Harlem and Bronx Leaders Demand Fairer District 8 Lines

By Jeff Mays on February 1, 2013 9:32am 

 A group of leaders from East Harlem and the South Bronx are calling on Council Speaker Christine Quinn to help draw District 8 council lines that they feel are more fair to both neighborhoods.
A group of leaders from East Harlem and the South Bronx are calling on Council Speaker Christine Quinn to help draw District 8 council lines that they feel are more fair to both neighborhoods.
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Monxo Lopez

CITY HALL — Local leaders from East Harlem and the South Bronx are calling on City Council Speaker Christine Quinn to help redraw District 8 council lines they believe will be fairer to both neighborhoods.

On the steps of City Hall Thursday, the leaders accused Quinn of hampering the lines the Districting Commission drew for the two neighborhoods — creating new lines that would extend the district farther into The Bronx while removing 30 blocks.

"What I need the speaker to understand is that the East Harlem community has a very long memory," said East Harlem district leader and Community 11 board member Peggy Morales. "This is the same community she will need to come into to gather support for the mayoral seat she is after."

East Harlem Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, who was not at the rally, has accused Quinn of altering the lines to curry favor with the Bronx political establishment for her run for mayor. The redistricting lines are still in a preliminary phase and a final map is expected to be issued in March.

Mark-Viverito is mentioned as a leading candidate to succeed Quinn as Speaker.

The group called for the Districting Commission to adopt a map that does not extend so far north into the Bronx and that includes Randall's Island and parts of El Barrio — such as portions of the Lexington and Carver Houses — that were removed.

"We must keep our NYCHA developments whole and preserve the vital parkland on Randall's Island for our community," said Johnny Rivera, a community activist.

The seat representing the area is also likely to be won by a Bronx representative, leaving East Harlem without a voice, Morales said.

Mychal Johnson, a Mott Haven resident and member of Community Board 1 in the Bronx, said the new district extends too far north into The Bronx to be represented by one person.

"We are imploring Christine Quinn to respect South Bronx and East Harlem residents," Johnson said.

The Districting Commission has said its decisions are independent.

The leaders, however, said Quinn has some sway because lines that helped disgraced Assemblyman Vito Lopez were withdrawn after Quinn wrote a letter to the commission.

"We saw firsthand with the Vito Lopez scandal that this commission is far from independent and that the speaker has a great deal of influence over the process," said Harry Bubbins, a Mott Haven resident and a co-founder of Friends of Brook Park. "We're here to ask the speaker to intervene and send a message to the commission that the issues surrounding District 8 must be resolved before the final maps are voted on."

A spokesman for Quinn did not directly address the accusations.

"The Council awaits the independent Districting Commission’s determinations and will review them in accordance with the federal Voting Rights Act and the City Charter," the spokesman said in a statement.

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