A new redistricting map set to be released by the New York City Districting Commission later this month has the South Asian community in Queens fearful of losing electoral power over the next 10 years.
The location of district lines determines which voters can vote in each representative race. The U.S. Constitution requires legislative and congressional districts to be redrawn every decade based on new census data. South Asians are one of the city’s fastest-growing racial and ethnic groups, with more than 330,000 residents, or 4 percent of the population, NY1 reported in 2019.
Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park in Queens, which have large numbers of Punjabi, Indo-Caribbean and Bangladeshi residents, will be covered in the revised map.
But experts and advocates argue that the city’s redistricting process will further segregate these populations. The current council maps are already divided into Districts 28, District 32 and part of District 29.
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Adrienne Adams, speaker for the New York City Council, said in a press release in August that the draft maps dilute Latino and Black voters’ voices and called South Asian communities in Southeast Queens “unfairly divided.”
“It is critical that new City Council district lines not only keep communities of interest together, but also preserve principles that were established to protect and enfranchise historically marginalized communities of color,” Adams added.
The redistricting divides and harms communities, according to South Asian advocates.
“The fear that we have is, if right now if 10% of our community is in one district, 12% is in another district, 15% is in another district, that they don’t make up a concise majority in any of these districts to be able to advocate for the funding that they might need,” Jagpreet Singh, political director of Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM), told Gothamist.
South Asian immigrants in Queens will be adversely affected by the redistricting. Some residents in Richmond Hill hold green cards but fail the citizenship test because there is a lack of funding for English classes, Singh added.
He pointed out that housing is also an issue, with many South Asians living in basements and lacking resources.
Felicia Singh, a South Asian candidate who ran to represent District 32, told the Gothamist that the redistricting process often forgets about immigrant communities.
“This is not just a battle of lines,” Felicia said. “This is a strategic movement of people that either the commission cares about or they don’t.”