districts: the eastern half, which is more than 80 percent Hispanic, is part of the 10th council district, currently represented by Ydanis Rodriguez; the western half is part of the 7th district is 49 percent Hispanic, and currently represented by Robert Jackson.

Both the 7th and 10th districts have seen their populations shrink over the past 10 years, according to the 2010 Census, as residents have trickled out of Upper Manhattan, lured by cheaper housing prices in neighborhoods such as the South Bronx.

That means the district borders will need to shift to make sure that every district is roughly the same size.

“One of the possible scenarios is all of Inwood would be taken out of the 7th and put into the 10th,” said Jackson, who convened a public forum to discuss the implications in Inwood last week.

John Flateau, a professor at Medgar Evers College and former member of the city’s Districting Commission, said that it's difficult to imagine the lines remaining the same.

"There's domino effect,” he said. "Something's going to have to be done."

But many in the neighborhood are divided about how the new lines should be redrawn.

Jackson, who is barred from running for his seat again because of term limits, believes the district should remain as it is today, with western Inwood, Washington Heights, West Harlem and Morningside Heights represented by a single council member.

“Any drastic changes or shifts in the lines may threaten communities that have bonded over time,” he said in testimony submitted to the commission, which describes common interests running north and south, such as shared historic districts and park space.

“The fact is that Western Inwood, western Washington Heights... are deeply linked,” agreed District leader Mark Levine, who is running for Jackson’s council seat, citing shared parks and waterfront access along the Hudson River.

Zead Ramadan, former chair of Manhattan's Community Board 12, warned that putting all of Inwood into the same council district would drown out the voices of people living west of Broadway, and shift the center of political power farther west.

“I think that what people are missing is what’s at stake for this part of Inwood,” he said, warning the change would influence everything from access to services to Congressional elections. “They would lose their political voice."

Others, however, argued strongly that it’s time for Inwood to be united, to give the neighborhood a single, unified voice.

George Espinal, president of the 34th Community Council, said that residents on both sides of Broadway share similar concerns over issues such as crime and noise, and would be better served by a single elected voice who could focus on the needs of the neighborhood.

“Being here in this community, I felt there was always a divide between both sides of Inwood,” he said, arguing that it's time for that divide to end. “I want to advocate for a unified Inwood.”

The NYC Districting Commission is expected to present preliminary maps next month, and is currently seeking suggestions where the new lines should be drawn.

Anyone who wants to submit comments can do so through the commission’s website, here.

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