It was standing room only at an Emergency Meeting on Redistricting held on Wednesday, August 17th by Councilwoman Mercedes Narcisse (46th District) to address the proposed redistricting of Canarsie.
Eager constituents, crammed into a conference room at Sunrise Adult Day Health Care Center, 9517 Avenue J, and the councilwoman wasted no time informing them, “A large portion of Canarsie was removed from the 46th Council District. We are here to talk about our interests — together. Ten years ago, we had a fight on our hands and here we are again, 10 years later, prepared to do the same thing.”
According to a preliminary map circulated at the meeting, the redistricted section includes the removal of institutions such as the Canarsie Library, for which Narcisse was recently instrumental in securing $1.5 million in funding to renovate the branch. Other important sites removed from the maps include Holy Family Church, Beraca Baptist Church, Four Seasons Nursing Home and the Rockaway Parkway Merchants Corridor, which includes the “L” train station, along with thousands of Canarsie residents.
As the councilwoman explained, “The City Charter requires the City Council and the mayor to appoint an independent Districting Commission, every 10 years, following the census.” That commission is responsible for reviewing “all relevant laws, regulations and most recent census data” in order to make a fair determination regarding which council district boundaries should be redrawn.
The 46th Council District runs from East 108th Street in Canarsie all the way to Sheepshead Bay, encompassing the Bergen Beach, Flatlands, Georgetown, Gerritsen Beach, Marine Park, Mill Basin and Mill Island communities. According to the 2020 Census, the council district experienced a population growth which rendered it eligible to have its boundaries redrawn.
However, Narcisse and other stakeholders from the Canarsie community clearly disagree with the commission’s preliminary maps which were recently released to the public. An important component of redistricting is ensuring neighborhoods and communities of interest remain intact, something community activist Maria Garrett is concerned would not happen if the proposed boundaries get redrawn. “Commissions must follow guidelines,” Narcisse fumed. “And we must be loud and clear in voicing our displeasure.”
In addition, the partitioning of Canarsie into separate council districts would disrupt city services and make funding of schools, parks and other vital institutions much more difficult.
Cyril Bynoe, a Canarsie resident of over 30 years, voiced loudly the muted grumblings of many in the room. “Let’s call this what it really is,” he stated matter-of-factly. “Canarsie has changed. Now, it’s all Black.”
Another longtime Canarsie resident informed the crowd that he was involved in the fight 10 years ago, which Narcisse mentioned at the beginning of the meeting. And although he considers the councilman for the 42nd District, where the “large portion of Canarsie” is slated to go, his friend, he deems it his duty to join this new fight. “I’ll tell you something,” he announced, “what’s happening here is nothing but gerrymandering! Plain and simple!”
Another meeting attendee, who runs a non-profit, stated, “We need to have the Rockaway Parkway Merchant Corridor in our district. We need more funding, not less,” he stressed. “We have to get angry over this.” Norine Medas, Executive Director of the Rockaway Parkway Merchants Association, agreed, citing the work — planting flowers, cleaning the streets, unclogging storm drains (“beautification projects”) — her team, with the assistance of Jennifer Viechweg-Horsford, has been doing for the last five years along the Rockaway Parkway Corridor.
Narcisse invited concerned residents to accompany her to a Public (and final) Hearing at Medgar Evers College on Sunday, August 21st. She encouraged constituents to speak up at the hearing and, if not, to at least show up and support those who would. She also asked anyone unable to attend to submit testimony to the Districting Commission via email, “as soon as possible and no later than Sunday, August 21” and provided sample emails they could use.
“Remember, after Sunday, this is over! Done!” the councilwoman emphasized. “And, as a nurse, when I tell you it’s over, I mean it’s dead. And there’s nothing you or Mercedes could do after that.”
The non-profit owner underscored Narcisse’s point by stating, “Now that we have someone giving us support, we have to give her support in return. If we don’t support her, we would be the loser.”