Using forceful language and logic, 76th District State Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright argued in favor of Roosevelt Islanders’ interests. Her message, delivered for a Districting Commission hearing, reasoned against a proposed map that shifts the community’s representation into Queens. Seawright has represented Roosevelt Island and the Upper East Side since 2015.
Because the state legislature is in session, requiring her attendance in Albany, AM Seawright was unable to appear in person. Following is a verbatim copy of her statement provided by her office.
Testimony of NYS Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright
NYS Independent Redistricting Commission
Tuesday, February 7, 2023
Dear Chair Jenkins, Vice Chair Nesbitt, and Commissioners of the New York State Independent Redistricting Commission:
I am Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright, and I have represented New York’s 76th Assembly District since 2015.
The 76th Assembly District has historically included neighborhoods in New York County including Lenox Hill, Yorkville, Roosevelt Island, and much of Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
I respectfully but strongly object to the Commission’s draft lines for the 76th Assembly District, which would sever Roosevelt Island’s historic ties to Manhattan’s Upper East Side. In so doing, the IRC’s draft map fails to maintain the core of the existing district, blithely ignores pre-existing political subdivisions, and artificially divides communities of mutual interest within New York County.
In terms of governance, Roosevelt Island has always been part of New York County. Throughout modern history, this Assembly district – and specifically Roosevelt Island – has been located entirely within the boundaries of Manhattan Community Board 8, and within the same congressional district that has always been entirely or mostly located within New York County.
Roosevelt Island has also always been included in congressional, State Senate, and State Assembly districts that also were entirely or mostly comprised of neighboring communities in Manhattan. In municipal elections, Roosevelt Island residents vote for offices from Manhattan Borough President to New York County District Attorney. Roosevelt Islanders share with their Manhattan neighbors a school district, a library system, and a Municipal Court district. And in the New York City Council, Roosevelt Island has always been included with other New York County neighborhoods in the same district.
There are many other significant ties that make Roosevelt Island an intrinsic part of the fabric of New York County, including transit connections and demographic and economic communities of interest. Roosevelt Island and its neighboring communities in Manhattan each include significant populations of skilled health care and tech sector workers and graduate students; workers at the United Nations and related non-governmental organizations and non-profits; and a high percentage of senior citizens. Large employers affiliated to Cornell University like the Weill Cornell Medical Center on the Upper East Side and Cornell Technion University on Roosevelt Island, operate in synergy in no small part because of the interconnectivity of the two neighborhoods. Like its neighboring Manhattan Upper East Side communities, Roosevelt Island also features many high-rise apartment buildings and significant open recreational space and parkland along its East River waterfront.
Without any significant rationale – other than, perhaps, juggling its population figures for convenience’ sake – the Independent Redistricting Commission has seen fit to sever Roosevelt Island’s historic role as part of New York County and, for the first time ever, include it an Assembly district otherwise composed largely of neighborhoods in Queens County. The patchwork nature of the resulting hodgepodge district would prove a tremendous disservice to the thousands of New Yorkers living in the special, unique environment that is Roosevelt Island.
I respectfully but very strongly object to the Independent Redistricting Commission’s draft Assembly map that would artificially remove Roosevelt Island from its legal status and official geographic designation as part and parcel of New York County. I urge Commission Members to restore Roosevelt Island to a single-borough Assembly district located entirely within New York County.
Thank you for the opportunity to offer this testimony today.