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No halt to Council election petitioning for now following suit over Queens district lines, judge rules

Feb. 27, 2023 By Ethan Stark-Miller

A Manhattan Supreme Court judge ruled on Monday that petitioning for the upcoming City Council primaries, set to begin Tuesday, can move forward after a legal defense group filed a suit seeking to delay signature gathering in a bid to alter the council maps approved after last year’s redistricting.

The group, Democracy Program Director of the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), brought the suit over allegations that the city Districting Commission that drew the new council maps violated the City Charter by carving up Asian communities in the Queens neighborhoods of Richmond Hill and South Ozone Park into three separate districts. 

AALDEF brought the suit early Friday on behalf of 18 individual plaintiffs who are area residents and a local group named Desis Rising Up and Moving.

The organization had sought emergency relief to delay City Council petitioning until the maps are redrawn, but Judge Leslie Stroth denied its request to immediately halt petitioning, and instead scheduled a hearing for next Tuesday, March 7.

Jerry Vattamala, AALDEF’s Democracy Program Director, told amNewYork Metro that while it’s disappointing that the group couldn’t delay petitioning altogether, there’s still a chance the judge could pump the brakes on the process next week.

“We didn’t get in front of the judge in enough time to stop that from happening,” Vattamala said. “But she could still grant that relief, it’ll just be a week into it.”

“So she’s allowing that hearing to go forward on March 7, the following Tuesday,” he added. “And that’s where, you know, we’ll get to make our arguments why emergency relief is needed, and the Districting Commission can make their arguments why they think it should be denied. By then, petitioning will [have] been going on for six or seven days and at that point the judge can still say ‘alright we’re going to stop it right now. And stop petitioning from continuing until we resolve this.’ I mean that’s what we’re asking her to do.”

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