2022-07-16 00:30:49 By : Mr. Larry Camel

The proposal would combine the western part of Brooklyn's Sunset Park with nearby Bay Ridge, potentially pitting the areas' incumbent Democrat representatives against one another.

The areas are represented by Alexa Avilés and Justin Brannan respectively, and the arrangement would potentially pit the two incumbent Democrats against each other. | Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

By Joe Anuta and Sally Goldenberg

NEW YORK — A commission tasked with redrawing City Council districts is considering a dramatic shakeup in Brooklyn that would create a new seat dedicated to the Asian American community in one district — and force two Democratic politicians into an unwitting rivalry in another.

The districting commission, which is composed of appointees from Mayor Eric Adams, Council Speaker Adrienne Adams (no relation) and the legislative body’s Republican leader, is expected to publicly release its preliminary recommendations Friday. But according to two people knowledgeable about the maps and a copy of a proposed map reviewed by POLITICO, it has already hashed out a major alteration that could scramble some lawmakers’ reelection plans in 2023.

Notably, the proposal would combine the western part of Brooklyn’s Sunset Park with nearby Bay Ridge. The areas are represented by Council members Alexa Avilés and Justin Brannan respectively, and the arrangement would potentially pit the two incumbent Democrats against each other.

The eastern part of Sunset Park and a piece of Dyker Heights, home to a large Chinese community, would be carved out of Aviles’ current seat and be placed into a new district running through parts of Bensonhurst, which also includes a notable Asian population.

The commission confirmed there’s a proposal to create a new district with a majority of Chinese-speaking voters, and noted that it’s compelled by law to recognize certain blocs.

“The federal Voting Rights Act requires the creation of districts that provide minority voters with the opportunity to elect their preferred candidates in these communities,” commission spokesperson Eddie Borges said in a statement. “As a result, the commission is considering creating a draft District 43 that would provide Asian American voters with the opportunity to elect their preferred candidate.”

A commission is established every decade to readjust district lines following the decennial Census count. And the possibility of a majority-Asian seat in Brooklyn was raised in a February report by the nonprofit Citizens Union, which charted population changes and noted that many neighborhoods with large Asian populations were divided across multiple Council seats.

“The fact that the area is split between three council districts (in fact, the neighborhood of Bensonhurst is split between four districts) means that this community of interest, largely Chinese-speaking, could be deprived of a voice in the City Council,” the report noted.

Since 2010, New York’s population grew by nearly 630,000 to 8.6 million, mostly driven by gains in the Hispanic and Asian populations, according to the commission. But it did not grow evenly.

The largely white Brooklyn seat represented by Council Member Lincoln Restler, for example, saw huge population growth that requires the commission to shrink the area that the district covers, according to the Citizens Union report. The majority-Hispanic district of Carmen De La Rosa in upper Manhattan, meanwhile, led the city in population loss, so the commission must expand its boundaries to pick up more voters and maintain a near-ideal population size for the body’s 51 seats.

Staffers who crunched the numbers and drew up the lines presented the commission with two maps. One person familiar with the matter said the main map being considered will be presented publicly Friday, though it could still undergo changes before then.

The current proposal presents challenges for two members who are hardly Adams allies: Brannan endorsed Adams in the Democratic primary last year, but they had a falling out during December’s contentious race for Council speaker. And Avilés is one of two Council members affiliated with the Democratic Socialists of America — a far-left organization that is at odds with the moderate Democrat mayor. She was among six members to vote against his first budget.

The Council speaker, however, may advocate for lines that protect her members.

On Friday, the commission is set to vote on whether to release the preliminary maps. Mayoral appointees make up a plurality of the 15-member commission, but seven people do not have an outright majority. The Council speaker appointed five commissioners and Council Member Joe Borelli, who leads the body’s Republican minority, appointed three.

The mayor’s office did not immediately comment, but the commission said that the lines were drawn up with the input of racial voting expert Lisa Handley. Additionally, a person involved with the process said the political futures of incumbents did not factor into any changes.

During an earlier public comment period, Avilés advocated for keeping Sunset Park intact — along with Red Hook, a waterfront neighborhood the commission is also considering drawing into another district.

“I think [combining Bay Ridge and parts of Sunset Park] would have its challenges,” she said in an interview. “The neighborhoods are very distinct — and the communities within those neighborhoods are very distinct.”

Borelli said in an interview his main goal in the commission is to prevent the three Staten Island districts from leaping across New York Harbor to pick up parts of Brooklyn.

“Staten Island is already a fractionally small part of New York City, and to have one of our members split their time and discretionary money with another borough means Staten Island will get even less,” he said in an interview Wednesday.

The commission is considering a number of other changes that the public will have an opportunity to comment on before a set of revised maps is released. A final set of maps must be submitted to the city by February, though the Council could request additional revisions and public hearings before then should it disapprove of the maps.