Confusion reigns as legislature, courts battle on redistricting

By MIAWLING LAM

Redistricting maps for the state Senate, Assembly and congressional districts continue to be unresolved, with the latest plans out of Albany remaining a moving target.

Legislators released revised boundaries for Senate and Assembly seats in a 253-page document late last Sunday but failed to heed calls to include significant changes.

Under the latest version, Sen. Jeffrey Klein is still slated to snap up Riverdale, which is currently divided among three Senate districts, and another large swath of The Bronx.

Klein, who already represents Pelham Bay and Throggs Neck, would also snare Spuyten Duyvil and parts of Belmont, but lose Eastchester in Westchester County.

The cosmetic changes have Sen. Gustavo Rivera’s 33rd District swallowing the Bronx Zoo and a small area to the east of it, while Sen. Ruth Hassell-Thompson’s 36th District would become more compact and be cut off at Allerton Road and East Gun Hill Road.

Assembly lines in The Bronx remain the same as the original proposal, with Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz adding the only two buildings in Riverdale that weren’t in his district as well as a number of schools along the Jerome Park Reservoir.

The updated lines attracted a flurry of criticism after legislators broke with tradition and failed to immediately provide a map clearly showing the boundaries of each district. Officials instead chose to provide a labored description of the lines in their lengthy document.

The maps were unveiled only 24 hours later, after Senate Democrats released the plan and chided the GOP for failing to make it available sooner.

Governor Andrew Cuomo has indicated he would veto the revised plan unless lawmakers agreed to create a bipartisan committee to redraw future political lines.

According to a bill introduced on Sunday, leaders are demanding a constitutional amendment to reform the redistricting process. The amendment would mandate that a bipartisan commission be created to draw the lines following the 2020 census. The group would consist of appointees from both Assembly and Senate majorities and minorities.

At a community forum in Norwood last week, Bronx residents and voters expressed their dismay about the confusing process.

Bedford Park resident Lorraine Stewart even accused Albany lawmakers of failing to understand the ramifications of their decisions.

“This business is crazy,” she said. “You can’t sit in Albany and know what we need down here.”

The new Legislature district maps came just days after Sen. Adriano Espaillat announced he was mulling a run for Congress.

The elected official, who represents a sliver of Riverdale and a large part of upper Manhattan, is said to be eyeing Rep. Charlie Rangel’s seat and on Sunday, revealed he was forming a seven-member exploratory committee.

The move would set up a potential Democratic dogfight with Rangel, who is currently the third-longest-serving member of the House of Representatives.

“This is a historic opportunity for the state of New York to send a clear and unmistakable message that the growth of the Latino community demands that our government reflect our diversity,” Espaillat said in a statement.

“We are forming a committee that will explore the possibilities of what a predominantly Latino district would look like and whether there is support for a candidate who represents us.

“While it’s premature to target one particular district, given the fact that final district lines have not been settled, launching this exploratory committee is an important step in marking sure we are ready, when the final district lines are established.”

Among those on the exploratory committee are heavy-hitters including longtime Washington Heights power broker Maria Luna, president of the consulting firm Global Strategy Group Jefrey Pollock, and lobbyist of consulting firm MirRam Group Kim Ramos.

If successful, Espaillat would become the first Dominican-American elected to Congress.

Meanwhile, federal magistrate Roanne L. Mann released a tweaked version of her congressional redistricting map on March 12.

Under her proposal, which the courts could impose, The Bronx will be carved into four districts instead of the five originally proposed by state lawmakers. Only one of four districts will be wholly contained within The Bronx.

Rep. Rangel, who has presided over the historic Harlem-based district since 1971, will move up to The Bronx and represent Bedford Park, Norwood, Kingsbridge Heights and parts of University Heights.

Rep. Eliot Engel’s district would still encompass Riverdale but would now also include a larger portion of Westchester, including New Rochelle, Rye and Scarsdale.

Meanwhile, Rep. Joseph Crowley’s and Rep. Jose Serrano’s districts remain virtually unchanged, although Crowley loses parts of Co-Op City.

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 that protect incumbents rather than merely reflecting demographics.

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