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Political Club Meets NYC Redistricting Commission to Discuss City Council Lines

Members of the New Kings Democrats called the process overtly political.

A local grassroots political organization has called into question the methods used to determine City Council district lines currently in the process of being redistricted and will be set in stone for the next ten years.

At a meeting with a representative from the New York City Districting Commission Thursday, members of the New Kings Democrats asked why Councilman Steve Levin's 33rd Council District was redrawn to include several thousand Hasidic voters from the bordering 35th District, represented by Councilwoman Letitia James. 

Jonathan Ettricks, the Commission's director of outreach, noted the lines were moved to "maintain a minority population in [District] 35" and to follow the the Voting Rights Act of 1965. 

But members of the group countered that the change in district lines would bring the percentage of black voters in the 35th District from 46 to 48 percent, not an extremely considerable jump. 

“Why should we believe that our voices will be heard when it looks like an extremely political process?” said member Lincoln Restler, who mentioned he will decide by the end of the month if he will challenge Levin to represent the 33rd District in the forthcoming election. 

Echoing the sentiments of many of his fellow members, Restler called the redistricting process a political one, mentioning the decision to rejigger district lines to allow Assemblyman Vito Lopez to run to represent City Council District 34, a District he doesn't live in under the current borders. 

"I would be disingenuous if I said politics were completely removed from the process," Ettricks said. He added that if he were in the group's shoes, he would be "very aggressive in [his] advocacy" to make his voice heard. 

"This is a process where anyone can have their voice heard," Ettricks continued.

The Commission will hold public hearings on the redistricted lines in the coming weeks, with a hearing in Brooklyn scheduled for Thurs., Jan. 9 at Saint Francis College at 180 Remsen St. The hearing will be held in the Founders Hall Auditorium from 6-9 p.m. A final plan is due by March. 

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