Districting Commission Agrees to Withdraw Vito Lopez-Friendly Lines

By Jill Colvin on November 30, 2012 6:27pm 

NEW YORK CITY — The city’s Districting Commission has agreed to withdraw the City Council district maps it submitted earlier this month, at the request of City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and following outrage over a last-minute change that would have benefited disgraced Assemblyman Vito Lopez.

In a letter sent to Quinn on Friday, Commission Chair Benito Romano said the group will withdraw the lines that it submitted on Nov. 16 instead of allowing the City Council to hold a yes-or-no vote, as the city’s charter outlines.

“Having considered preliminary advice from the New York City Law Department, we have concluded that, with regard to the plan received by the Council on November 19, 2012, there is no legal impediment preventing the Commission from withdrawing the plan before the Council takes action (or the deadline expires)," he wrote.

"Taking action to withdraw the plan would allow public hearings to be held, which should contribute to a plan that fairly reflects the views of the people of the City of New York,” he said.

Romano said that, once he receives final confirmation from the Law Department, he will call a meeting to pass a resolution formally withdrawing the plan.

Quinn made the unorthodox request for the withdrawal from the commission Thursday following public outrage over the the new lines for District 34, which were quietly redrawn at the ninth hour to include Lopez's Bushwick home.

Lopez has been hinting that he is considering a council run after being stripped of his leadership positions in Albany following a slew of sexual harassment complaints.

While Lopez would not need to live in the 34th to run there, he would have a better chance of winning there than in his current 37th thanks to his deep political ties in the 34th, which is currently represented by term-limited City Councilwoman Diana Reyna. The request for the change reportedly came directly from City Councilman Erik Dilan, a close Lopez ally.

Under the City Charter, once proposed lines are submitted to the City Council, they are supposed to pass into law automatically unless a majority of members vote ‘no’ by Dec. 10.

While Quinn could call for a vote, the rejection would lead to an extensive series of new public hearings that would further delay the process — and complicate plans for all of the candidates hoping to run for council seats next year.

The commission developed it maps after months of public input. But it voted to approve and submit its final plan to the council less than an hour after it was first unveiled to the public, giving elected officials and voters zero time for review or objections.

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