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Redistricting hearing held at BCC

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The legislative panel in charge of drawing lines for Congressional, Senate, Assembly districts in response to 2010 census data held its first public hearing at Bronx Community College.

The Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment, LATFOR, hearing took place during the day in BCC’s library on Thursday, September 8, with approximately 70 speakers registered to offer testimony.

Members of the six-person panel, comprised of four legislators and two non-legislators, got an earful from elected officials and good-government groups calling for independent redistricting, as well as from some calling for the creation of a new Hispanic-majority Congressional district covering northern Manhattan and the west Bronx.

The LATFOR panel is comprised of members who are appointed by the Senate president, Assembly speaker, and minority chambers in both houses of the state legislature, often turning the process toward partisanship, said Alex Camarda, director of public policy and advocacy for the Citizens Union, a reform government group.

Among those calling for the legislature to pass independent redistricting was Senator Gustavo Rivera, who spoke about how the people in his district are drawn together, not so much by their ethnic makeup, as they are by shared interests and concerns related to housing, jobs, and recreational facilities.

“I want to say that I believe New York State should undertake this process with an independent redistricting commission that can draw fair lines, without partisan gerrymandering, that reflect the neighborhoods and communities that we as New Yorkers call home,” Rivera said in his testimony. “I will continue to push to make independent redistricting a reality in New York.”

The 33rd Senate district runs he length of the Grand Concourse with natural borders to the west of the Harlem River and to the east of the New York Botanical Gardens, Bronx Zoo, and Fordham University, Rivera said.

Also offering testimony was Barbara Stronczer, who represented the Bedford Mosholu Community Association, who asked for an assembly district that comprises the whole of Bedford Park, Mosholu Parkway, and Norwood.

The current lines split those communities between three Assembly members, making it difficult to work together with elected officials for the benefit of the community, and complicating the process of getting capital funding for worthy projects, Stronczer said.

Legislators need to return to Albany in a special session and pass redistricting reform that establishes an independent committee that would presumably draw fairer lines, Camarda said.

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