While emotional appeals rally sentiment at public meetings and help fill petitions on Redistricting, City Council Member Julie Menin takes a different track. In a detailed letter (see below), she tells Districting Commission head, Dennis Walcott, why separating Roosevelt Island from Manhattan District 5 isn’t wise. Her logic includes Sutton Place and other pieces of the Upper East Side district in its appeal.
by David Stone
On Redistricting, a Logical Approach
“The preliminary maps significantly altered the composition of my District,” she writes, “as almost 50,000 residents in Roosevelt Island, the Upper East Side, and Sutton Place were redistricted into Council District 26, a majority Queens District.
“I urge the commission to consider amending their preliminary maps to ensure that these neighborhoods are included in a majority Manhattan Council District and these communities of interest are preserved.”
“District lines shall keep intact neighborhoods and communities with established ties of common interest and association, whether historical, racial, economic, ethnic, religious or other.”– New York City Charter.
But, she points out, the preliminary maps violate that.
“Notably,” she writes, “the preliminary maps shift many schools from Council District 5 into Council District 26. Three elementary schools redistricted into Council District 26 — P.S. 158, P.S. 183, and P.S. 217 (on Roosevelt Island), all will remain in Manhattan’s School District 2, but would be represented by a Council Member who primarily represents Queens School Districts 24 and 30.”
In a similar vein, she coolly dissects the preliminary maps’ failings with transportation and parks.
“The redistricting proposal also separates key transportation networks and decimates significant parkland from Council District 5. The Roosevelt Island Tram would be represented by two different Council Districts and the MTA’s F train, a critical transportation artery for the island would have three separate Council Members representing the Roosevelt Island station and its two adjacent stops.
“Despite strong and longstanding ties, District 5 would no longer have many parks including portions of the East River Esplanade, Sutton Place Park, John Jay Park, and Andrew Haswell Green Park. The majority of District 26 residents do not have easy access to these parks and would need to cross the East River to utilize this valuable green space.
“Separating parks and transportation networks into different Council Districts,” she analyzes, “will have detrimental effects on funding these public spaces receive from the City of New York.
“Council District 5 currently ranks 47th out of 51 Council Districts in terms of green space and with the loss of those parks would rank even lower.”
Getting the Job Done
After years working in city government, Menin shows a keen awareness of what works. She headed three agencies, learning along the way.
Led locally by Joyce Short and Lynne Strong-Shinozaki, resistance to radical changes the preliminary maps threaten for Roosevelt Island is strong. And Menin says she’s been listening. Her ability to raise common sense out of the emotions expressed on redistricting is a gift that serves the community well.