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The Empire

Can Brooklyn's historical black Congressional district survive?

Monday, December 05, 2011

Update: Links to the US Census Bureau statics are not include in links.

In our first installment examining how the decennial redistricting process affects—and is affected by—ethnic and racial communities of interest, we took a look at Queens’ growing Asian community who are calling for more opportunities to be part of the political process. We made our own plurality Asian Congressional district, which brought up the Voting Rights Act (VRA) and the role it’s played in New York City politics.

Few communities have benefited more from the VRA than the black community. While Harlem has been cast as the symbolic center for black politics in New York City, the real epicenter of black political power is Brooklyn. It has been, and remains, the borough with the largest African American, Caribbean and continental African population.

But as with the rest of the city, Brooklyn’s black population is in a state of flux. A number of external and internal forces have reduced the relative and absolute population of people of African descent, and the trend lines going forward indicate a city that will continue to be less black. The waning size of the black population—sooner or later—will have a corresponding effect on black political power in the city.

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The Empire

Is a 40 percent Asian Congressional district in Queens possible?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

One of the main issues being discussed during redistricting is providing communities of interest--often meaning, in short hand, racial and ethnic groups--with political boundaries that give these under-served groups greater influence over who represents them.

Last week a coalition of social justice groups released draft maps for the state legislature seats here in the city. Asian and Latino-majority districts were carved out for both the Assembly and State Senate, while existing African American districts were kept intact. Today Common Cause, who has been pushing this issue, has an op-ed in El Diario on the need for more majority Latino districts.

"Where the lines are drawn have the power to influence whether a particular neighborhood or community will be able to elect the representative of their choice," Susan Lerner, the group's executive director, wrote in the English version. "Communities that are divided among several districts – as neighborhoods with large numbers of Latinos have been in current and previous district maps - find it harder to gather the voting strength to make a difference at the polls."

At the Congressional level there have been pushes to create both a Latino--predominately Dominican--Congressional district in Northern Manhattan and the Bronx. There has also been speculation that a 40 percent Asian district could be created in Queens.

We decided to see if that was possible. John Keefe, our map wizard at WNYC, dug through census data to carve out what would be a 40.3 percent Asian district.

A few things. First, race can't be the only thing used to create a political map, per Federal rules. This was the specific thing we were looking to do, and did our best to keep the district as condensed as possible. Still, as you can see, it's not the most visually pleasing map. Other groups working on maps they plan to submit to LATFOR, the legislative group drawing the lines, say it's possible to create a 40 percent Asian district that is more tightly constructed.

But what the map does illustrate is that it's possible to create such a district. More importantly, the Asian community in Queens is currently having their political potency spread over four different Congressional districts.

Steve Choi, executive director of MinKwon--an Asian American community group located in Flushing, Queens--took a look at the map. His group is creating their own, and he was particularly concerned about the push into Jackson Heights and Elmhurst area because of the Latino population there that would itself be diluted if only the Asian population was considered. He said they're working to create a unity map with other organizations to help preserve political strength across the various ethnic and racial communities.

Still, the exercise helped prove Choi and other activists' point. "The basic concept is that you can have a [Congressional] district that is 40 percent Asian American in Queens," he said.

The long-time exclusion of Asians in the political process has driven Choi and others to use this opportunity to push for better districts. "I don't think it's a stretch to say we have historically been disenfranchised just as many other minority communities in the state have been," he said.

While LATFOR hasn't been, in Choi's mind, particularly embracing of the push to create more Asian districts--he said the committee has said it is focusing on "the current political realities"--he feels the time is right for political lines to be drawn with his community in mind.

"It's realistic, it's possible, and its necessary to draw these districts in a way that's going to include our influence," he said, noting that he and other groups are keeping all options on the table--including litigation--to make that happen.

Next up: we'll be looking at the 11th Congressional District in Brooklyn and what it will need to take to keep the Federally protected African American population in the district at the levels it what was in 2000, despite major demographic shifts over the last decade.

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It's A Free Country ®

Map: Political Representation Lags Between Dominican, Puerto Rican Demographic Shifts

Friday, July 15, 2011

New York's Hispanic community became significantly more diverse over the last decade. Unlike many other parts of America, there is no one ethnic group that dominates the Hispanic category here. Yet when you take a look at Hispanic representation in the city's political landscape, it would seem that Puerto Ricans have the job of speaking for all.

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WNYC News

Census Shows Rising Numbers of Gay Couples and Dominicans in New York

Thursday, July 14, 2011

New York City recorded a 27 percent increase in the number of same-sex couples over the last ten years, according to the latest data from the 2010 Census.

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The Brian Lehrer Show

The New Littles: Explore The Data and Map

Thursday, June 02, 2011

UPDATE: Check out the New Little Map Below! We've taken our data set and mapped it.

Each Thursday in June, the Brian Lehrer Show and Andrew Beveridge of Social Explorer will discuss New York’s diverse communities - areas of ethnic concentration you may not know about or are changing quickly. ...

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WNYC News

New Census Figures Reveal More Seniors, Fewer Kids in City

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The latest census figures show New York City has far more baby boomers and seniors and fewer children.

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WNYC News

Census Workers Unable to Access 'Housing Underworld,' Some Say

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

As the city plans to challenge what it says are low census numbers by showing that many of the thousands of vacancies – namely in Brooklyn and Queens – were in fact occupied homes, some residents in those areas spoke of an impenetrable "housing underworld" that census workers could not reach.

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WNYC News

CENSUS 2010 | Mapping Changes in the Five Boroughs

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Census 2010 figures for New York City and the state were released and will serve as a guide to drawing congressional and legislative districts throughout the state. Check out changes in the city by population and racial break-down — click, zoom, embed and play around with WNYC's official Census 2010 interactive map.

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