As a commission prepares to release a new draft of the city’s redistricting map to the New York City Council for approval, a New York Times report predicts that the current version has likely reversed previous drastic changes that split Hell’s Kitchen into three separate districts.
According to the Times, “most of Hell’s Kitchen is now within one district”. After a staggering 9,500 written and verbal comments were submitted to the Mayor and City Council-appointed redistricting committee, the group plans to release its latest version of the map — which the Times was able to examine, determining that many of the most controversial re-drawings had been adjusted.
In addition to hotly contested re-drawings of several Queens, Brooklyn and Upper East Side Districts, under the previously proposed map, City Council District 3 – currently under the jurisdiction of Council Member Erik Bottcher and representing Hell’s Kitchen, Greenwich Village, Chelsea, Flatiron, Hudson Square, Times Square, the Theater District, the Garment District and Columbus Circle – would have been significantly split at W49th Street and 10th Ave, chopping the neighborhood into three separate Council Districts. While the newest draft has allegedly incorporated some changes, the map obtained by the Times appeared to have largely redrawn Hell’s Kitchen back together.
“It looks like reason and logic prevailed in the City Council’s new round of district maps. Hell’s Kitchen is one neighborhood, and it should be represented as such. Let’s hope more good news comes out in the details on Thursday,” Manhattan Community Board 4 Chair Jeffrey LeFrancois told W42ST.
“This sounds like good news for Hell’s Kitchen and shows that our campaign to keep Hell’s Kitchen Whole was worth it,” said Christine Gorman, president of Hell’s Kitchen Democrats. “But, of course, we need to see the map to know for sure. We’ll be watching closely when the Commission presents the map on Thursday.”
Hell’s Kitchen District Democratic leader Paul Devlin shared a reaction from the group: “The engagement and activism from the residents of Hell’s Kitchen clearly made a difference. Let’s hope the new maps keep all of Hell’s Kitchen whole for the sake of land use preservation concerns, and for ensuring the voting strength of our Asian and Hispanic neighbors. I look forward to the day when we in Hell’s Kitchen are as influential as those in Staten Island.”
Local activist and leader of the Hell’s Kitchen Litter Legion Catie Savage added: “I’m thankful our efforts to rally the Hell’s Kitchen community against the proposed map from July seem to have had the desired effect. With over 9,500 total comments to the commission, New Yorkers are becoming more civically engaged.”
Locals as well as elected officials argued that Hell’s Kitchen is filled with small businesses, theaters and schools needing unified representation and expressed fears over new maps redrawing the area to be significantly less diverse as reasons to scrap the map.
At a public comment hearing in late August, Hell’s Kitchen native and recent Assembly candidate Chris LeBron said of the potential split: “We have grown as a majority-minority community, something that is rarely seen nowadays, and I’m very proud of it. I’m here speaking today to support the Unity Map. I implore you to adopt the Unity Map because if you do not, the balkanization of Hell’s Kitchen will dilute the voice of 21.3 percent of Asian American residents of my community. 18.8 percent Hispanic residents of my community, the 7.8 percent of Black representatives of my community and another 4.3 percent who are minority non-identifying. Please do not dilute the vote of Hell’s Kitchen.”
On Thursday, the City Council will review the newly drafted map, with the option to accept the changes or suggest their own before returning the draft to the commission for additional edits. “We know it’s no secret that the original maps were not favorable to most, and I’ll just put that mildly,” City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams told the New York Times.
According to the Times, after the commission votes to approve a revised plan, it would no longer be eligible for changes by the Mayor or City Council and will be implemented in the next local elections. For many elected officials, the fact that the maps would be in place for the next decade make the decision even more significant.
District 3 City Council Member Erik Bottcher said: “I’m incredibly proud of the way that Hell’s Kitchen residents organized and made our voices heard. We had an amazing contingent of people at the public hearing last month and I’m very hopeful that in the final map, the commission will remedy their initial oversight.”