This year will mark the first time New York will have an independent advisory commission for redistricting neighborhoods and the Asian-American community wants to make sure shared interests are reflected.
“We know how important it is to have elected representatives who will advocate for our communities and will protect our communities,” said Liz OuYang, coordinator of Asian Pacific Americans Voting and Organizing to Increase Civic Engagement Redistricting Task Force, during a press conference Monday in Elmhurst.
John Park, executive director of the MinKwon Center for Community Action, said the APA population in the city has increased from 11.8 percent in 2010 to 14 percent, with 75 percent of the growth in Queens and Brooklyn.
“There’s a lot at stake,” he said.
Park said Elmhurst is one of the most broken-up districts when it comes to legislative seats. “We are asking for districts to be drawn fairly, to not divide our communities of interest that would dilute our power,” he said.
Farzana Linda, associate director of programs, advocacy and organizing at Chhaya Community Development Corp., said it is challenging to find leadership that accurately represents the community.
She said increasing gentrification has made it difficult for residents, many who work in construction, as cab drivers or in the restaurant industry.
“Yet the Asian immigrant community is split between Jackson Heights and Elmhurst into two different Assembly districts,” Linda said. “If combined, they would have a united voice.”
OuYang said APA VOICE is an outgrowth of the Asian American Community Coalition on Redistricting and Democracy that was formed during the 2010 redistricting process.
ACCORD contributed to the outcome of redistricting lines drawn that resulted in the first Asian-American majority Senate district and the first Asian American elected in Congress from the East Coast, according to OuYang.
“We knew in the intervening 10 years our community had to step up and do massive voter education and voter registration,” she said.
Now there are new changes to be made, advocates say.
Rehan Mehmood, director of health services for the South Asian Council for Social Services, said the organization is on the border of two assembly districts.
That layout doesn’t “really reflect the way people think about their neighborhood,” he said. Mehmood said the split makes it difficult for social service agencies to operate because more coordination is needed.
In February, the U.S. Census Bureau announced it would deliver redistricting data to the states by Sept. 30.
The 10-member advisory commission consists of two members apiece appointed by the president of the state Senate, the speaker of the state Assembly, the minority leaders of the state Senate and state Assembly and the other eight commissioners.