By Joe Anuta
In a feat of legal gymnastics, the commission in charge of redrawing the City Council districts Tuesday took back its supposed final version to make further changes and reunited Flushing’s Mitchell-Linden co-op and condo complex into the same district.
The 15-member commission is mandated by the City Charter to redraw the lines every decade in response to population changes identified by the U.S. census. In mid-November, it had completed its task and sent a final draft of the lines to the Council.
But those lines drew outrage from civics in Queens and across the city for splitting several communities, like Mitchell-Linden, and specifically tailoring a district to include the home of embattled state Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D-Brooklyn) in the Council seat he is eyeing next year.
Changes to the Brooklyn seat and the splitting of Mitchell-Linden were reversed Tuesday by the commission, which did not formally adopt the new districts but included them in maps that will be presented to the public for a third round of public hearings.
“These are the changes that the commission was asked to adopt,” said Carl Hum, executive director for the New York Districting Commission.
Hum had told TimesLedger Newspapers in November that after the group released its final version of the maps Nov. 16, he thought the Charter required that the maps move to the Council for review. In other words, he believed there was no time to hold another round of public hearings despite a sharp public backlash.
Along with the lines, the commission also submitted a letter to the Council indicating a further round of public hearings would have been desirable.
According to Hum, the commission then contacted the city Law Department to see if there was any wiggle room in the Charter allowing them to take back the maps. Hum said that process had nothing to do with a letter he received from Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) also requesting a new version in response to anger over the lines.
On Tuesday morning, the commission voted to formally withdraw its maps from the Council, hold public hearings over the next several weeks and have new maps by late January for the Council’s consideration.
But former state Sen. Frank Padavan took umbrage with Tuesday morning’s decision, abstaining from the vote. He wondered why Mitchell-Linden and the Brooklyn changes were fixed, but the rest of the maps left alone. In particular, Padavan is seeking to have the neighborhood of Broadway-Flushing put entirely into the district of City Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone).
In the commission’s Nov. 16 map, the neighborhood was divided, with some of it falling into the district of City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing). In an interview after Padavan voted to adopt that map, he groused that he could not see the final results clearly and was not aware that portions of Broadway-Flushing had been split apart from each other.
Hum noted the original Mitchell-Linden decision was a blatant mistake and hinted that the outcry over the redrawn Lopez district was so great after the assemblyman’s sexual harassment scandal the commission was compelled to make those changes in advance of the yet-to-be scheduled hearings.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.