Department of Justice approves NYC redistricting plan

May 21, 2013 Helen Klein
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City Council district lines have been set for the next 10 years.

On May 20, the federal Department of Justice gave pre-clearance to the plan developed by the New York City Districting Commission and submitted to DOJ in March, drawing 51 council districts in the five boroughs in the wake of the 2010 Census.

Public participation and transparency have been our main goal throughout this process,” stressed Benito Romano, chair of the Districting Commission. “I believe the determination by DOJ validates that.”

Finalized maps are required in advance of this year’s election, which includes all city offices. Approval by DOJ is mandatory because Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx are protected counties under the U.S. Voting Rights Act, meaning that district lines in those boroughs must be drawn in such a way that “protected racial and language minority groups represent an overall majority of the total population in the district,” according to materials released by the commission.

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In the plan submitted to DOJ, 35 districts meet these criteria, up from 30 districts 10 years ago. “With over two thirds of the city’s council districts composing an overall majority of protected racial and langue groups, the district plan clearly reflects and accommodates the city’s demographic growth over the past decade,” added Carl Hum the commission’s executive director.

The first maps produced by the commission were criticized for splitting communities in peculiar ways. For instance, in the southwestern part of Brooklyn, residents of the Bay Ridge Towers were disappointed to see that, once again, the towers were not included in the Bay Ridge council district but instead were drawn into Sunset Park – an issue that was not resolved by the revised maps. The towers, which house over 800 families, are not part of the Bay Ridge congressional, assembly or state senate districts either.

In other parts of the borough, there were concerns that the districts drawn in Boro Park and Canarsie would dilute the influence of the respective communities  — the former by compressing what had been in two districts into one and the latter by breaking up a single neighborhood into two districts.

Both of were deemed unsatisfactory by many residents and advocates, and sent the commission back to the drawing board in December to create a third set of maps that was ultimately submitted to DOJ after being finalized in February.

Election district maps are drawn every 10 years, after the results of the U.S. Census are published. Federal and state districts have already been redrawn. The new districts will remain in place till new districts are drawn based upon the 2020 Census.

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