It’s back to “Hello, Queens,” for Roosevelt Island as the City Council Districting Commission imploded yesterday. Freshly drawn maps were rejected, putting initial maps shoving the community into Queens back in play. But local advocates say, “Not so fast…”
by David Stone
Hello, Queens… Redux
When the Districting Commission, forced by the 2020 Census, made the first stab at realigning City Council Districts, some results were simply bizarre. District 5, which embraces Roosevelt Island, shifted chunks of Manhattan into Queens.
The borough switch cut Hunter College in half along Lexington Avenue. And parts of the Gold Coast floated across the East River, towed there by the quirky jewel of Roosevelt Island.
But with insightful support from current representative Julie Menin, local activists rallied. Roosevelt Islanders turned out in large, Roosevelt Island red-shirted numbers at a hearing and in a letter-writing campaign.
It paid off. Commission mapmakers redrew the community back into Manhattan District 5, readied for a City Council vote. But before it was over, the Hello, Queens refrain could be heard rising in the distance.
So, What Went Wrong?
Roosevelt Island, the Gold Coast and Hunter College got sabotaged apparently in favor of Staten Island. In a hair-raising switch, Mayor Eric Adams’s Commission appointees teamed up with Republicans (not a misprint) and erased the new maps.
They didn’t like how the city’s tiniest borough got cut up.
“Disarray” was a common term for the resulting kerfuffle. Why this waited for spilling like curdled milk at the last minute is anyone’s guess.
But not so fast say advocates for common sense.
Main Street Democratic Club leader Joyce Short was quick in reacting. She along with Community Board 8 Member Lynne Strong-Shinozaki had marshaled local protests. Now, she asks Roosevelt Islanders to fire up their pens again.
The problem with the old, but now new maps is that they undercut political and community unity. While every other locally elected official would be Manhattan-based, the City Council would be in Astoria.
This is like sticking a needle in a bank of balloons, wasting one of them. Politically speaking.
But the power players from Short to Menin advise taking a breath and – also – some action.
“We need more letters!!” Short exhorted Roosevelt Islanders. Please use this link.”
But Julie Menin was patient. She did not release a statement. Her years of experience in city government softens the impact of immediate events, and of course, the current disarray is not permanent.
The Commission may regroup and find a Staten Island compromise that returns sanity to districting, and even if they don’t, the final mapping decision remains with the City Council.
The Districting Commission is advisory, and if their advice wanders close to nuts, the Council may chuck it in the fire with the yule logs in December.