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East Harlem Town Hall Meeting Lets Residents Sound Off on Redistricting

By Jeff Mays | January 3, 2013 8:43am
 Under the proposed plan, half of Melissa Mark-Viverito's 8th District would be in the Bronx.
Under the proposed plan, half of Melissa Mark-Viverito's 8th District would be in the Bronx.
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NYC Districting Commission

HARLEM — Revised changes proposed for the City Council's district lines restored La Marqueta to District 8, but East Harlem Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito says that's not enough.

Approximately 30 blocks of her current district would be left out of the proposed map, which will incorporate the area into a massive district that also includes a large section of the Bronx. A hearing of the city’s Districting Commission is scheduled for Jan. 7, but Mark-Viverito is hosting a town hall hearing about the changes Thursday night.

"The district came out strong in reaction to the original set of changes," said Mark-Viverito. "Over 200 community members said the preservation of a community of interest was critical."

In addition to the 30 blocks of the current District 8 that would be lost, the district would also lose Randall's Island while expanding further into the Bronx.

Mark-Viverito, a leading candidate to replace Council Speaker Christine Quinn, has criticized the new lines as a political move to reduce her chances of becoming speaker. Fellow Harlem Councilwoman Inez Dickens is also mentioned as a top contender for the job of speaker.

"This is a political move and the community should not be played with in that way,"  Mark-Viverito said.

The Districting Commission has already faced criticism for a last-minute change that would have helped disgraced Brooklyn Assemblyman Vito Lopez.

Commission leaders maintain the group is independent, but that has been questioned. The board reversed the change that would have helped Lopez.

John Medina, a community leader for Community Voices Heard, said East Harlem residents are concerned that making the district so Bronx-heavy will mean that they will be ignored in the new district.

"A lot of the residents feel that it's not keeping the basic integrity of Spanish Harlem because La Marqueta is such a small piece of the district," said Medina. "It's like giving a kid a lollipop after going to the dentist. They pulled the teeth from the district and now they are giving us a lollipop."

Medina said area residents have grown used to having their own representative and that changes could confuse an immigrant community that is still a major destination for newcomers to the United States.

"This is a closely knit community. There are a lot of cultural ties. With gentrification a lot of people feel they are already being pushed out. This is one more stone thrown at them while pushing them out," Medina said.