New district lines for New York City’s 51 Council Districts are now being considered for adoption, and as proposed, big changes are coming to representation in local government for the Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island.
An independent Districting Commission, composed of 15 members appointed by the Mayor and City Council, convenes following each decennial census to ensure that council districts reflect demographic changes and ensure that each Council Member represents roughly the same number of people.
Last month the Districting Commission released the first draft of the proposed maps, where 55 blocks on the Upper East Side and Sutton Place, plus Roosevelt Island, would now be within Queens Council District 26, rather than Manhattan Council District 5, which is currently represented by Julie Menin. These are the major changes in addition to smaller adjustments to the boundaries between districts 4 and 5 in other areas of the UES. Slicing off a portion of Manhattan in this way will impact nearly 50,000 Manhattan residents, whose interests in local government would now be represented by a Council Member whose district is primarily in Queens. Of course, nothing at all is wrong with Queens. But Long Island City, Sunnyside Gardens, and portions of Astoria have an undeniably different character. Residents and elected officials from these areas may have different priorities. Manhattan residents would represent only 27% of the total population of new District 26, and therefore may be disadvantaged during important decision making and budgeting processes.
The Districting Commission must follow a series of criteria per the NYC Charter. This draft violates four of them by (1) proposing a very oddly shaped district; proposing a district that (2) is not compact; and (3) results in an extreme crossover between boroughs; and most importantly, (4) does not keep neighborhood and communities of interest intact. Manhattan and Queens residents may hold vastly different positions on important matters of public policy. How will a Queens Council Member balance these divergent interests?
The proposed boundaries will significantly and adversely impact the provision of municipal services and diminish the political voice tens of thousands of Manhattan’s residents. The Districting Commission is holding a series of public hearings to receive public testimony of the preliminary plan for all Council Districts. We urge you to submit testimony opposing this plan (you can use the form below or email PublicTestimony@redistricting.nyc.gov, and to testify (in person or virtually) at the August 22nd hearing.
New York City Districting Commission
Manhattan Public Hearing
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
515 Malcolm Blvd., Harlem