City Council redistricting debate divides Manhattan neighborhoods
“In order to deliver more efficient services, Marte suggested that Vladeck be part of that continuous group of [public housing]. Additionally he’s talked about there being the natural barrier of the Williamsburg Bridge,” Commissioner Michael Schnall said Thursday during a public hearing.
The argument helps illustrate why the commission is having a hard time drawing new lines. There is the potential for seemingly endless headaches. The commission is trying to adjust 51 council lines to accurately reflect the 2020 census.
A Sept. 22 vote to approve City Council maps failed—the second set thrown out by the commission this year. A group of commission members appointed by Mayor Eric Adams voted to go back to the drawing board—which surprised other members on the 15-person body. Chairman Dennis Walcott decided to make future hearings public following the surprise voting reversal.
A full commission vote to approve new council maps is scheduled for Oct. 6.
Once the dust is settled, somebody on the 51-member council is likely to be upset.
“It’s controversial because no one wants to lose their seat,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic political consultant. “No one wants to pay a price. But every reapportionment, for any level of office, someone pays a price.”
As for the Vladeck Houses, Rivera has argued for history and continuity.
“If we move [Vladeck] into [District 2], then 5,400 people would have to come back into [District 1], or something of that nature. We’d have to move a chunk of people into [District 1] in order to make up for the population loss,” Commissioner Fabian Valdez Jr. said during the public hearing.
There’s also the element of demographics.
To make up for the 5,400-person loss of the Vladeck Houses, Commissioner Maria Mateo on Thursday suggested placing a section of the predominately white West Village into Marte’s district. But Valdez quickly recognized that the move would make District 2 more Hispanic and District 1 less Hispanic.
“They both want the Vladeck Houses in their district,” Mateo said of Rivera and Marte. “So we have to decide in which one we’re going to keep them. They’re both heavy Latino districts, and we have representation in both.”
With the West Village as another sticking point, the commission was unable to resolve the debate Thursday.
Some residents at the Vladeck Houses said they believe they are now pawns in a game between politicians to count votes.
“I think Latinos are being split up. I just think it’s a ploy and that it really stinks,” said Nancy Ortiz, who served as residents association president at the Vladeck Houses for 18 years.
Ortiz noted that Rivera’s office has represented the Vladeck Houses for years, and prior to her election the Vladeck Houses had been represented by Rivera’s predecessor in District 2, Rosie Mendez.
“I sent a letter of support to the council hearing because I believe that in the redistricting, the manner in which they’re doing it is they’re pulling a lot of Latinos off a seat that was Latino-based on previous elections,” said Ortiz, who described the affordable housing complex as “very pro-Rivera.”
Ortiz argued Marte doesn’t need the Vladeck Houses when he already has public housing voters in the Rutgers Houses, LaGuardia Houses and other complexes.
Neither Marte nor Rivera returned a request for comment.