Some East Side residents are saying, hell no, we won’t go--into a new assembly district that leaps the East River and ties them into a Queens district around Long Island City.
Under a redistricting proposal now being floated by the New York State Independent Redistricting Commission, much of the East Side of Manhattan between East 42nd Street and East 60th Street, as well as Roosevelt Island, would be part of a redistricted Assembly District 36 that currently embraces Astoria, Astoria Heights and Ditmars-Steinway neighborhoods in Queens.
The plan was blasted at the community board six meeting on Jan. 11. which voted nearly unanimously against the plan to move about 60 blocks of Manhattan’s East Side and Roosevelt Island to the Queens-based Assembly district. The vote by 39 to 1 vote with one absention “strongly urges that these areas remain in a Manhattan-based State Assembly District.”
“The idea of having a district split amongst counties is really nonsensical,” says Kyle Athayde, the chair of Manhattan Community Board Six. “This is not as though we’re adding a couple of blocks in one direction, this is literally crossing a river.”
NYS Assembly representatives who would be impacted by the redrawn lines include’s disrict 74 represented by Harvey Epstein--which currently includes part of the lower East Side, the East Village and Midtown East-- and Alex Bores, in district 73 who has much of the upper East Side as well as parts of midtown East, Turtle Bay, Murray Hill and Sutton Place.
“It’s a move that’s very similar to the first draft of the city council maps that we went through a few months ago,” said assembly member Bores. “And residents spoke up and testified about how important it was to keep Manhattan together as one borough.”
“Thankfully, they fixed those maps,” Bores continued, adding that he hopes similar actions can be taken now in the case of the proposed new state assembly districts.
There does appear to be time to wrangle for different district lines. Epstein, who was elected in a special election to succeed Brian Kavanaugh after he moved to the State Senate in 2018 was reelected for a term that runs to Jan. 1, 2025. Bores, a political activist who won in his first run for elected office in November, also has a term that runs until Jan. 1, 2025.
And in district 36 in Queens, Zohran Kwane Mamdani, a naturalized American citizen and the first South Asian elected to the Assembly, also has a term that also runs until Jan. 1 2025.
Athayde said one reason for the pushback is the worry that denizens on the East Side of Manhattan would have their concerns relegated to the back burner if they were part of a district that counted Queens residents as the majority. While Athayde stresses that this is a concern voiced by constituents and not necessarily the position of the board, some in the district have mentioned a fear that their political voice could be diluted.
“One thing we’ve heard about this is people in the district feeling this is diluting their democratic voice,” says Athayde. “If there’s just a sliver of Manhattan....how do Manhattanites get taken into consideration?”
“An elected official would obviously go with the democratic process, majority rules. So if Queens says, ‘We need [some] money for our specific park,’ what happens to everything in Manhattan?” he asked. As a particularly politically engaged district, the local community has not been shy about airing their concerns. “There’s a sense of exasperation from the community about these lines, because they just don’t make sense,” Athayde concludes.
Assemblymen Epstein had not returned a call at the time of publication.
“There is a sense of exasperation about these lines.” Kyle Athayde, Chairman, CB6