Redistricting Could Cost Council Member James Thousands of Voters
Every ten years the borders of Brooklyn’s districts are re-assessed, often leading to controversy and unhappiness among lawmakers and constituents, and this year is no exception. District 35, the area which includes Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, parts of Crown Heights, Prospect Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant will most likely lose a substantial number of voters.
Letitia James, council member representative for District 35, is worried about losing thousands of her voters, in this case mostly Hasidic Jews from Crown Heights. These voters will be transferred into District 33, which is represented by Council Member Stephen Levin. While most of the border changes are not controversial, trouble has been brewing over the changes to the area south of Flushing Avenue and north of DeKalb Avenue, between Classon and Nostrand Avenues.
The small area of Bedford-Stuyvesant which the proposal will place within District 33 has the effect of adding thousands of Hasidic Jews into Levin’s district. According to a progressive political organization called The New Kings Democrats, a group looking to reform Brooklyn’s Democratic Party, the proposed changes are being made so that Vito Lopez, the former Brooklyn Democratic leader, can run in the 34th District later in the year. Under the current districting Lopez does not even live in District 34, making him ineligible to run there.
Lopez was forced to resign as Chairman of the Kings County Democratic Party after accusations of sexual harassment emerged last August. Since then, however Lopez has signaled his intention to run in the 34th District. Last November the redistricting commission submitted maps had changed the 34th District to include Lopez’s home address, amazingly enough. The maps were quickly removed after the public went crazy after the blatant self-serving manipulating tactics were uncovered. Even though the maps have been withdrawn the New Kings Democrats still argue that the redistricting process is way too political to be truly democratic and fair.