Proposal Shakes Up City Council District Lines

By Jill Colvin on September 4, 2012 5:58pm 

CITY HALL — City Council district lines are about to get shuffled.

City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito’s East Harlem district would extend far into The Bronx and Inwood could be unified into a single council district under preliminary maps released Tuesday by the NYC Districting Commission.

The once-a-decade redrawing is meant to adjust for population changes following the 2010 Census, which logged significant population drops in places like Upper Manhattan and Flatbush, Brooklyn, along with surges in neighborhoods including Chelsea and the South Bronx.

The proposal aims to make all council districts roughly the same size by slicing off blocks from quickly growing districts and adding blocks to districts that people have left.

Commission members cautioned the proposed maps are only intended as a starting point, kicking off months of public hearings where community groups, elected officials and members of the public will have a chance to weigh in and submit their own plans about where the lines should be drawn, taking into account factors like demographics.

“This map is preliminary,” said Benito Romano, chairman of the New York City Districting Commission, before unveiling the proposed lines.

“This is the start of an important public dialogue,” he said. “We look forward to engaging in constructive and fruitful discussion with these and other groups to get ideas.”

Starting on Wednesday, the commission's website will offer a new mapping tool that will allow users to test the impact of shifting border lines.

The maps address major challenges including how to increase the size of Ydanis Rodriguez's 10th Council District in eastern Inwood, which lost more residents than any other district in the city.

The commission proposed expanding the footprint of the 10th district to include all of Inwood as well as Washington Heights, west of Broadway — neighborhoods currently represented by 7th district Councilman Robert Jackson.

In turn, the 7th district would shift south, to include all of the Upper West Side north of West 99th Street — a scenario many feel would weaken the voices of Upper Manhattan residents who live west of Broadway and divide those with common interests along the waterfront.

“It really changes the whole dynamics of the 7th Council District," said Jackson, who cannot run again for his seat because of term limits, but wants to see the district's lines remain intact.

Another district likely to see significant changes will be Mark-Viverito’s 8th Council District, which is currently based in East Harlem and Manhattan Valley, but would be extended far deeper into the South Bronx, where populations have been growing quickly.

Mark-Viverito declined to comment on the specific lines, saying she needed more time to review the maps in detail, but she said she expects the commission to listen to feedback in the coming months.

In Queens, the commission's preliminary lines would shrink the growing 21st district, which covers East Elmhurst, Corona and Flushing Meadows, by transferring Elmhurst to the smaller 22nd district in exchange for LaGuardia Airport.

In Brooklyn, more of Park Slope would become part of the 39th district to siphon people from Councilman Stephen Levin's growing 33rd district, which includes parts of Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Navy Yard.

Public hearings on the maps will kick off Oct. 2, with locations announced soon. Anyone who wants to submit testimony can also do so using the commission's website.

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