Local pols to play musical chairs in redistricting

By MIAWLING LAM

Parts of The Bronx could be included in five different congressional districts under controversial new redistricting lines proposed by the New York State Senate and Assembly.

The plans, which would effectively reduce the borough’s political clout, have been universally panned for being gerrymandered by community and political leaders. Three congressional districts now share parts of the borough.

Under the Assembly Democrats’ plan, New York state’s longest-serving member of Congress, Rep. Charles Rangel, will partially move into The Bronx. Rangel’s historic Harlem-based district, previously represented by Adam Clayton Powell Jr., is said to no longer contain enough black votes to sustain the embattled elected official. Even as proposed, Rangel’s district may still have a Latino majority. With Rangel widely believed to be on the cusp of retirement, Bronx political leaders allege that the district is stacked so that Manhattan Democratic Party leaders will be positioned to name Rangel’s successor without submitting their choice to the voters in a Democratic Party primary.

The party’s redistricting plan could also mark the return of Westchester Rep. Nita Lowey, who represented parts of the borough a decade ago. Lowey’s district would now include Co-op City, while Congressman Eliot Engel would lose Kingsbridge and Kingsbridge Heights but gain areas north of the city line.

Meanwhile, Congressman Joseph Crowley would keep two-thirds of his current district, of which 43 percent is in The Bronx, while Congressman Jose Serrano adds Bedford Park, Norwood and Morris Park to his district—once again the only district wholly contained within the borough.

Similarly, maps submitted by the Senate Republicans also propose expanding Rangel’s District into Bedford Park, Norwood, Spuyten Duyvil and parts of Riverdale south of West 239th Street, cutting into territory historically represented by Engel.

Among the leaders who have spoken out against both plans is Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

“For months, there has been countless speculation and innuendo concerning the future of our city’s congressional districts. Almost all of this discussion has revolved around carving up The Bronx in order to benefit other counties,” he said.

“We will not stand for any congressional redistricting plan that dilutes the voting power of The Bronx for the benefit of another county….We will not stand for any plan that would slice The Bronx into many small pieces. For decades, The Bronx has had at least one congressional district entirely within its borders, and this should not change.”

Bronx Democratic Party chairman Carl Heastie said he, too, was disappointed with the proposed maps and said they failed to pay respect to the borough’s residents and communities.

“With all due respect to the proposed leaders expected to serve the residents of The Bronx, we believe that the natural way to empower the residents would be to place as many as possible in common districts instead of dividing up their communities between five districts,” he said.

“Bronx residents deserve better than to be designated as minorities in the minority. In fact, we regard these proposals as a slap in the face, intent on weakening the growth and unity of the Bronx electorate.”

Congressman Eliot Engel declined to comment on the plans.

A legislative task force, LATFOR, redraws the political boundaries for the state Assembly, Senate and congressional districts every 10 years to reflect the most current census data.

But because both Republican and Democratic political leaders control the task force, the plans are usually the result of accommodations to protect incumbents rather reflect demographics.

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