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In Redistricting Shuffle, Over Half a Million New Yorkers Gained or Lost Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, For Better or Worse They Say

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks at Elmhurst Hospital, June 4, 2021.Hiram Alejandro Durán/THE CITY

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This article was originally published by The CITY on June 8

With media attention fixated on candidates for the newly drawn 10th and 12th Congressional Districts in Manhattan, it’s possible to forget that borders for the U.S. House of Representatives have been rearranged across the boroughs.

This includes areas of Brooklyn, Queens and The Bronx, repped by such high-profile Congress members as Ritchie Torres (D-The Bronx), Nydia Velazquez (D-Brooklyn/Queens/Manhattan) and Grace Meng (D-Queens), as well as one of the nation’s most well-known progressive politicians, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-The Bronx/Queens).

Since Ocasio-Cortez defeated longtime party boss Joe Crowley in 2018 to take her House seat, she has become a darling of the progressive wing of the Democratic Party — and a frequent target of attacks by Republicans and right-wing media.

She has also become nationally known for her skills as a communicator and fundraiser — and is beloved by many of her constituents.

But due to redistricting in Queens and The Bronx, more than half a million New Yorkers will be gaining or losing Ocasio-Cortez as their member of Congress. In total, 329,291 will gain her, while 302,344 will lose her, according to an analysis by THE CITY of court-ordered congressional districts approved in May. Across the city, nearly 3 million New Yorkers will have their congressional district changed.

While many say they are sad to lose their popular Washington rep, many others say they are happy to have her. Some say they couldn’t care less either way, or that they would rather keep their current representative over Ocasio-Cortez.

Electoral Whiplash

For New Yorkers like Nancy Silverman, the once-a-decade redistricting process has felt like a roller coaster, inducing a range of emotions, high and low.

As a 22-year resident of Astoria, Silverman has been repped by Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D-Queens/Manhattan) for decades.

In January, when Albany released its new congressional lines, Silverman rejoiced as she realized her block would newly be in the 14th Congressional District, with Ocasio-Cortez.

“I was excited when I saw those lines change,” Silverman told THE CITY.

Congressional Rep. Nydia Velázquez (U.S. Congress)

But the elation of having a celebrity representative faded a few months later. In April, a panel of state judges ruled the legislature’s lines were unconstitutional.

Last month, when the court appointee’s version of congressional lines was finalized, Silverman discovered that she was once again redistricted.
Her home is now within the new boundaries of the 7th Congressional District, currently represented by Velazquez.

“The switch around really was terrible,” Silverman said. “That I ended up represented by a member of Congress who really is associated with Brooklyn makes me feel left out.”

Silverman noted that while she’s confident Velazquez (if reelected) will try her best to get to know and serve the residents of Astoria, she doesn’t have faith that it will be her priority.

In a virtual town hall in late May, Ocasio-Cortez acknowledged her district’s new lines.

“Tragically, very sadly, we have lost Woodside and Sunnyside as neighborhoods in New York’s 14th Congressional District,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “If you live in those neighborhoods, I will continue to be your member of Congress until December 31st.”

Her district will also lose parts of Jackson Heights in Queens and Allerton in The Bronx, while adding more of Astoria and Co-Op City and Hunts Point in The Bronx.

A spokesperson for Ocasio-Cortez said since the new lines won’t take effect until next year, constituents should go to their current rep if they need help with a federal matter.

“If their issue is likely to take more than a year to resolve…we will work with their new member to transition their case when January comes,” said Ocasio-Cortez spokesperson Lauren Hitt. “But under Congressional rules, we can only help constituents we currently serve.”

In the Democratic primary election, Ocasio-Cortez faces one challenger, Edgardo Marrero. THE CITY could not reach Marrero for comment.

Several other candidates, including four Republicans and Libertarian Jonathan Howe, are also vying for the House seat. But Democratic and Republican primary ballots are not finalized because petitioning continues until June 10.

Congressional District 14. The existing map is on the left, with the revised map to the right. The revised map cuts out Sunnyside, Woodside and much of Jackson Heights– while it covers more of Astoria. (Source: REDISTRICTING & YOU: New York)

Speaking to People

Morry Galonoy, 53, chair of Queens Community Board 2, is one of the Woodside residents bummed to lose Ocasio-Cortez as his representative. He said that he was speaking in his personal capacity and not on behalf of the board.

“I can’t say I’m not disappointed,” Galonoy said. “Whenever you see young people get excited and want to be involved in the process, that makes me happy.”

He commended Ocasio-Cortez for her work for the district, but said he remained optimistic for his community’s likely new representative, Velazquez.

Nathian Rodriguez, associate professor of digital media studies at San Diego State University and co-author of a research paper on Ocasio-Cortez’ political fandom on Twitter, said that she appeals widely because “she is real and she’s raw,” cultivating relationships with people through her candid communication style on social media.

But it goes beyond that, he noted.

“People identify with her because of her culture because she’s wearing the hoop earrings and she’s wearing the red lipstick and she’s a Latina,” Rodriguez told THE CITY. “And she’s speaking to people from a place that they can identify with and a place that they usually don’t see themselves represented on any platform.”

‘We Really Don’t Care for Her’

On Friday, along a stretch of Broadway in a section of Astoria that will become part of the newly drawn 14th District next year, local resident Carolina Bolivar, 38, said that she wasn’t aware that she had been redistricted until THE CITY told her.

Although she said all politicians, Democrats and Republicans, seem more interested in division than unity these days, she hoped Ocasio-Cortez would listen to her new constituents’ concerns about mental health, parenting and the environment.

“These things are so important for us, for moms,” said Bolivar, a mother of two small children. “We need to get more support to families, so we can all thrive.”

Debra Woodside, 61, said she and her husband are going to miss Maloney, who is running against her longtime congressional colleague, U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler, for the newly drawn 12th District that covers parts of Manhattan but doesn’t include Queens.

Woodside wasn’t initially familiar with Ocasio-Cortez — “What do they stand for, the A.O.C.?” — but then realized that she and her husband aren’t fans.

“We really don’t care for her, to be honest,” Woodside said.

She admitted, though, “I can’t give specific reasons.”

Other passersby said they couldn’t care less about having Ocasio-Cortez as their new representative.

Local resident Morgan LaMour, 19, said she wasn’t surprised by the disapproval of Ocasio-Cortez by some people in the community, but noted that she wasn’t among them.

“She’s a force for positive change,” LaMour said of Ocasio-Cortez.

With redistricting all but ensuring that Ocasio-Cortez will replace Maloney as the area’s member of Congress, LaMour added: “I think it’s pretty cool.”

THE CITY is an independent, nonprofit news outlet dedicated to hard-hitting reporting that serves the people of New York.

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