Commission Begins Balancing Act of Redrawing Council Lines

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Lines for the 51 City Council districts are expected to change more than they did a decade ago to reflect the newest census data.

Benito Romano, chair of the Districting Commission, said the panel is tasked with making sure the demographic shifts in population, including increases in the number of Latino and Asian residents in the city, are reflected in the redrawn districts.

"We are certainly going to look at how the lines affect the voting power of minorities — racial, ethnic and language minorities in the city — because we are required to by the City Charter,” Romano explained.

While the lines may change, the commission has to make sure the districts remain similar in terms of population size. The rule of thumb is that each Council member represents about 160,000 people. 

The commission wants to avoid crazy shapes and sizes as they redraw the lines, Romano said, but also seeks to ensure “neighborhoods of common interest are kept intact and that districts are next to each other and that they are compact."

So far, good government groups have said interest in the once-in-a-decade process to redraw the boundaries of the city's Council districts has been lukewarm.

Dick Dadey, with Citizens Union, said turnout has been low at several public hearings held this month by the commission. He lamented that more people haven’t shown up to weigh in.

"We know that who represents us in the City Council also determines the many different policies and the way in which city services are delivered so it’s a very important exercise in our democracy to make sure these lines are drawn fairly,” Dadey said.

He hopes that when the draft maps are released in early September city residents will show a greater interest in responding to the commission’s recommendations.

Two more public hearings are scheduled for Tuesday night in Queens and Thursday in the Bronx.

The 15-member panel will solicit more input after the maps are released. A final plan is expected to be submitted in March.