Update: The NYC Districting Commission will hold a public meeting at 9 a.m. Dec. 4 at Pace University, at 3 Spruce Street in Manhattan. The public may attend but will not be able to give testimony.
The New York City Districting Commission should withdraw its revised plan for new City Council districts and start over, Council Speaker Christine Quinn said Thursday.
Quinn made the request in what she called "the strongest possible terms."
She cited in particular the proposed new lines for Council District 34, held by Councilwoman Diana Reyna (D-Brooklyn, Queens). The Districting Commission redrew the district so that it includes the home of state Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D-Brooklyn), who has been accused of sexually harassing young women who were working in his office at the time. The state Assembly paid off the women, leading to a public and journalistic outcry — though Lopez then won re-election.
Quinn came under fire after the Districting Commission released its proposed maps because, critics said, she was letting the panel create a new 34th District that would allow Lopez to quit the Assembly and run for the Council instead. The council has the final say on approving new maps for next year's city elections.
In her letter to the Districting Commission, Quinn made clear she does not approve of the redrawn 34th District.
"The most significant concern I have relates to the new lines for District 34," the speaker said. "Given the Commission's laudable interest in continuing the public process, I am requesting in the strongest possible terms that the Commission withdraw its submission to the Council to receive additional input from the public."
After satisfying its "benchmarks for review and public comment," Quinn said, the commission should then submit a new plan for the city's 51 council districts.
Aside from the Lopez controversy, the Districting Commission's plan has raised the ire of some civic leaders around Queens for dividing certain communities between districts. Their belief is that neighborhoods should not be split up, and that adjacent communities that have similar demographics should also be represented by one council member.
Woodhaven, for example, would be split in two under the plan, with half of it being represented by Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) and half by Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village), something the Woodhaven Residents' Block Association does not want to see happen.
In northeastern Queens, the commission's plan would put Bayside and Oakland Gardens in two different districts, the former in that of Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone) and the latter in that of Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens). But that split is opposed by two Asian-American advocacy groups, the MinKwon Center for Community Action and the Asian American Community Coalition on Redistricting and Democracy.
The council districts, like those for the U.S. House of Representatives and the state Legislature, are redrawn every 10 years before the first election following the U.S. Census, which was conducted in 2010. The state and federal maps were done earlier because elections for the House, state Senate and state Assembly were all held this year. Winners of those elections represent their new districts as of January. Elections for all City Council seats — as well as citywide posts including the mayoralty and, in each borough, the borough presidency — will be held next November, with lawmakers representing their new districts as of January 2014.
Quinn is widely considered the leading candidate for mayor next year.