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KAPA Statement to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York

 

NEW YORK, March 5th, 2012 – The following is a statement from President and Sterring Committee Co-Chair of Korean Americans for Political Advancement Bright Limm made at the US District Court hearings on proposed redistricting plans.

Presented at:

Court Proceeding Before Magistrate Judge Mann
Courtroom 4E-North
120-55 Queens Blvd, Kew Gardens, NY
 
Good afternoon. My name is Bright Limm. I am the President and Steering Committee Co-Chair of Korean Americans for Political Advancement (KAPA), a nonprofit and politically independent advocacy organization founded in 2006 and based in New York City. KAPA advocates a broad policy platform that includes matters of political and civil rights. We are a membership organization, and the majority of our dues-paying members are from the boroughs of Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn.KAPA is also a founding member of ACCORD, the coalition of 13 Asian American organizations that have come together to advocate, with a unified voice, on the issue of redistricting for New York’s 2012 State Assembly, State Senate, and Congressional district lines.In this statement, I present KAPA’s opinion on the proposed congressional districts that pertain to the Queens-County neighborhoods of Flushing, Bayside, and Elmhurst, and I explain why KAPA recommends the adoption of the “Unity Map” proposed jointly by AALDEF, LatinoJustice/PRLDEF, and the Center for Law and Social Justice of Medgar Evers College.

 

1.  Prioritizing the Preservation of Communities of Interest

KAPA recognizes that the task of drafting district maps is a complex one, particularly in areas as diverse as the county of Queens. We acknowledge that different experts may reasonably disagree on the precise boundaries of proposed congressional districts, and that the satisfaction of all federal and state statutory and constitutional requirements still permits substantial variation among lawful proposals. Thus, the differences among the proposals submitted by the parties in this case ultimately reflect different priorities among other considerations.

In evaluating the relative merits of each proposal, KAPA asks this Court to prioritize the principle of preserving communities of interest. We believe that among all of the traditional principles of redistricting, the principle of keeping communities of interest whole within a given district ought to be given the greatest weight in order to protect the voting rights of citizens residing in those communities. In particular, we believe that prioritizing this redistricting principle is essential to the protection of the voting rights of minority communities.

To identify Asian American communities of interest within New York City, particularly within Queens, we strongly recommend that the Court utilize the excellent fieldwork and analysis performed by AALDEF, which is also a key organizational member of the ACCORD coalition. KAPA has closely studied both the methodology and the findings of AALDEF’s Community of Interest Survey (“Attachment B” of AALDEF’s Feb. 29 Submission to the Magistrate Judge). We find AALDEF’s methodology to be rigorous and its conclusions fully in accord with KAPA’s own demographic research and field operations. In addition, and on a similar note, we strongly support the data maps and analysis provided by Common Cause New York, particularly in its analysis of Queens. (A sample of Common Cause New York’s work regarding Queens demographics is available at http://www.citizenredistrictny.org/2011/09/queens/.)

KAPA hopes that the Court will employ the information provided by AALDEF and Common Cause New York to ensure that the communities of interest defined therein are protected by the new district lines from vote dilution.

2.  Flushing, Bayside, and Elmhurst[1]

 

In Queens, many communities of interest either have substantial Asian American populations or are comprised primarily of them. Flushing, Bayside, and Elmhurst are three such communities of interest that also exhibit commonalities among one another. The Unity Map’s Proposed CD5 best preserves these three communities and appropriately groups them together.

Flushing. As we define it, the community of Flushing is bordered on the west by the Van Wyck Expressway, the north by 32nd Avenue and 27th Avenue, the east by Utopia Parkway and 189th Street, and the south by the Long Island Expressway.

Bayside. As we define it, the community of Bayside is bordered on the west by the Clearview Expressway, the north by 33rd Avenue and 33rd Road, the east by the Cross Island Parkway, and the south by 73rd Avenue.

Elmhurst. As we define it, the community of Elmhurst is bordered on the west by 58th Street, the north by Roosevelt Avenue, the east by Junction Boulevard, and the south by a combination of about a dozen roads that together create a slant in a slightly southeastern direction from 58th Street to Junction Boulevard.

Flushing is at once a residential community, a booming commercial center, an icon of New York City culture, and an unmistakable community of interest. Members of the Flushing community share many common interests, and much of this commonality derives from their being primarily a community of immigrants. According to the 2010 Census, more than 65% of the total population of Flushing are immigrants, and of this group, 70% were from Asia (with China, Korea, and India as the primary countries of origin). The majority of Flushing households who speak an Asian language are linguistically isolated, as are a third of the community’s Spanish-speaking households. Thus, language access is a crucial common interest.

This largely immigrant community has in turn created a distinct and vibrant local economy dominated by small businesses. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, three-quarters of the more than five thousand businesses in Flushing employed fewer than five workers in 2009, which was a significantly greater share than in the rest of New York State. In addition, Flushing has seen an increase in the number of businesses and jobs that outpaces the rest of Queens and New York City as a whole; for example, in 2010, the number of jobs in Flushing increased at a rate of 3.1 percent, while the rest of the City only saw 0.7 percent growth. Similarly, wages have also increased in Flushing while lagging in the rest of the borough and city. During the period from 2008 to 2010, wages in Flushing rose by 16.9 percent, outperforming the rest of Queens which experienced a 1.3 percent decline. The majority of businesses were concentrated in four sectors: retail trade, other services (e.g. personal services and auto repair), health care and social assistance, and construction.[2]

Flushing residents also share common interests in housing, transportation, employment, and community development, and many of these interests overlap with those of residents of Bayside and Elmhurst. For a concise summary of many of these common interests, please see Attachment B (“Asian American Communities of Interest Survey in New York City”) of AALDEF’s February 29 Submission to the Magistrate Judge.

In sum, KAPA believes that not only are Flushing and Bayside communities of interest in their own right, but also that they should be grouped together in the same legislative district whenever possible. We also believe that Elmhurst shares sufficient characteristics to be grouped together with Flushing and Bayside in a congressional district.

We hope that this Court will concur with the view of KAPA and the twelve other organizational members of ACCORD that all of the congressional redistricting proposals submitted to the Court, only two proposals – (1) the “Unity Map” submitted jointly by AALDEF, LatinoJustice/PRLDEF, and the Center for Law and Social Justice and the (2) proposal submitted by Common Cause New York – preserve the Asian American communities of interest in Flushing, Bayside, and Elmhurst.

While KAPA supports the proposal offered by Common Cause New York with respect to the communities of Flushing, Bayside and Elmhurst, when looking at each proposal as a whole, we prefer the Unity Map proposal because, in our view, the Unity Map better preserves communities of interest in other proposed congressional districts. In particular, Common Cause New York’s Proposed CD6 divides a section of Ozone Park, whereas the Unity Map’s proposed district for this area keeps Ozone Park whole.

 

3. Recommendations

For the foregoing reasons, KAPA offers this Court the following two specific recommendations:

Recommendation #1: We ask that this Court adopt the Unity Map proposed jointly by AALDEF, LatinoJustice/PRLDEF, and the Center for Law and Social Justice of Medgar Evers College, and in particular that the Court adopt the Unity Map’s Proposed CD5.

Recommendation #2: In the event that this Court does adopt the Unity Map, or a slightly modified version thereof, we ask that the Court adopt the proposal offered by Common Cause New York.

 

Thank you very much for your time and consideration.


[1] KAPA affirms the definitions of Flushing, Bayside, and Elmhurst articulated by AALDEF in its documents entitled “Asian American Neighborhood Boundaries” (“Attachment A” of AALDEF’s Feb. 29 Submission to the Magistrate Judge) and “Communities of Interest Survey” (“Attachment B” of its Feb. 29 Submission to the Magistrate Judge).

[2] “An Economic Snapshot of Flushing, Queens,” Office of the New York State Comptroller, September 22, 2011, available at: http://osc.state.ny.us/press/releases/sept11/092211.htm

 

KAPA Statement on Michigan Senate Candidate Pete Hoekstra’s Advertisement

NEW YORK, Feb. 6th, 2012 – The following is a statement from President and Sterring Committee Co-Chair of Korean Americans for Political Advancement Bright Limm about the 2012 Super Bowl advertisement by Michigan Senate Candidate Pete Hoekstra.  

 

New York, NY – Korean Americans for Political Advancement (KAPA) condemns the February 5th 2012 Super Bowl advertisement of Michigan Senate Candidate Pete Hoekstra.  The political campaign ad aims to attack Hoekstra’s opponent in the Michigan U.S. Senate race but does so in a way that is is unambiguously racist. The ad is appalling, is insensitive to the Asian American community, and works only to divide this country.  The Asian American community has had a painful history of discrimination and prejudice, including specifically in Michigan, which witnessed the racially motivated murder of Vincent Chin thirty years ago. KAPA calls for the end to the airing of the ad and an official apology from Hoekstra.

The ad begins with a gong and shows a woman of Asian descent riding a bike through rice paddy fields.  She later speaks in broken and accented English about thanking Hoekstra’s opponent for spending American dollars, borrowing from China, and weakening the American economy.  This ad is reinforcing false prejudice and stereotypes of Asian Americans as perpetual foreigners and invoking the fear of Yellow Peril that will divide this country.  Asian Americans have had a long and rich history in Michigan and the United States and this ad is an attack on the loyalties that our community has for the United States of America.

The Asian American community is the fastest growing racial group in Michigan and an integral part of the local economy.  Pete Hoekstra should be ashamed for airing such an offensive and unpatriotic advertisement, one that evokes anti-Asian sentiment as a strategy for political interests.  Let us not forget the injustice against Vincent Chin and the Asian American community thirty years ago in Michigan.  In upholding the American ideals of respecting diversity and justice for all, KAPA joins other Asian American and civil rights advocates in calling for Hoekstra to pull this ad off the airwaves and issue an apology.

 

 

KAPA Statement to the New York State Legislative Task Force for Demographic Research and Reapportionment (LATFOR).

 

NEW YORK, Feb. 7th, 2012 – The following statement was made by Bright Limm (President and Steering Committee Co-Chair of Korean Americans for Political Advancement (KAPA) on Tuesday,
 
Presented at:
LATFOR Public Hearing
Queens Borough Hall
120-55 Queens Blvd, Kew Gardens, NY

 

Good afternoon. My name is Bright Limm. I am the President and Steering Committee Co-Chair of Korean Americans for Political Advancement (KAPA), a nonprofit and politically independent advocacy organization founded in 2006 and based in New York City. KAPA advocates a broad policy platform that includes matters of political and civil rights. We are a membership organization, and the majority of our dues-paying members are from the boroughs of Queens, Manhattan, and Brooklyn.

KAPA is also a proud member of ACCORD, the coalition of 13 Asian American organizations that have come together to advocate, with a unified voice, on the critical issue of New York State’s redistricting process.

I would like to use the bulk of my time at this hearing to present KAPA’s position and recommendations on Proposed Senate District 16 and its neighbor to the east, Proposed Senate District 11.

 

1.  Proposed Senate District 16 and Proposed Senate District 11

As you know, Flushing is an unmistakable community of interest.[1] We also know that, by itself, Flushing constitutes half of an entire Senate district population. Given the tremendous population growth of the Asian American communities both in Flushing and in its surrounding neighborhoods (particularly Queensboro Hill and the neighborhoods along the Northern Boulevard Corridor), it is clear that the 2012 State Senate map for this vicinity should include one district with an Asian American majority and another, nearby district with a substantial Asian American constituency.

Like other members of ACCORD, KAPA’s reaction to Proposed Senate District 16 is mixed. On the one hand, we welcome the Task Force’s recognition that the senate district that includes Flushing ought to be an Asian-American-majority senate district. However, we must also criticize the Task Force’s decision to divide Flushing between Proposed Senate Districts 16 and 11 and urge the Task Force to keep Flushing whole.

Anyone who looks at Proposed SD 16 can see that Flushing is the center, or “anchor,” around which the rest of the proposed district is based. Yet the very anchor of this proposed district, as in the current Senate map, is once again divided. KAPA sees absolutely no need, and therefore no justification, for dividing in half this well-known residential community, booming commercial center, and icon of New York City culture.

Now, many observers of the redistricting process have stated that Proposed Senate District 16 is a clear “racial gerrymander.” At first glance, this characterization may seem plausible, but ultimately it is inaccurate. As recent analysis by Common Cause of New York has shown, the Proposed Senate District 16 is not a racial gerrymander; rather, it appears more to be the by-product of a classic partisan attempt to gerrymander this region politically, for the sake of maximizing Republican and Conservative votes in Proposed Senate District 11. I have appended to my testimony Common Cause’s analysis of partisan gerrymandering, which shows that Proposed SD 16 is far more about political partisanship than it is about race or ethnicity.

KAPA is aware that consideration of partisan political factors in redistricting is generally permitted, and while we agree wholeheartedly with good government and civil rights groups on the need for a politically independent process, we also understand the political realities that constrain this process.

 

2. Recommendations

Accordingly, in the event that the Governor does not veto the Task Force’s maps, KAPA offers this Task Force the following two specific recommendations regarding Senate Districts 16 and 11. We believe that these recommendations are at once more consistent with sound redistricting principles, in the interest of all affected communities, and politically feasible.

 

Recommendation #1: We ask that Bay Terrace be made part of Senate District 11 and that a corresponding proportion of the population of Flushing that is currently located in Proposed Senate District 11 be incorporated into Senate District 16. In short, this recommendation asks for a swap between Districts 11 and 16, a swap of Bay Terrace for more of Flushing. Both the community of Flushing and the community of Bay Terrace would no doubt welcome such a modification, as would good government and civil rights groups.

 

Recommendation #2: In order to include all (or nearly all) of Flushing in Senate District 16, we recommend that the eastern-most portion of Proposed Senate District 16 be made a part of Senate District 11, and that a corresponding proportion of the population of Flushing currently located in Proposed Senate District 11 be incorporated into Senate District 16. In short, this recommendation asks for another swap between Districts 11 and 16, specifically of parts of the neighborhoods of Oakland Gardens and Bayside/Bayside Hills for more of Flushing. Together with the modification proposed in Recommendation #1, this modification would not only make Flushing nearly whole; it would also make the Bayside/Bayside Hills/Oakland Gardens region nearly whole while simultaneously making both Senate District 16 and Senate District 11 more compact.

 

3.  Concluding thoughts

Let me conclude by urging this Task Force to consider these recommendations in light of the Unity Map, which was developed by Asian American, Latino, and Black community advocates, as well as the communities of interest study that ACCORD member AALDEF conducted and submitted to the Task Force in its September 21 testimony. I am confident you will agree that our recommendations are principled, reasonable, and feasible. Thank you very much for your time and consideration.



[1] KAPA affirms the definition of Flushing as described by AALDEF in its Sep. 21 testimony.

 

 

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