City Council Redistricting Process Begins

Brooklyn residents voiced their opinion about where City Council district lines should be drawn at a public hearing held at Borough Hall on August 13.

Benito Romano, chairperson of the Redistricting Committee, presided over the hearing, which is the first in the city. Meetings in each of the other boroughs will take place over the next week.  Once the committee, which is made up of residents of all five boroughs, hears from the public, they will draw preliminary lines mostly based on population data from the 2010 Census, with those concerns in mind. Then there will be another round of hearings.

“We aim to have these meetings in different locations to maximize the opportunity for public participation,” Romano said, adding that the committee plans to keep communities and neighborhoods intact.

All who testified asked the committee to keep the public updated and to keep the process transparent, possibly with online mapping software and a webcast of future meetings.

Representatives from many Asian-American organizations suggested joining the districts in Sunset Park and Bensonhurst to make an Asian-majority City Council district for Brooklyn, much like the Asian State Assembly District that was formed earlier this year for Bensonhurst and Sunset Park.

According to James Hong from the Asian American Coalition for Redistricting and Democracy, the Asian population in Brooklyn has grown 40 percent over the last decade. He said that since the community has shared economic, cultural, educational and social interests, they should be together.

“We can build another influential district by combining Bensonhurst and Sunset Park. We can encourage them to be involved in voting and civic engagement because they know their vote will count,” testified Steve Chung, president of the American Chinese Association of Brooklyn.

Dr. Tim Law, an advisor to the United Chinese Association of Brooklyn, added, “They can understand each other’s problems and share information about government [issues].”

But others contended that the Council district including Sunset Park community should remain diverse.

Ernesto Figaro grew up in the South Bronx and recently bought a home on Fourth Avenue in Sunset Park.  He is half Asian and half Latino.

“I would like to keep the cultural fabric that we have in each of our communities together,” he said. “As a homeowner, I would like to make sure lines are drawn in a way that protects culture.”

Gladys Bruno, a member of Community Board 7, agreed. “Our diversity is what makes up special as a community, so why separate?” she said. “We all live together and learn from each other.”

Community activist David Galarza recalled the meeting that took place on August 4 between members of the Latino and Asian community regarding the redistricting process. “There is a real need to insure that [residents] are counted and the respective nuances of ethnicities have to be accounted for,” he said, adding that there was not enough Latino representation on the redistricting committee.

In Bay Ridge, residents had mixed feelings as to whether or not the Bay Ridge Towers – home to 811 families — should be included in the 43rd District, with the rest of the neighborhood, not on the 38th District, which encompasses Sunset Park.

“Move the boundary line two blocks from Wakeman Place back to 65th Street,” testified Linda Orlando, a Towers resident, adding that she and her neighbors shop and use the resources located in Bay Ridge, including the Bay Ridge Center for Older Adults and the services they provide.

“They should be in the same district and represented by the same council member,” she contended.

Kevin Peter Carroll, Democratic District Leader for the 60th Assembly district, agreed. “Many residents of the Towers are active in political and civic organizations in Bay Ridge. They feel like the stepchildren of Bay Ridge,” he said. “Albany did not listen to our concerns, so we are asking you not to make the same mistake by slicing and dicing our community.”

But Larry Morrish, who spoke on behalf of the Bay Ridge Community Council, testified, “Keep everything as it is. We have been beat up enough through the years and appeal to you to keep things as they are.”

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