New City Council district lines could scramble South Bronx; Harlem politics eyed as factor in map changes
Proposed map would stretch East Harlem district up into Highbridge
New City Council maps drafted by the New York City Districting Commission could scramble the South Bronx and some observers
believe Harlem politics are behind the proposed changes.
The preliminary maps, lambasted by dozens of Bronx residents at a public hearing last week, push a historic East Harlem district far into the South Bronx and shuffle voting blocs in Highbridge, Mott Haven and Morrisania.
“The proposed district lines break up the Bronx,” said John Garcia, redistricting manager at LatinoJustice. “Melrose is chopped in half. Concourse Village is chopped. You have people from E. 103rd St. and Lenox in East Harlem in a district with people way up in Highbridge.”
The Commission, a 15-member panel controlled by Mayor Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, will revise the maps this month.
But as they stand, the lines appear to lend the Bronx Democratic County Committee more political muscle and threaten Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito.
The Council district maps are redrawn every ten years to account for demographic changes and Bronx Dems want to add a ninth seat in their borough.
The population of the Bronx grew 3.9 percent from 2000 to 2010, adding about 52,000 people, and several current Bronx districts are larger than average.
“The Bronx is growing and we deserve fair representation,” said Patrick Jenkins, political consultant for the Bronx Dems.
But Manhattan also added residents, growing 3.2 percent. Rather than hand the Bronx a new seat outright, the Commission has proposed nudging District 8 north.
East Harlem, Manhattan Valley, Randalls Island and part of Mott Haven currently make up District 8, represented by Mark-Viverito. Under the new maps, it would become majority Bronx, adding Mott Haven and Highbridge while losing Manhattan Valley, Randalls Island and La Marqueta, an El Barrio landmark.
The lines could mean fewer votes and a Bronx challenger for Mark-Viverito next year.
Carmen Vasquez, an East Harlem activist, said she believes Bronx and Harlem Dems are trying to freeze out Mark-Viverito, who could vie for Council Speaker next year against Harlem Councilwoman Inez Dickens.
“You have this political machine on the West Side that wants to control everything,” Vasquez said. “This is a power move.”
But Jenkins denied the plot.
“I don’t know anything about that,” the consultant insisted. “There was no malicious intent.”
Mark-Viverito upbraided the Commission last week for splitting up “communities of interest.”
“I don’t understand the rationale,” she said, praising alternative lines drawn by LatinoJustice and likeminded groups.
South Bronx residents blasted the Commission for removing the Concourse Village co-op complex from District 16.
District 16 is one of two Bronx districts traditionally represented by an African-American politician and Concourse Village is an important African-American voting bloc, said Carlos Sierra, a former District 16 candidate.
Sierra also said Highbridge should remain in the 16th District because it has more in common with Morrisania than it does with East Harlem and Mott Haven.
The proposed maps could hurt Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo because the District 17 pol stands to lose her political family’s power base, Mott Haven.
The Council will weigh in on the proposed maps Nov. 26.