Last year, as required by the City Charter and by population shifts recorded in the 2000 census, the City Council adopted new district lines. These lines equalized population among compact and contiguous districts, kept whole the large majority of the citys neighborhoods, and created two majority-minority districts, one that has historically preferred African-American candidates by wide margins, the other with a Hispanic plurality. It is my opinion that the lines adopted in 2003 were fair and legal.
It is clear, however, that many New Rochelle citizens of good will, particularly in the African-American community, disagree. Concerns about African-American voting strength were the basis for a federal lawsuit and the subject of many heated debates during the past year.
I believe strongly that government officials have an obligation to listen with respect to critical views and strive to achieve compromise and mutual understanding when possible. For this reason, the new Council majority has worked diligently in recent months to craft a compromise plan that addresses the objections voiced by the most prominent critics of last years map.
Yesterday, the lead plaintiffs in the federal lawsuit accepted the Citys settlement offer. The new map features a reconstituted Third Council District that encompasses all of Rochelle Heights, the bulk of French Ridge, and City Park, and has a black population exceeding 51%.
The local Republican leadership remains opposed to this settlement and has been assigned a date in May to make its case in court. But with the Voting Rights concerns articulated by the local NAACP now resolved, it is highly likely that the settlement map will become law.
I am pleased that this difficult and sensitive debate has been largely resolved and that the community can move forward now in a spirit of common purpose to address other challenges.
The proposed changes to the Fifth Council District are as follows:
Most of Bonnie Crest (from District Six)
Portions of Sunset View (from District Three)
Portions of Halcyon Park (from District Three)
Portions of the East End (from District Three)
Rochelle Heights (to District Three)
Chatsworth Neighborhood (to District Three)
City Park/MacLeay Houses (to District Three)