Voices in Focus: Amplifying Asian, Latino Voices in Redistricting Process

Chris Kui (left) of Asian Americans for Equality, testifying before the Districting Commission last Thursday. (Lincoln Anderson via The Villager)

Recently Voices of NY has been compiling candidate profiles and stories on politics appearing in New York City’s local and ethnic media, to get our readers ready for the city primaries and elections, as well as next year’s city council and mayoral races. Today’s roundup focuses on the New York City Council’s Districting Commission, which has held a series of hearings in each of the five boroughs. The coverage includes discussions of a unified Asian-Latino district; the absence of Latinos at the Queens hearing; and popular support for reuniting Richmond Park and Ozone Park in one district.

* As at the national and state level, the City Council’s redistricting happens every 10 years according to the newest United States Census data, to ensure appropriate representation. In Lower Manhattan, advocates resumed the old debate over whether to unite Chinatown and the Lower East Side, the Villager reported.

Margaret Fung, executive director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, argued for creating a single district that would help ensure an Asian-American or Latino councilmember would be elected for the foreseeable future. But Chris Kui, executive director of Asian Americans for Equality, said the current district layouts are working, since there is currently a Chinese-American candidate, Chin, representing Lower Manhattan and Chinatown’s District 1, while a Latina, Mendez, is representing District 2, which includes the East Village, as well as the public housing housing projects on the Lower East Side along the East River, which have a heavy Hispanic population.

Fung argued that uniting the districts is necessary to ensure future minority representation, given the increase in white residents who have moved to these districts.

* Where were all the Hispanics at the Queens redistricting hearings? El Diario wants to know. Hispanics make up 28 percent of the population of Queens, but of the 50 people present at the hearing, only four represented Hispanic organizations. What follows is a translated excerpt:

 The absence of Hispanics in the audience on Tuesday evening in Queens can be explained by a “lack of understanding of the process that happens every 10 years,” said Lucia Gómez, director of the organization La Fuente.

Gómez, a redistricting expert, said that next Wednesday directors of various organizations will meet to discuss means of increasing participation by members of the Latino community.

* At that Queens meeting, members of the South-Asian and Indo-Caribbean communities spoke for reuniting Richmond Hill and Ozone Park, the Queens Chronicle and Queens Tribune reported.

“The Indo-Caribbean people have been split into six Assembly districts, and four City Council districts,” said Vishnu Mahadeo of the Richmond Hill Economic Development Council. He said the willful splitting of places like Richmond Hill has diluted the voting clout of the community, leaving it no representation.

James Hong of the Asian American Community Coalition on Redistricting and Democracy concurred. He also said his group considers Bayside to be divided, with most of it in the 19th District but the southern portion in the 23rd.

An alliance of Asian organizations dominated the hearing, the Queens Tribune reported. Advocates also called for the union of Bayside and Oakland Gardens.

Joining Bayside and Oakland Gardens, home to a large Korean population, would increase the possibility of Queens having a second Asian representative in the City Council. Glenn Magpantay, an attorney for the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, said this was needed…

“Keeping communities of interest together will ensure that Asian-Americans will have a full and fair opportunity to elect candidates of their choice,” Magpantay said.

Editor’s note: A photo caption in this story has been edited after publication to correct the subject’s organizational affiliation.

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