‘You still have time to right this major wrong’: Queens residents, officials blast Districting Commission’s plan for new City Council district lines

Residents attend public hearing (Photo courtesy of Eddie Borgers)

Residents and elected officials largely rejected the New York City’s Districting Commission‘s draft for new City Council district lines at a public hearing in Astoria Tuesday, Aug. 16.

The Districting Commission released a preliminary map last month which redraws districts across the city. The proposed district lines aim to reflect the population changes reported in the 2020 Census; the districts are redrawn every 10 years.

The public hearing took place in the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria.

Christina Soverign, a resident of Liberty Park in Glendale, spoke against the draft which would remove Liberty Park from its current District 30 and place it in District 32. The change would split Liberty Park from the rest of Glendale.

“I am here to testify why Liberty Park should be kept within District 30,” Soverign said. 

Soverign is also president of the Liberty Park Homeowners Association and said that Liberty Park residents are very active members of the Glendale community and strongly identify as Glendale residents, with some having lived there for over 70 years. 

The Glendale resident also commented on the shape of the district under the preliminary plan.

“It’s certainly a strange shape and stretches way down through Howard Beach to Rockaway Beach, which is nearly 10 miles away from us — which, in New York City distance, might as well be New Jersey,” Soverign said. “Liberty Park would be a small bump at the top of the district and an afterthought.”

Residents in attendance at the public hearing. (Photo courtesy of Eddie Borgers)

Ridgewood resident Derek Evers also shared concerns about what the new district lines would mean for the area. Ridgewood is currently split between Districts 30 and 34.

“Ridgewood represents the largest Hispanic population in District 30, with the highest concentration as you might have also guessed, right where the district splits. That gerrymandered district line also runs across two middle schools, one high school, our only public library and three parks,” Evers said. “This summer, those parks received zero summer program funding, and in this last budget, every single school in Ridgewood is facing massive cuts. But the ones along that district line — I.S. 93, I.S. 77 and Grover Cleveland High School — are getting cut by an average of over $800,000 each this year.”

The Ridgewood resident pleaded with the Districting Commission to take the testimony into consideration before the next draft maps are released.

“You still have time to right this major wrong,” Evers said. “Given the current makeup of the maps, the easiest way to do that is to extend City Council District 34 to include all of Ridgewood. District 34 needs to take on population, so it only makes sense to unite the Hispanic population it currently splits in half. In one move you can unite a minority community, lift up our schools, our parks and our network of community resources.”

Councilman Robert Holden spoke on behalf of District 30 and echoed his constituents’ concerns. Holden rejected the proposal to include sections of Woodside and proposed to retain Liberty Park with the rest of Glendale. 

“Rather than arbitrary lines to meet population goals, my proposal will have the natural borders that keep communities together,” Holden said. 

Councilman Holden speaking at the hearing. (Photo by Rebecca Roche)

Rosamond Gianutos, a resident of Sunnyside, spoke out against the proposed changes to District 26 which currently incorporates Sunnyside, Woodside, Long Island City and parts of Astoria.

The new map would remove much of Astoria and Woodside and would include Roosevelt Island and the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

Gianutos voiced her concern about how the ethnic and socioeconomic makeup of District 26 would change under the proposal.

“Our beautiful, diverse quilt will become a cashmere blanket – significantly richer and whiter,” Gianutos said.