As aging hipsters with fixed-gear-related knee problems lament the loss of a once cutting-edge cultural locale, federal judges seem to be taking notice of the proliferation of absinthe, oysters, mohair and condos in one of the world's hippest neighborhoods.
Proposed federal congressional redistricting in New York City reinforces a demographic trend that ties the adjoining North Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, as well as Queens' Long Island City and Astoria, with Manhattan's Upper East Side. While these outer-borough neighborhoods have often faced criticisms of filling to the brim with hipsters -- otherwise known as well-off, young white people -- a remapping of New York's 12th and 14th congressional districts would separate these areas from their more diverse neighbors. Exodus to Bushwick, much?
The redistricting sea change points to rapidly fluctuating demographics in an area once dominated by Polish immigrants and Puerto Ricans; residents now have more in common with Upper East Side dwellers. Though race lingers at the heart of the issue, economic development has as much to do with the transition as anything. The influx of bistros, boutiques and bars in the North Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods is just one indicator; the exodus of DIY art spaces from the area -- such as the Live With Animals/Secret Project Robot/Monster Island space to make room for a Whole Foods -- is but another. The great unifier in the situation appears to be the spread of condos along the East River in Manhattan, Long Island City and North Brooklyn alike. So before Williamsburg becomes a sterilized marker of pure class, you may head to your favorite dive and lament that this neighborhood has really changed, man. Because it has. And the feds want you to vote with those you're most like: UE$ yuppies.
The most concrete data come in a demographic breakdown of the proposed districts. While the lines are drawn strictly by population (there are 717,707 or 717,708 residents per district), race divides the new districts just as sharply. The proposed District 12 would be home to a 67 percent non-Hispanic white population and a 13.3 percent Hispanic origin-population. The population in the newly drawn District 7 will cap at 27.8 percent non-Hispanic white and 43.1 percent Hispanic origin.
District 14 -- which will become District 12 as New York loses two House seats -- currently includes most of Manhattan's East Side and Western Queens, including Astoria, under the jurisdiction of Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney. Maloney run in the proposed District 12, which currently includes not only Williamsburg and Greenpoint, but extends south along the waterfront and across the East River to the East Village. District 12 currently also stretches east into Bushwick, Brooklyn, and Glendale and Fresh Pond, Queens. This is simply number-shuffling: Maloney's core constituents in Long Island City and the East Side of Manhattan will remain. Democratic Rep. Nydia Velazquez currently represents a Voting Rights Act-protected Latino district. She would retain control of District 7.
The new boundaries were drawn by the office of Magistrate Judge Roanne L. Mann, who was appointed by a trio of federal judges ultimately deciding the districts' fates. Mann's federal appointment came in the wake of legal action intended to redraw voter boundaries. The lawsuit alleged that redistricting stalled before an earlier-than-normal June 26 primary; as a result, districts began drawing their own boundaries. Majority parties in the state Senate and Assembly submitted newly drawn maps to a Brooklyn federal court just before midnight last Tuesday, pushing a Wednesday deadline to its absolute brink. To be clear, the racial division appears to be intentional and seen as a strong indicator of community building. This writer (who, full disclosure, lives in North Brooklyn and loves it there) seeks only to present the change.