New York City Districting Commission creates its own community mapping tool

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On July 27, the New York City Districting Commission released its own online mapping tool. The tool is an NYC-version of DistrictR, a free browser-based tool for drawing districts and mapping out your surroundings.

This new innovation will allow New Yorkers to create their own City Council Districts, which will then be submitted to the Commission as their public testimony

“This is a big step forward in digital democracy,” said Commission Chair Dennis Walcott. “Never before have New Yorkers had this kind of opportunity for full participation in the mapmaking process.”

The software gives all New Yorkers permission to utilize the data and mapping capabilities like those used by the Commission to create maps. Some components people can access are population data, census blocks, citizen voting age population data by race, existing Council district lines, Community Board boundaries and the new 5% population deviation legal requirement. The city’s mapmakers, Redistricting Partners, created this opportunity.

These New Yorker-made maps are so important because if the Commission were to break apart communities into smaller and smaller pieces, getting your voice across to the government will be even more difficult. Strong, established communities play an important part in democratic representation.

There are 3 different categories of grouping. Blocks represent demographics only, Block groups represent demographics, income, homeownership, broadband access and other ACS data and Precincts represent election results and demographics.

A new City Council plan is drawn every 10 years. This is done to bring NYC in compliance with the Constitutional doctrine of one-person, one vote, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the charter of the City of New York. Currently, NYC is in its mapmaking phase.

This new DistrictR software came from the hard work of nearly 500 New Yorkers spanning across the 5 boroughs. From May through June these dedicated citizens went to public hearings to make their desires heard. The Commission even received testimony via Zoom and by email.

This led up to the independent District Commission vote on the Preliminary Plan on Friday, July 15 which went through with the demands of city goers. You can now access the district mapping tool here.