By Aliya Schneider
The new Congressional District 3 strips the eastern-most Bronx neighborhoods from the borough and combines them with parts of Westchester, Queens and predominately the north shore of Long Island, leaving some Bronx residents feeling disenfranchised.
East Bronxites sent an open letter with a live petition attached to Gov. Kathy Hochul, state Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, state Assemblyman Michael Benedetto, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and state Sen. Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins on Wednesday, which has now been signed by more than 130 residents.
“Frankly, we have about as much in common with someone in Smithtown, Long Island as we do with someone on the planet Mars,” the letter stated. “These plans are being rushed through without a public hearing because such a hearing would expose these obvious truths.”
The new districts — which will officially shift in January 2023 — were unveiled on Sunday, Jan. 30; the state Legislature passed them on Wednesday and Hochul signed them on Thursday. District 3 has been represented by U.S. Rep. Tom Suozzi, a moderate Democrat who is forgoing reelection to make a bid for governor.
The new District 3 absorbs half of Throggs Neck, Edgewater, Silver Beach, Locust Point, Country Club, Orchard Beach, City Island and part of Pelham Bay Park, all of which were previously part of District 14 per the prior lines that were drawn in 2012 and will stay intact through 2022. District 3 now also travels through Westchester by way of Pelham, and goes all the way up to Rye Brook, absorbing parts of former districts 16 and 17. The new district dips into northeastern Queens and covers the North Shore of Long Island from Kings Point to Nissequogue, an area that was mostly already in District 3, except for the eastern-most part, which was in District 1.
All in all, the waterside Bronx residents are concerned their collective voice will be diminished when it comes to advocating for local issues.
“Who do you think the new Congressional Representative from NY-03 will listen to?” the letter said. “We are taking a big step backward, and once again the Bronx is being short changed to benefit affluent Long Islanders. You are taking solidly lower and middle income neighborhoods of the Bronx that are in need of equitable funding and throwing them together with some of the wealthier areas of the state. We don’t go to the same schools, take the same transportation, have the same municipalities or services nor do we share the same problems or interests.”
The new District 3 will be almost 40% more white than U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s former District 14, which the Bronx shoreline communities have been a part of. Ocasio-Cortez declined to comment for this article.
The east Bronxites will be emerging from a district that is just under 21% white, 48.5% Hispanic, almost 19% Asian and more than 8% Black, to one that is 60% white, just under 18% Hispanic, almost 15% Asian and just under 4% Black.
They will also be shifting from a district where almost 74% of votes in the 2020 presidential election went to President Joe Biden to one that leans more Republican, as only 57% of the new District 3 population voted for Biden. Prior to the newly drawn lines, District 3 only encapsulated the North Shore of Long Island and parts of northeastern Queens, and was almost 62% white, just under 13% Hispanic, 19% Asian and just under 3% Black.
After Hochul signed off on the new districts Thursday, Biaggi, a Progressive from Pelham, viewed the new district with optimism in a statement to the Bronx Times.
“As a resident of the new NY-03 district myself, I think there is a lot more that unites us than divides us, and this district gives us a real opportunity to bridge communities along the Sound,” Biaggi said. “The best representative for this district will be one who understands the needs of the East Bronx, and who will fight for working families from Suffolk to Westchester.”
A few days later, on Monday, Biaggi announced she is running for the congressional seat.
Benedetto, who represents the east Bronx in the Assembly, told the Bronx Times he was disappointed with the congressional lines, and said the district may have to be “sacrificial land” for the “greater good for the entire state of New York.”
He said on Wednesday — the day before Hochul signed off on the new maps — that two of the prospective candidates for the new District 3 — neither of which are Biaggi — already reached out to him, and he feels an obligation to educate them on the district’s needs. Six Long Island Democrats have already announced bids to represent District 3.
“And I will be telling them of this district and how we are afraid that they will get elected and then disappear and not pay attention to us,” he said.
The Newsday editorial board referenced estimates that the new District 3 consists of 66% Long Island voters, 20% Westchester voters, 11% Queens voters and 3% Bronx voters.
Benedetto said he was told the new district consists of about 800,000 people, 30,000 of which are from the Bronx, making the borough just under 4% of the overall district.
Minority advocacy groups expressed disappointment in the new districts, and Republicans filed a lawsuit in the New York Supreme Court that claims the new maps violate the state’s constitution.
Reach Aliya Schneider at [email protected] or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes.
This story first appeared on BxTimes.com.