The Brooklyn Ink

One Foot in Bay Ridge, One in Coney Island: The Odd 46th

A race in a strangely shaped congressional district points up its gerrymandered history.

Read the full piece in The Brooklyn Ink

FOR MOST VOTERS, THIS YEAR’S biennial State Assembly primary is of little significance, as a majority of candidates vying for party nominations are doing so unopposed. However, for residents of the 46th Assembly District in southwest Brooklyn, the primary on Sept. 13 is an electoral manifestation of an oft-discussed but rarely addressed systemic flaw.

The State Assembly’s 46th District involves two main neighborhoods—Bay Ridge and Coney Island—but the way it’s drawn makes it much more logistically complicated than that. It’s a gerrymanderer’s masterpiece, looking, to one local political writer, more like a snarling, long-necked dragon than an electoral map.

The odd shape of the 46th District is a result of Democratic gerrymandering dating back to 1982. Although both New York State Senate and Assembly districts are reevaluated every 10 years when new census data is released, the shape of the 46th, with its nearly separate Bay Ridge and Coney Island sections has remained mostly constant since that time.

This naturally raises questions in terms of the quality of representation each neighborhood receives from their mutual Assemblyperson, as he or she must balance the interests of two isolated neighborhoods. Bay Ridge consistently gets the short end of this stick, considering that, since 1982 redistricting, the Assemblyperson from the 46th District has never been a Bay Ridge resident. In fact, Bay Ridge rarely gets any direct representation in the lower house of the state legislature, since the northern half of the neighborhood shares the 64th District (formerly the 60th District) with a large swath of Staten Island.

Although some of Bay Ridge’s more politically-minded residents have complained about a lack of direct representation in the past, the mood has generally been content on both sides of the district in terms of satisfaction with Assemblymen and women. This primary season, however, election results may turn out to be more geographically divided than they have in recent history.

That’s because, in the Democratic primary for the 46th District Assembly seat, incumbent Pamela Harris, a lifelong Coney Islander, is being challenged by Kate Cucco, a resident of Bay Ridge.

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