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Rockaway’s City Council Districts Could See Shakeup

 First we saw a changeup in our congressional and senate district lines. Now City Council is getting a shakeup. On Friday, July 15, the New York City Districting Commission voted on a preliminary plan for new City Council districts. The Preliminary Plan is comprised of newly drawn maps of each of the city’s 51 Council districts, including Rockaway’s Districts 31 and 32, both of which show minor changes.

A new plan is drawn every ten years following the U.S. Census. The Commission followed all requirements included in federal, state, and city law. The city’s population grew 8.2 million in 2010 to 8.8 million in 2020, according to the Census. To reflect this increase and bring the city in line with federal, state, and local laws the new plan raises the average number of residents per district from 160,710 to 172,882.

The independent Districting Commission voted on the new preliminary plan on Friday after receiving public testimony from nearly 500 city residents at public hearings held from May through July in each of the five boroughs. Testimony was heard in person and received via Zoom and email.

The maps are available for public review online at nyc.gov/districting and a physical copy will be displayed at the Surrogate’s Court 31 Chambers Street.

For Rockaway’s Districts, the preliminary maps show minor changes. In District 32, overseen by Councilwoman Joann Ariola, there would mainly be changes to the northern part of the district. The draft map shows parts of the district extending into Forest Park and parts of Ridgewood, plus some sections of South Ozone Park, currently in D32, would become District 28. In Rockaway, some areas in the Beach ‘90s along the bay would become a part of District 31 rather than 32.

On the draft, Councilwoman Ariola said, “I represent the constituents of District 32. Whichever way the redistricting goes, from the first draft to the final lines, I will be sure to serve all of my constituents to the best of my abilities. Regardless of whether they are in a newly added portion of the district or in an older one, I want all of my constituents to know that once they are a part of my District, I will be fighting for them with everything I’ve got.”

For District 31, the draft maps appear to show some expansion for the area, but parts of Springfield Gardens would be roped into District 27 instead, which Councilwoman Selvena Brooks-Powers opposes. She also believes the current district lines of the Rockaway peninsula should remain untouched.

In a statement, NYC Council Majority Whip Selvena N. Brooks-Powers said, “The NYC Districting Commissions’ preliminary maps will cut out portions of Springfield Gardens, and other existing black enclave in my district and longstanding District 31 institutions, like the Robert Couche Senior Center. Council District 31 residents are a unique mosaic of ethnic communities that share similar values, a major economic driver – the JFK International Airport – and are racially and ethnically cohesive, and should stay that way. History has shown that redrawing the lines in this way will dilute Council District 31’s voting power and misalign the community’s collective voice. Additionally, the Rockaway Peninsula should remain as it currently stands and not be adjusted. The current Peninsula representation includes a vibrant Jewish community, several NYCHA developments, Arverne by the Sea, and everything in between. There is no need to disrupt the Peninsula representation. I appreciate all of the work the Commissioners have invested to date and look forward to further engagement around the future of Council District 31.”

As noted, these maps released last Friday are preliminary and there is still opportunity for adjustments. The Commission will hold another five hearings in each of the boroughs to get public testimony on these new maps. The hearings are scheduled for Aug. 15, 16, 17, 18, and 22. Testimony also may be provided via Zoom during the public hearings, by email at publictestimony@redistricting.nyc.gov, and by mail at 235 Broadway, NY, NY 10007.

By Katie McFadden

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