The new maps, brought on by population changes found in the 2020 Census, were released by the Legislature after the bipartisan Independent Redistricting Commission, made up of an equal number of Democratic and Republican appointees (intended to prevent partisan gerrymandering).
The commission could not agree on a combined map, and thus threw responsibility to the State Legislature, which produced the gerrymandered maps released this weekend.
State legislators are expected to pass the map later this week (when new maps for the New York State Assembly and Senate district maps are also expected to drop) and send it to Gov. Kathy Hochul for her approval.
While the State has long had gerrymandered congressional maps, this one is the first in ages to be developed entirely by a fully-in-control Democratic Party — allowing the majority to shape districts to its whim with no check from the minority.
“They’re definitely drawn with a purpose,” said Steve Romalewski, the legislative mapping guru and head of the Center for Urban Research’s mapping service at the CUNY Graduate Center, whose “Redistricting & You” project has digitized every newly proposed legislative map since the Census. “The legislators are not gonna be in the business of redistricting if they’re not gonna draw the districts with a purpose.”
The state lost a seat during apportionment brought on by the 2020 Census; Albany Democrats, fully in control of redistricting, responded by taking an axe to upstate Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney’s district.
Elsewhere, the legislature drew the maps in such a way to heavily favor Democrats in 22 out of the state’s 26 seats, everywhere from western New York to right in our backyard.
The Swingin’ 11th
The 11th District, represented by Republican Nicole Malliotakis and which currently includes Staten Island and a chunk of southern Brooklyn, has been redrawn to shift its Brooklyn section into more reliably Democratic territory. The Brooklyn section currently includes conservative southern Brooklyn nabes like Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, and Gravesend, but the new maps shift the district boundaries to the west, to instead cover Bay Ridge, Sunset Park, Gowanus, and Park Slope.
That could potentially spell trouble for Malliotakis: the freshman rep was elected in 2020 after beating one-term incumbent Democrat Max Rose by about six percentage points district-wide. While Malliotakis cleaned up in the Staten Island section of the 11th, she narrowly lost in the Brooklyn section. The new Brooklyn section is far friendlier to Democrats, and could allow a Democratic challenger to run up the numbers in Kings County against a Republican with a strong, but not impenetrable, showing on The Rock.
The new 11th district also saw a much higher Democratic turnout in the 2020 presidential race: the number of residents who voted for Joe Biden jumps by over 42,000 in the new district compared to the old one, while the number of Donald Trump voters declines by about 20,000, according to Redistricting & You. That takes the district from one where Donald Trump won by 30,000 votes in 2020, to one where Biden had the edge by 30,000 votes.
“It’s a substantial shift,” Romalewski said. “Those people are not necessarily going to vote the same way for a congressional representative as they do for president, but it definitely is an indication that the lines were drawn for that district in particular in a way that would seem to favor Democratic voters versus Republican voters.”
A spokesperson for Malliotakis, a former Staten Island Assemblymember and candidate for mayor in 2017, called the new boundaries “a blatant attempt by the Democrat leadership in Albany to steal this seat,” but nonetheless said Team Nicole is confident that she can still win reelection in the new 11th.
“This is a blatant attempt by the Democrat leadership in Albany to steal this seat, even after New Yorkers voted twice by ballot referendum for non-partisan maps,” said Malliotakis campaign spokesperson Rob Ryan in a statement. “These are the same cynical politicians that gave us the disastrous bail reform, released criminals from prison, and raised our taxes. They know Congresswoman Malliotakis is popular and they can’t beat her on the merits or public policy, so they are changing the boundaries to tilt the scale. Regardless, Nicole Malliotakis won this proposed district handily when she ran for mayor against Bill de Blasio in 2017 and will do so again.”
The seat has had five holders in the past 12 years, from both parties. While controversy is nothing new in the district, Malliotakis has courted considerable anger among the district’s Democrats for voting against certifying the 2020 presidential election results, citing baseless claims of widespread voter fraud.
Rose declared his 2022 candidacy to retake the seat last year, and while the new boundaries would almost certainly be a boon for him in the general election, he said in a statement that the lines are irrelevant and his only focus is on running Malliotakis out of Washington.
“Whatever the lines end up being doesn’t matter to me. I’m in this race because House Republicans like Nicole Malliotakis would rather tear America apart than help tame inflation, defeat the pandemic, and protect our democracy,” Rose said. “Staten Island and Brooklyn deserve so much more and that’s why I’m running.”
But Rose will first have to get through a Democratic primary against Brittany Ramos DeBarros, a fellow combat veteran, Afro-Latina, and democratic socialist. And the new addition of lefty Park Slope and Sunset Park, both of which have elected progressive women of color to City Hall and Albany in recent years, could be a boon to her campaign.
“When I look at the new lines, what I see are several communities that also just elected bold, working-class women of color like me,” DeBarros told Brooklyn Paper by phone. “Because they also have been underserved and hungry for people who understand the day-to-day struggle of struggling to get by.”
“When we look at the maps, we’ve always said we believed that someone like me could win in this district, even if the lines stayed the same,” DeBarros continued. “But it’s clear that now, we have an even more powerful opportunity to build on the groundbreaking victories that have happened all the way up through Brooklyn.”
Elsewhere in Kings County
Elsewhere in Kings County, the newly redrawn lines probably won’t affect the makeup of New York’s congressional delegation, but many people will see a change in who is representing them in the nation’s Capitol. Nydia Velazquez’s 7th district no longer includes Sunset Park and Park Slope, making up for it by extending further into southeast Queens. Yvette Clarke’s 9th district, meanwhile, is largely the same except it is now entirely east of Prospect Park, and has its southern terminus in Gravesend and Bensonhurst rather than Sheepshead Bay.
The small section of Brooklyn represented by Carolyn Maloney, in the 12th district, is now even smaller, comprising just a morsel of Greenpoint.
Meanwhile, the 8th district of Hakeem Jeffries, one of the top Democratic contenders for Speaker of the House should Nancy Pelosi retire, has barely changed at all, only replacing a section of East New York with a section of Sheepshead Bay.
The most convoluted district in Brooklyn is undoubtedly Jerry Nadler’s 10th district. In the last Congress, it was gerrymandered in a nutty fashion to capture Jewish populations in both Manhattan (the Upper West Side) and Brooklyn (Borough Park), and it still is, but the route it takes is even more ludicrously circuitous: in some sections, the district is literally only a single block wide.
Correction (5:30 pm): This story has been amended with the correct title for Steve Romalewski. It has also been updated to include the maps’ next steps.