CITY HALL — After months of hearings, rallies and debate, a federal court stepped in to New York's contentious congressional redistricting process Monday and ordered the state to accept its version of the district boundaries — a day before candidates formally kick off 2012 races.
The judges' map rejected a proposal for a new majority Latino district in Upper Manhattan, the Bronx and Queens, meaning that State Sen. Adriano Espaillat will be likely pitted against long-time Harlem leader, Rep. Charles Rangel instead of running in a separate contest.
The move, less than 24 hours before the petitioning process begins for the June 26, 2012 primaries, came because state legislators were unable to reach a deal on how to redraw the district boundaries, necessiated after a 2010 census count forced New York to lose two of its 29 congressional seats.
"The court declares New York to be without a congressional redistricting plan that conforms to the requirements of federal law, and it hereby orders defendants to implement the redistricting plan attached,” the Brooklyn Federal Court judges wrote in their decision, which largely adopted a plan drawn by a judge earlier this month.
While members of the Dominican community, including Espaillat and the Dominican American National Roundtable (DANR), had lobbied for the creation of a new, majority Latino district stretching from Washington Heights and Inwood, through parts of Queens and the Bronx, the panel rejected their pleas.
They said the new map already created a new majority-Hispanic district, based in Harlem and that the proposed plan would have been too unwieldy geographically.
"DANR proposes a district so oddly shaped that, if we were to adopt it, an inference might arise that the court had segregated large numbers of Hispanic voters into a particular congressional district because of their nationality or ethnicity," the panel wrote.
The group did not immediately respond to a request for comment.