During the redistricting process, advocates for the Unity Map Coalition, an initiative comprising a number of black, Latino and Asian voting rights organizations, fought for a single council district that would represent these populations, arguing that according to existing council maps, they are spread across three council districts: mainly Districts 28 and 32, with some in District 29.
According to the proposed map, Vatamala said, the commission not only fails to unify the South Asian community, but further fragments it into five municipal districts. These include three southeastern Queens council districts in which black residents are either the majority or the largest racial group, as well as District 32, which elected a white Republican official, the member of the counsel Joann Ariola, who beat a South Asian candidate, Felicia Singh, last year. .
In a Tuesday press release, the APA Voice Redistricting Task Force, a group representing Asian American community advocates, argued that “the district commission and the president [Adrienne] Adams’ draft maps ignore the South Asian community of Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park.
Under the New York City Charter, the 15-member commission includes five members appointed by the council’s majority party, currently Democrats, as well as three by the Republican minority, in addition to seven members appointed by the mayor.
In response, Breeana Mulligan, a spokeswoman for Adams, referenced an August statement by the speaker in which she blamed the map projects for diluting the voices of Latino and black voters and for having “unfairly divided” South Asian communities in southeast Queens.
“It’s critical that the new City Council district lines not only hold communities of interest together, but also preserve the principles that were established to protect and enfranchise historically marginalized communities of color,” Adams told AFP. era.
The council has until October 13 to decide whether to approve or reject the cards. If they approve the maps, the commission will submit the maps to the City Clerk’s office. If the council rejects them, it will trigger a new round of hearings.
South Asian advocates, however, said that by being split into multiple council districts, the needs of the community would not be met.
“The fear we have is, if right now if 10% of our community is in one district, 12% is in another district, 15% is in another district, that they don’t constitute a concise majority in any from these districts to be able to advocate for the funding they might need,” said Jagpreet Singh, political director of DRUM, or Desis Rising Up and Moving – a group representing poor and working-class South Asians in Queens.
Jagpreet Singh said the lack of political influence resulted in an inability to provide community members with essential resources, including “free, quality English lessons” for immigrants currently in the process of naturalising.
“We have a lot of people in Richmond Hill who have green cards who haven’t been able to get their citizenship – and that’s in the Bangladeshi, Punjabi, Guyanese and Trinitarian communities – because they can’t take the citizenship test. citizenship,” he said. “English classes don’t get that level of funding.”
Another area was housing: Jagpreet Singh said many members of the South Asian community occupy basement units but struggle to have their needs met by elected officials.
“Why do immigrants, why do South Asian Indo-Caribbean immigrants who live in Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park have to travel outside of their district, [to] other neighborhoods to access city services? asked Mohamed Amin, executive director of the Caribbean Equality Project. “In many ways it’s because of the lack of funding, it’s the lack of access to these services in the community.
Felicia Singh, who lost to Ariola by a wide margin in the District 32 race, said the redistricting process did not consider the needs of immigrant communities, “where we speak different languages, where we we are excluded workers, where we are the working class, where we take the train and the bus to go to work.
“It’s not just a battle of lines,” she said. “This is a strategic movement of people who the commission cares about or doesn’t care about.”
A big part of the problem, said Vatamala of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, is that the work of the redistricting process is “obscure.”
“Who really makes the decisions here,” he asked, “what will the commission map look like?”
This article has been updated to reference and link to an August statement on redistricting by City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams. His office provided the wrong link and the previous statement in an earlier version.