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Districting Commission gives boro third chance

TimesLedger Newspapers

The commission in charge of redrawing City Council districts for the next 10 years scheduled a public hearing in Queens for early January to discuss changes made to the 51 seats — a meeting that a little more than a month ago seemed nearly impossible.

The hearing is slated for Monday, Jan. 14, and will be held from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at LaGuardia Community College’s Little Theater, at 31-10 Thomson Ave. in Long Island City.

It will be part of a third round of public hearings on the district changes, which are made by a 15-member panel every decade to account for population shifts identified by the U.S. Census, after the process was thrown into reverse earlier this year.

The commission had caught heat for making its most substantive changes to the district maps after holding two rounds of public hearings ending in October. These revised maps then went on to the Council in mid-November without any public criticism to go along with them.

But an uproar ensued after reports surfaced that the house of an embattled Brooklyn lawmaker, state Assemblyman Vito Lopez (D-Brooklyn), had been gerrymandered into the district he was eyeing for 2013.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan) called for the commission to rescind the maps, something Carl Hum, the commission executive director, told TimesLedger Newspapers in November was all but impossible, since the City Charter stipulates how the process is to move forward.

But after consulting with the city Law Department, the commission found that the charter, in fact, did allow them to take the maps back from the Council and hold more public hearings. Hum said this action had nothing to do with Quinn’s wishes.

The announcement came as a welcome surprise for Queens groups like the Asian American Community Coalition on Redistricting and Democracy, an umbrella group composed of many civics that had been advocating for what is known as the Unity Map. The group contends the map is a fair division of Council lines based on keeping neighborhoods and communities together.

“Accord has considered a third round to be necessary and welcomes this announcement,” the group said in a statement. “These upcoming hearings will present an opportunity for the Districting Commission to maintain positive changes made in the [latest] map, further improve boundaries to reflect demographic changes and in particular address outstanding issues affecting minority voting rights and Asian American communities.”

The commission made its announcement Dec. 4, when it also put Lopez’s house back into its original district and drew most of a co-op and condo community in Flushing, Mitchell-Linden, back into the district of Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing). The commission called splitting Mitchell-Linden a mistake.

Groups in north Flushing are advocating for Broadway-Flushing to be kept in the district of Councilman Dan Halloran (R-Whitestone), and have an ally on the panel in the form of former Republican state Sen. Frank Padavan.

Accord wants the neighborhood of Bayside united, and the area of Briarwood/Jamaica Hills put back into its traditional district, currently represented by Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows).

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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