Just days after a U.S. District court judge ruled to intervene in New York state’s redistricting process, local political leaders in Upper Manhattan are calling for the legislature to redraw district lines to favor the local Dominican community’s voting power.
The 15th Congressional District, which includes some storied parts of Upper Manhattan such as Harlem and Washington Heights, is currently 46 percent Latino, according to the 2010 census. Redrawing district lines to create an even stronger Latino majority in the district would increase the chances that another Latino congressional candidate would be voted into office — but it also means stretching the limits of what is considered a “district” along vague geographical lines.
The Dominican American National Roundtable has proposed new congressional lines that span in a C-shape, encompassing larger portions of Queens and the Bronx. Representative Charlie Rangel, who has been serving District 15 for some 30 years, also favors the DANR’s suggested borders.
In a press release, Dr. Maria Teresa Feliciano, President of the DANR, said: “The astonishing growth of the Latino population in the United States and specifically in New York City, should be reflected in the new legislative maps. Creating a third Latino-majority district will be an appropriate response to the tremendous growth of our community, and it can be done without negatively impacting other communities or violating any principle of fair apportionment.”
But opponents argue that attempting to concentrate districts by race ignores political issues experienced by diverse neighborhoods, and also the fact that Harlem and Morningside Heights are neighborhoods with long history of black activism.
The state committee in charge of re-drawing the districts has not yet finalized any maps. On Monday a judge called for a “Special Master” to be appointed to oversee the redistricting process, in order to ensure that district lines are finalized in time for New York’s primary elections in June.