Redistricting talk stirs concerns

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Redistricting talk stirs concerns

Story and photos by Sherry Mazzocchi

Councilmember Robert Jackson recently hosted a meeting to discuss redistricting concerns.

Councilmember Robert Jackson recently hosted
a meeting to discuss redistricting concerns.

The political power lines in northern Manhattan are about to shift.

New York City Councilmember Robert Jackson called an “emergency meeting” last Thurs., Aug. 23rd to inform constituents of possible upcoming changes to Council District 7.

New York City is redrawing City Council districts, he said.

City Council District 10, led by New York City Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, will change shape to include more residents.

That will likely impact District 7, represented by Councilmember Jackson.

He told the audience of about 100 people at the Inwood Center gathered on that it could be significant.

The Councilmember, who is unable to run again for his seat because of term limits, said he was against any changes.

Several people present were either declared or undeclared candidates for Jackson’s seat. They offered a variety ways District 7 could be carved up—including handing over West Inwood to District 10 in exchange for moving the border of District 7 to 110th St.

In written testimony to the NYC Districting Commission—the body appointed to draw up new council districts—Councilmember Jackson opposed any changes. He wrote that Inwood is an integral part of the District and benefits from having two Councilmembers advocating for services.

He also wrote that extending District 7 to 110th St. would dilute both its influence and leverage as a strong Northern Manhattan district. Instead, it would become more associated with the Upper West Side.

Districting Commission Executive Director Carl Hum at City Hall said that mapping software would be made available to the public for input.

Districting Commission Executive Director Carl Hum at City Hall said that mapping software would be made available to the public for input.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” he said.

Others predicted a dramatic transformation.

Zead Ramadan, president of Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance, told the audience, “Lots of dominoes are going to fall and shift around the entire borough.”

Mark Levine, a Democratic District Leader, told the audience that Inwood should remain in the 7th Council District. In written testimony submitted to the NYC Districting Commission a week earlier, he advocated that District 7 be pushed south to 110th St.

Levine, who is a likely candidate for Jackson’s seat, wrote that he believed “that a 7th Council District which includes Morningside Heights, Hamilton Heights, and Washington Heights would serve the best interests of local residents while meeting all legal requirements of the districting process.”

His statement did not specifically mention Inwood.

Another candidate for Jackson’s seat, Cheryl Pahaham, accused Levine of attempting to make a back door deal with elected politicians to move her out of the Council District. From the back of the room, Levine loudly denied it.

Proposed changes in the shape of District 7 could make Pahaham ineligible to run for Jackson’s seat. In her testimony to the Commission, Pahaham wrote that she learned of “an unofficial plan to move her out of District 7.” She also indicated that adding Inwood to District 10 would only strengthen the powers of incumbent politicians while reducing choices for voters.

Not everyone agreed with that sentiment. George Espinal, president of the 34th

Precinct Community Council, said he preferred a unified Inwood.

Others also talked of pushing District 7 farther south.

Councilmember Jackson stood before a map of District 7 as it is presently configured.

Councilmember Jackson stood before a map of District 7 as it is presently configured.

Aya Keefe, vice-president of the Barack Obama Democratic Club of Upper Manhattan, which was founded by Levine, wanted see the border end at 110th St.

In her written testimony to the NYC Districting Commission, Keefe said that if

District 7 ended at 110th St., it could deal with the expansion of Columbia University

as one unit. Parks and other areas along the Hudson River could share a common environmental agenda. In addition, she said the change would keep School District 7 in one district.

Shifting the lines of District 7 south to 110th St. would also put Community Board 9 in one council district.

Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez briefly attended the meeting. He told the audience that it is time for progressive agenda for Northern Manhattan and to improve issues from river to river.

Councilmember Rodriguez did not offer any specific ideas on how his district should be

redrawn. “Whatever happens,” he said, “I’ll be alright.”

According the latest U.S. Census, 137,202 people live in District 10, nearly 15 percent below the mean population required for each district. By law, Council Districts are not allowed to deviate by more than 10 percent.

Census data indicates that both Washington Heights and Inwood lost just over 18,000 residents since 2000.

At City Hall on Fri., Aug.24th, Carl Hum said the NYC Redistricting Commission will offer an online version of Maptitude on its website. Hum, the executive director of the Commission, described the software as “user friendly.” It allows people to draw, save and submit their own maps to the Commission. The software includes population, council district map overlays and demographic data.

After Labor Day, Hum said that the Commission would make a resource room available to the public by appointment.

Located at 253 Broadway on the 7th floor, the room will have computers loaded with the software.

The Commission is expected make its first set of Council District maps available for public comment by September 4th.

Chairman Benito Romano said the maps would be preliminary and did not expect them to resemble the ultimate maps. “We will have to be much more steeped in the data and identify where the criteria and issues are not met by the maps,” he said.

For more information about the Commission, please visit www.nyc.gov  or contact 212.442.6940.