Sunday, April 7, 2013

Citizens' Committee on Children Issues Map for Advocacy: "Know Your Geography: City Council Districts and Community Districts"

The Citizens' Committee on Children recently (March 27, 2013) issued a pair of overlapping maps, New York City Council districts and Community Districts. As the title implies, these maps are useful for community advocates, professional and volunteer. (My blog's old address carries a map of New York City school districts. The shading refers to the mid-2000s "regions" that the New York City Department of Education had, in one of their numerous pointless reorganizations.)

In the light of the current scandal embroiling among New York City Councilors and New York State legislators, it is interesting to consider: are the apparent disparities in educational resources between one councilmanic district and an adjacent one (within a single New York City school district) the result of unfair power of certain city councilors or are the disparities the result of mis-placed priorities on the part of city councilors? (So far, among the arrested in this scam to rig the Republican nomination of Queens Democrat Malcolm Smith are: Smith himself, Dan Halloran, Eric Stevenson and Joseph "Jay" Savino. Link is to story by Bob Kappstatter and David Cruz in the Bronx Times, April 4, 2013)

(For those just becoming aware of the matter --steady attention to the issue is unfortunately not a first page priority for the New York Times-- During the week of April 1, 2013, a number of Democratic and Republican city councilors and state legislators, hailing from a number of New York City boroughs, were arrested for their involvement in a plot to rig the 2013 New York City mayoral election. Why did the New York Times put this article on Christine Quinn, mayoral front-runner, and by many reports, current mayor Michael Bloomberg's hand puppet for a fourth term, and complaints about her role in councilmanic funds disbursements on page 20 instead of the front page?: Michael Grynbaum, April 4, "Councilman’s Boast Revives Question of Quinn’s Oversight")

FOR EFFECTIVE ADVOCACY, KNOW YOUR GEOGRAPHY: CITY COUNCIL DISTRICTS & COMMUNITY DISTRICTS

Keeping Track includes hundreds of indicators of child well-being at the community level. These data allow advocates, researchers, policymakers, and community members to understand the varying needs of children across New York City.

But when we bring Keeping Track to our local City Council Members, they often ask what the numbers mean for their constituents. Most of “community-level” data we collect from city and state agencies, and from other sources like the Census Bureau, are reported at the community district level.[1] But community districts and council districts are not the same.

Council districts are political boundaries and must be redrawn every ten years, after each decennial census, to ensure equal representation in city government, in compliance with the constitutional requirement of “one-person, one-vote.” Unfortunately for our local representatives, very few data – beyond basic demographic information – are available at the council district level.

Community districts, on the other hand, are administrative districts that exist mainly for community planning purposes. Their boundaries tend to (but don’t always!) follow natural neighborhood dividing lines (think large avenues or park boundaries) and encompass one or more whole neighborhoods. Many city agencies collect and report data by community district for planning purposes.

The map above shows the relationship between New York City’s current council districts[2] and the community districts. You can also download a more detailed version of the map that includes a table identifying the council districts and members and their corresponding community districts.

Understanding the geography of the data we report is critical to effective advocacy on a local level. We hope you use tools like these, along with the data in Keeping Track, to inform your local advocacy efforts. For more information on how to effectively advocate for New York City’s children, visit the What is Effective Advocacy page on our website.

[1] The U.S. Census Bureau reports data at several sub-borough geographies for New York City. The Census-designated Public Use Microdata Areas (PUMAs) roughly approximate the city’s 59 community districts and are used in CCC’s analyses of Census data at the community district level. For more information on the relationship between New York City’s community districts and the Census Bureau’s PUMAs, see the Department of City Planning’s notes on city geographies: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/census/geo_notes.shtml.

[2] On March 1, the New York City Council adopted a Final District Plan with newly drawn council districts. On March 4, the plan was submitted to the United States Department of Justice for approval under the federal Voting Rights Act. As of the publication of this blog post, the U.S. Department of Justice was accepting public comments on the plan and approval was pending. The new council districts, when approved, will go into effect for the elections to be in 2013.
See the original CCC page for the hyperlinks.