Testimony to the New York State Redistricting Commission Public Hearing
Thursday, July 29, 2021
Karen Peterson Young
Thank you for holding this public hearing and allowing me to testify.
My name is Karen Peterson Young, I live in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and I’m with the #DrawDemocracy Campaign. #DrawDemocracy is a partnership of RepresentUS NYC and True Democracy NY. RepresentUs NYC is the New York City chapter of RepresentUS, the nation’s largest grassroots, nonpartisan anti-corruption organization. True Democracy NY, a 501(c)4 nonprofit organization, is a non-partisan group of New Yorkers dedicated to changing the systemic dysfunction and corruption of New York politics. Find us at hashtag drawdemocracy or drawdemocracy.org.
We have created what we believe to be the first ever jigsaw puzzle based on electoral districts, of the New York State Senate. When you see their shapes, you have one question: Why?
When you do the research, which you can access on our website, the “why” becomes clear. These districts were drawn to protect incumbents and the party who drew them, not to represent communities.
I live in State Senate District 25, which includes some of the richest neighborhoods like Boerum Hill near downtown, and some of the poorest, like Ocean Hill in the east. An odd section hanging off to the southwest cuts out Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill – except for one block – and skips to Red Hook and a small slice of coast to its south, including Industry City but little else in Sunset Park.
I’m lucky because most of my neighborhood is contained in one district. But these other bits and pieces of wildly different and far-flung communities are all deprived of representation as communities. Red Hook and Sunset Park have tremendous issues with coastal flooding and waterfront development. But they’re a small part of a mostly landlocked district. Sunset Park is Brooklyn’s poster child for the damage wrought by gerrymandering. It is cut up into a million pieces and the population – about 2/3 Asian and Latino – simply doesn’t have fair representation.
So I have drawn up what I believe to be a better version of District 25. It cuts off Red Hook and Sunset Park. It includes the northern part of Crown Heights, which shares the business districts of Atlantic Ave, Fulton St and Nostrand Ave with Bed-Stuy. If it holds too many people, I would cut off Brooklyn Heights and/or downtown, as they have a different character from the less wealthy eastern area. I hope you will consider a district like this to be your model.