NOTED & QUOTED: Redistricting update: Uptown Latinos push to increase political power
Rep. Charles Rangel opposes plan from the Dominican American National Roundtable
By Joe Tepper And Michael J. Feeney / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Sunday, March 4, 2012, 4:00 AM
Congressman Charles Rangel understands Latinos want to be represented in Congress – he just doesn’t want it to cost him his job.
“I can’t blame any group or people who would like to be represented at the highest position possible,” he told the Daily News in a statement. “But as any elected official would say – just not at my expense.”
Rangel soldified his political career representing African Americans in the 15th district which was drawn to encompass a large black population.
Changing demographics in Harlem and across the city have led to a push for a new district that would include the growing Latino population.
Rangel’s 15th district covers all of Upper Manhattan, a small portion of the Bronx and Rikers Island.
The new district – proposed by the Dominican American National Roundtable – would represent Washington Heights, Inwood, the west Bronx and Corona and Jackson Heights in Queens.
Supporters contend creating the seat would fairly represent the 2.1 million Latinos in the city, an 8% increase from 2000 to 2010.
Census data from 2010 show the 15th Congressional District is currently 46% Latino. Though the Hispanic population in the district was 50% in 2000, it dropped less dramatically than the black population which fell 18%.
The new district would be 66% Hispanic.
Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez is confident the new district will become a reality. How that happens remains to be seen.
“Now that the maps are submitted, this process is headed to the courts, and I’m confident that the judges will see the reality of the numbers,” said Rodriguez. “Our community has grown and the only fair outcome of redistricting in Northern Manhattan would be the election of a third Latino to our city’s Congressional delegation, an effort that I think Congressman Rangel appreciates.”
If the Roundtable’s plan is approved, Rangel’s district would shift to include the Bronx and Westchester – which he has strongly opposed.
With powerful politicians and advocacy groups at odds, a federal judge in Brooklyn has been appointed to redraw the state’s congressional boundaries by March 12.
Sen. Adriano Espaillat called the push for a new district “democracy at its very best.”
“Having witnessed a population explosion in the last two decades and to say that there are only two Latino Congressional members out of 13 is a travesty that we will overturn this year,” he said.
Miguel Santana, chairman of the Dominican American National Roundtable, along with Rodriguez and Espaillat led a march from Inwood to the Bronx on Feb. 26 to rally for the new seat.
Santana said the march down W. 207th St. into the Bronx was also symbolic because many residents have also left Upper Manhattan for the northern borough.
“We need representation,” he said. “We need another elected official that can actually represent this growing population.”
The chances of this new district becoming a reality is likely, said one expert.
“Both parties want to capture Hispanic votes to the extent this is a way to capture those votes,” said David Birdsell, dean of Baruch College’s School of Public Affairs.
“Nobody wants to be in the position of denying this additional seat.”