The commission charged with reconfiguring the city’s legislative borders took the unexpected step of rejecting the release of its own proposed maps, prolonging the final leg of a year-long process and setting up the potential for dramatically altered maps.
In an 8-7 vote, the 15-member commission voted to reject the release of maps to the New York City Council for review. The council was supposed to have until October 13th to decide whether to vote on the maps, which will ultimately be in place for the next decade. Advocacy groups have been closely following the mapmaking process as it determines which groups have political power over the next 10 years.
“We continue with the task. Next week, after the Jewish holidays, we will have an open meeting of the commission to review next steps,” said Eddie Borges, a spokesperson for the commission.
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The commission is made up of mayoral and City Council appointees. Of those who rejected the maps, four were appointed by Mayor Eric Adams, one by the City Council’s Democratic majority and three from the body’s Republican minority.
The commission first met in February, holding a series of public hearings to solicit input from New Yorkers and advocacy groups on how the maps should look like. The commission took the feedback and had its mapmakers create a first proposal, which was largely not well received.
The commission then held another round of hearings seeking direct feedback on the first draft, resulting in the creation of a second set that was rejected by the commission on Thursday.
But members criticized the way the second set of maps appeared to undermine concerns expressed during the second round of hearings.
Michael Schnall, a City Council majority appointee, voted against the maps after criticizing the process overall. Speaking virtually, Schnall said that participation was often difficult as last-minute notifications were given to commission members to participate in meetings. He also took issue with the second set of proposed maps incorporating a new 50th Council District in Staten Island, which would have crossed into Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.
“I am adamantly opposed to the addition of at least 16,000 people from Brooklyn to Council District 50. This move disenfranchises the 16,000 people who deserve adequate and accessible representation,” Schnall said. “They will have to pay a $20 toll and drive 10 miles to see their council member. This is unfair, inequitable and completely avoidable.”
The commission is supposed to complete its work by December 7th, as mandated under the City Charter. The final maps are supposed to be submitted to the city clerk’s office by February 7th next year so they can be officially activated in time for anyone seeking to run for office in a specific district.