On Thursday, in his trademark, “What You Should Know” release, Bronx State Senator Ruben Diaz, Sr. blasted Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver for creating “the most gerrymandered lines in recent New York history.” On Friday, Assemblyman and Democratic Party County Leader Carl Heastie released a letter expressing the Bronx political establishment’s “utter disappointment” with the LATFOR congressional maps and calling on the federal special master to reject the plans.
Under separate plans submitted by the Assembly and Senate majorities, the Bronx is carved into four or five congressional districts.
According to Diaz,

Congressman Eliot Engel’s district is to include 20% of the Bronx; Congressman Charles Rangel’s district in Manhattan is to include 20% of the Bronx; Congresswoman Nita Lowey’s district in Westchester County is to include 5% of the Bronx; a new district to include approximately 30% of the Bronx and  the rest to be shared with Queens County; and Congressman Jose Serrano’s district to include 100% of the Bronx, but with a lower Latino population  in his district. 

Senator Diaz is correct in his assertion. The Bronx is carved up to accomodate the political needs of Rep. Charlie Rangel, Eliot Engel, Joe Crowley and Nita Lowey. Rep. Serrano keeps two-thirds of his current district but sees his Hispanic majority slip to 60% from 66%. Serrano gains a few more NH white constituents. (In reality, he has little to complain about. But who no one believes Serrano whenever he cries wolf.)
Beyond the slicing and dicing of the Bronx to serve political interests, the reconfiguration of Rep. Eliot Engel’s current “majority-minority” district (NY-17) violates the Voting Rights Act.
The minority population rose from 50.9% in 2002 to 56% in 2010 and drops to 44% in the proposed Assembly plan. In contrast, the district’s NH white population fell from 41.3% (2002) to 37.2% (2010) but rises to 48.75% under the new plan. Even worse, the NH White demographic gains a 50% – 42.7% edge in voting age population. Clearly, this proposed plan is a “retrogression” as far as the ability of minority voters to overcome white bloc-voting against minority candidates is concerned.
Logically, if efforts are made to maintain the Rangel and Serrano districts as majority black and Hispanic, respectively, the same VRA imperative pertains in the Engel district which experienced growth in its minority population.
UPDATE: The Assembly makes a similar argument in their letter to Magistrate Mann objecting to the Common Cause plan’s redraw of Rep. Nydia Velasquez‘s tri-borough district. “The currently configured 12th District is 44.55% Hispanic; the proposed district erodes Hispanic influence in this Voting Rights district.” [Page 7]
I urged federal Magistrate Judge Roanne L. Mann to reject the Assembly plan because of its obvious VRA violation. If that does not happen, I expect the Voting Rights section of the USDOJ to make note of this when, and if, some version of these plans is submitted for “pre-clearance” scrutiny.
As Senator Diaz urges, make your voices heard. Call the Assembly switchboard at 800-525-2846 and the Senate switchboard at 518-455-2800 to demand that Speaker Sheldon Silver and Majority Leader Dean Skelos amend these “disrespectful” and illegal plans.
All of the plans and public comments are available at the Federal District Court Eastern District website here.

Do you think these plans do a major disservice to the Bronx? Comment as you see fit.