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Hell’s Kitchen residents have reacted with concern and anger to the New York City Districting Commission’s first draft map of new City Council districts, released on Friday. Under the proposal, Hell’s Kitchen would be split between three Council Members — currently, the majority of the area is represented by one, Erik Bottcher.
The Districting Commission consists of 15 members “who reflect the geographic and ethnic diversity of New York City” according to the NYC.gov website. Five of the Commissioners were appointed by the City Council’s Democratic majority, three were appointed by the Republicans, and Mayor Eric Adams appointed the remaining seven members. Their job is to redraw the 51 council districts to reflect population changes in the 2020 Census. When approved, the new districts will go into effect in February for the 2023 City Council elections.
Comments on the redistricting have been split between anger and bemusement. Even District 3’s council member Bottcher’s first reaction was: “I don’t like this map.”
“Historically, the City has tried to destroy Hell’s Kitchen by neglect. The developers have tried by stealth and illegal demolition. Maybe this time the City Council will succeed,” said Jean-Daniel Noland in reaction to the “preliminary” map.
Although critical of the plan, Brian Keyser at Casellula found some potential merit in it, saying: “On the flip side, maybe HK will benefit from having three voices on the council representing us.”
New York City’s population grew from approximately 8.2 million people in the 2010 Census to approximately 8.8 million in 2020. With roughly 630,000 people new to the city, it’s the Commission’s role to create new districts with an average of approximately 172,882 residents each. The City Charter specifies that the districting process should “keep neighborhoods and communities intact”, “keep districts compact” and “avoid oddly shaped districts.”
Below, we publish the initial reactions of our readers along with those of local politicians and activists. Please read and add your comments to the story.
“I don’t like this map,” said Erik Bottcher, Council Member for District 3, which includes the West Side neighborhoods of Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea and the West Village. “Carving up Hell’s Kitchen into three parts would dilute the neighborhood’s political representation and cause confusion among residents. Fortunately, this is the beginning of the redistricting process and I’m confident that after hearing from the people of Hell’s Kitchen, the Districting Commission will correct this in future versions of this map. Public testimony can be submitted to them by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.”
“My initial thoughts are whoever drew up this map doesn’t necessarily understand NYC neighborhoods and the specific needs for each,” said Leslie Boghosian Murphy. “To have Hell’s Kitchen in the same district as the most northern points of the Upper East Side and Stuy Town by the Lower East Side shows a disregard for community. I hope when legislators examine this draft they will recognize we are neighborhoods full of people, not just voting statistics.”
“Why is our neighborhood being split into thirds? As a resident of the West 50s, I’m very confused as to why we would share a council member with the Upper East Side,” said Charlie Todd. “My kids’ three favorite playgrounds, all a short walk from our home, are in three different council districts.”
“This is very destructive to our community. Council members do not just represent a number of individuals, but also communities with common values and priorities. Breaking those and mashing them haphazardly will make it difficult to represent and to be represented,” said Christine Berthet. “Community boards have long established boundaries around cohesive neighborhoods. Those should be used for redistricting, instead of mindless lines on a map.”
“I think it’s a shame and horrible idea to basically take away the voice of what is such a distinct and cohesive neighborhood,” said Hell’s Kitchen real estate broker Jeffrey Dyksterhouse.
“It’s extremely frustrating to see such a negligent disregard for Hell’s Kitchen,” said Aleta LaFargue. “One can only wonder the motivation for such a division of our neighborhood. Up-Zoning? Air rights? Anyone would agree that District 3 is a large and unwieldy district but to slice and dice Hell’s Kitchen like this just shows further disregard for the people who live here. We should be used to it by now I guess.”
“There are opportunities for block associations, tenant associations and the small business community to learn how to draft letters and submit them to correct this failure,” said Chris LeBron. “The Manhattan Borough meeting to provide feedback is mid-August.” He pointed readers to an explainer document on redistricting, compiled by the Citizens Union.
“Dividing up Hell’s Kitchen would be the beginning of the end for our community. We will continue to be the dumping grounds for the UWS, Midtown and Chelsea,” said Catie Savage. “We have never had a city or state elected official hail from our neighborhood and by breaking us up into different districts, this ensures we will never have true representation. If Hell’s Kitchen was more organized as a community we could have a lot of power. Our younger residents need to become involved in their local block association, Community Board 4 and Hell’s Kitchen Democrats to push for the needs of our unique and diverse neighborhood.”
“It is distressing to once again see divisive district lines that ignore the needs of our community. When the new Assembly lines were proposed, our neighborhood coalesced around a plan aligning more closely with the Community District boundaries,” said Paul Devlin. “My hope is that the New York City Districting Commission listens to the residents of Hell’s Kitchen in order to keep the neighborhood whole. If not, they will create unnecessary chaos.”
“The proposed Council District maps for Council District 3 are unacceptable. The maps take one neighborhood — Hell’s Kitchen — and slices it into three,” said Jeffrey LeFrancois, Chair of Manhattan Community Board 4. “Suddenly the interests of Hell’s Kitchen will be competing with those in StuyTown and the Upper West Side, because Hell’s Kitchen will be a fringe district for three representatives, not a focus. Given the debacle with Assembly, Senate, and Congressional district lines this year, these maps need to go back to the drawing board to keep communities intact and adequately represented in government.”
“Everything West of 8th Avenue should stay in New York City Council District 3,” said Joe Restuccia. “The community needs and issues facing Hell’s Kitchen are entirely distinct from East Midtown. This proposal has nothing to do with how Manhattan neighborhoods really operate.”
“Obviously, creating districts that make sense is a challenge when you also need to make each district approximately the same size in population (apparently 172,882 people in this case). There’s no way to make everyone happy. But it does appear that HK (along with the UES) got the short end of the stick,” said Brian Keyser of Casellula Cheese & Wine Cafe. “Casellula, on W52nd Street and 9th Avenue will be part of Midtown East? That is not how we identify. And we will be in the same council district as Stuy-Town? That makes no sense. Neighbors Casellula, Ardesia, and Ponche Taqueria will be in three different districts? This map treats Hell’s Kitchen as if it isn’t a cohesive neighborhood, which it very much is.”
Brain added: “On the flip side, maybe HK will benefit from having three voices on the council representing us. Should neighborhoods like the West Village and Washington Heights be complaining that they only get one each? If we work together we can exploit that bug to our advantage!”
“This is absurd. Instead of wasting resources on this, there is so much else to worry about in this city,” said Karim Rashid. “Sadly New York City is the only place in the country where we pay three taxes. So giving jobs and homes to the homeless could be a priority, let alone cleaning up the streets and paving roads — one could go on and on.”
“Whoever drew up these maps clearly knows nothing about Hell’s Kitchen,” says Christine Gorman, president of Hell’s Kitchen Democrats. “We are tired of constantly being dismissed as a community and we will fight to have the lines redrawn so that we can speak with a stronger voice and get the unified representation we deserve.”
“This is the equivalent of erasing Hell’s Kitchen. Carved into three sections and merging those areas with Chelsea, UWS, and an area of midtown that’s curiously outlined like a middle finger that runs up Park Avenue,” said John Hlatky via Facebook.
“About the only good thing that can be said is that it’s ‘preliminary’. The Districting Commission was required to draw new districts in a way that avoids splitting up neighborhoods. This not only splits up the neighborhood, it murders it,” said Jean-Daniel Noland. “Maybe it will register with someone downtown that carving up an intact neighborhood among three elected reps is a pretty good way to kill the identity of a vibrant, diverse, historically immigrant and working class community, as well as negatively affecting its general civic health. Council districts determine where city resources go — housing programs, parks, sanitation, public safety. What happens when residential Hell’s Kitchen is divided into three parts, each a small portion of a larger, more affluent, more powerful district, like the Upper West Side, or the central business district around Times Square? Historically, the City has tried to destroy Hell’s Kitchen by neglect. The developers have tried by stealth and illegal demolition. Maybe this time the City Council will succeed.”
By the way, If you want to see how things work when Hell’s Kitchen is split into three, just take a look at the NYPD precinct map… and read the experience of Luisa and Nicki at Domus after the recent attack at their store.
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