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Prelim City Council redistricting plan draws a record No. of comments

SW Brooklyn changes add fuel to the fire

August 29, 2022 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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The record number of comments the New York City Districting Commission has received on the new City Council redistricting plan — more than 8,300 submissions, both in-person and via Zoom and email— reflect the plan’s controversial nature, especially in Southwest Brooklyn. 

The New York City Districting Commission is sifting through these submissions, received at hybrid public hearings in each of the five boroughs; at one fully-virtual session; and sent by mail and online. 

“This public input will enable the commission to further refine proposed maps,” a statement from the commission read. 

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The commission’s first stage of mapmaking produced a Preliminary Plan, which commissioners voted to publish on July 15. This is the plan about which so many New Yorkers have been sharing their comments. 

Related Article: Brannan, again, slams city’s new redistricting plan

By comparison, the New York State Independent Redistricting Commission’s plan for redrawing state legislative and congressional districts last year generated only 3,700 submissions. The 2013 NYC Districting Commission collected 1,500 submissions.

“We made a decision early in the process that we were going to throw as wide a net as possible to solicit public opinion for the Preliminary Plan,” said Chair Dennis Walcott.

The commission advertised in community and ethnic weeklies, on Twitter and Instagram, provided a wide array of information sessions to community groups across the city, and sent CUNY and Summer Youth Employment Program interns canvassing across the five boroughs.

In Brooklyn, the main controversy centered around the plan’s creation of an Asian American-majority district in eastern Sunset Park and Bensonhurst, aka the new 43rd C.D.

In the city as a whole, the population of Asian New Yorkers increased by 7.7 percent during the 10-year period since the last census, according to THE CITY. 

Councilmember Alexa Aviles (D-Sunset Park-Red Hook). Photo courtesy of CUNY

While few would disagree with the desire to create an Asian American district, the plan, as the Brooklyn Eagle has reported several times, would shuffle several neighboring districts in a way that would throw longstanding political alliances and organizations into disarray.

It would combine western Sunset Park with Bay Ridge to form a new 38th Council District. The plan also detaches Red Hook from the 38th and puts it into a revamped 39th District, which would stretch down to Kensington.

Most notably, the redistricting would force Councilmember Justin Brannan, a moderate Democrat, who now represents Bay Ridge and nearby areas, and Alexa Aviles, a progressive Democrat who represents Sunset Park and Red Hook, to run against each other in a Democratic primary.

In some cases of redistricting, former political allies have no qualms about running against each other — for example, the recent Democratic primary contest in Manhattan between U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney and U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler.

But in this case, as the Eagle has reported, in an unusual show of solidarity, both Brannan and Aviles have slammed the redistricting plan. 

“Preserving emerging and enduring ethnic and religious enclaves while ensuring the electoral boundaries overlap with other existing relevant city agency boundaries should be the priority,” Brannan said. “Slicing up neighborhoods that have been connected for generations only serves one purpose: to dilute political power.”

Changes in non-Brooklyn districts have also caused protests For example, the proposed map for the 26th C.D. in Queens would divide Sunnyside from nearby Woodside, and would also add part of Manhattan’s Upper East Side.

While the Council maps will be changed within a month, there will not be a primary based on those maps for another year.

The commission was established by the City Charter to draw a City Council plan every 10 years following the census.

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