After two successful campaigns kept Roosevelt Island tightly aligned with Manhattan, a final redistricting map floats the community into neutral territory. A new State Assembly District 36 finds Roosevelt Island unanchored between coasts, belonging in neither Manhattan nor Queens. It also strips away a good chunk of political muscle. A local Democratic club is fighting back.
by David Stone
“After Steuben County Judge Patrick McAllister invalidated the proposed maps for New York’s congressional, state Senate and Assembly districts earlier this year, a special master was appointed to draft new congressional and state Senate maps. While the Assembly maps stayed in place initially, another lawsuit by political activists got them tossed out on appeal,” the online magazine City & State explained.
For Roosevelt Island and the Upper East Side, this means that our current District 76 may be temporary. If the new maps hold, as it appears they will, 76 shrinks into a smaller set of streets and avenues while the new 36 swells from Queens across the East River, consuming significant chunks of Manhattan.
It’s sort of insane, blending unalike neighborhoods in a four-times-mongrel without any clear definition.
Final Redistricting Insanity
“As it stands, Assembly districts don’t span the East River to join Queens and Manhattan. But the new proposed District 36 would bundle into one seat the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Roosevelt Island and the Long Island City and Astoria waterfronts in Queens.”
City and State describes this as “Western Queens and the Upper East Side joining forces.”
It’s more like a giant squid marrying a squirrel with Roosevelt Island serving as a flower girl.
This physical mishmash throws everything in a pot and stirs it with a garden hose. You couldn’t find a less compatible mix since Martin and Lewis, and they needed two decades to heal.
Why This Is Bad for Roosevelt Island and Just About Everyone Else
There is nothing inherently wrong or deficient about Western Queens. Long Island City is a dynamic, rapidly growing neighborhood, and traditional Astoria gave us Tony Bennett.
But there has never been much interplay beyond sharing a bridge with Roosevelt Island. And the wealthy, conservative neighborhoods on the Upper East Side thrive in a separate universe. Tram and subway merge Roosevelt Island more smoothly into Manhattan.
Not only does the new map get it culturally wrong, but it also gouges political power away from the Manhattan side.
As currently aligned, political maps put City Council, State Senate and Assembly in a union. This lets Julie Menin, Liz Kreuger and Rebecca Seawright join forces on issues. The final redistricting map strips Seawright out of the equation.
In that, Roosevelt Island loses one of its best friends and committed supporters.
Can We Win This Issue?
“We did it before. We’ll do it again!” writes Joyce Short, founder of Roosevelt Island’s Main Street Democratic Club. In an email, she’s referring to previous battles preserving a City Council seat and a Senate seat now more tightly binding Roosevelt Island with Manhattan.
While this fight seems far more uphill, she’s organized a local political militia into battle-ready formation, starting with a Zoom conference tomorrow. Here is a document setting things in motion…
A public hearing on the final redistricting maps will be held in Manhattan on February 7th. Details to come.