Proposed redistricting will link the South Bronx with Riverdale; East Bronx with Long Island and Westchester

For decades, the Congressional District representing most of the South Bronx, currently the 15th Congressional District of New York, has been labeled as the poorest such district in the nation where the median income household income is $31,061.

Currently comprised of neighborhoods like Mott Haven, Melrose, Hunts Point, Port Morris, University Heights, Highbridge, Morrisania, Fordham, and many others, all of which have some of the lowest median incomes in the city.

With that unfortunate label as the poorest Congressional district in the nation, comes additional necessary funding, given the economic demographics of the district, that is desperately needed for our local schools and critically needed affordable housing developments.

But now the South Bronx stands to lose billions in potential funding over the next decade if the new proposed congressional redistricting is approved which will link the South Bronx’s 15th Congressional District to Riverdale which includes Fieldston, one of the wealthiest areas in New York City with estates on oversized lots occupied by millionaires and billionaires—people who have nothing in common with some of the lowest-earning families of the South Bronx and New York City—and are currently part of the 16th Congressional District which has a median household income more than twice of the 15th at $74,799.

The proposed redistricting of the 15th Congressional District would combine the South Bronx with Riverdale and its surrounding areas / map via Redistricting and You website

Fieldston is one of only a handful of privately owned communities where even the streets are not public but privately owned by the community with private security patroling the neighborhood protecting the families living in their muliti-million dollar homes—a far cry from the housing projects and tenements of the South Bronx.

The South Bronx is one of America’s epicenters in the opioid crisis, Riverdale and its surrounding communities aren’t.

We know that money talks especially in politics and the South Bronx’s Congressional power—traditionally people powered—will now be shifted to an area of the borough that is as world’s apart as Morrisania is to the TriBeCa.

Besides the loss of funding over the next decade, the South Bronx also stands to lose its political power in congress.

A multi-million dollar mansion in Fieldson (left) and Melrose NYCHA Housing Projects in the South Bronx: Miles away but worlds apart.

And no one is fighting for us or even discussing what an issue this is.

In the 70s and 80s when the South Bronx burned as a result of landlords committing arson to collect insurance money, Black, and Latino families, mostly Puerto Rican at the time, were burned out from their homes into homelessness and to flee to other parts of the city or beyond.

The current 15th Congressional District / map via Redistricting and You website

During the same time, Riverdale and the surrounding area remained unscathed and comfortably removed from the troubles of the South Bronx

The South Bronx is already fighting for its future as gentrification is here with almost a dozen luxury towers already welcoming residents paying thousands of dollars for luxury apartments in the poorest Congressional district in the nation. Towers that are dotting the southern border of the district along the Harlem River waterfront.

We know that those in higher income brackets, as those who occupy and will occupy these luxury buildings will, combined with Riverdale, Spuyten Duyvil, and Fieldston, take away the power from those who are most underrepresented in the federal government and that’s Blacks and Latinos of this city, state, and nation.

Further Dilution of Bronx Political Power

Meanwhile, over in the East Bronx, the 14th Congressional District which is currently represented by Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is being pushed East and further south into Queens and will split off City Island, Country Club, Edgewater Park, and Silver Beach into Congressional District 3 which is a Long Island-based district, and split Throggs Neck and Schuylerville between District 14 and District 3.

The mega-district will stretch along the northern Long Island encompassing Suffolk and Nassau counties as well as Queens, a sliver of The Bronx, and all of the cities and towns along Westchester’s Long Island Sound coast up to the Connecticut border.

Currently, the East Bronx is mostly in the 14th Congressional District represented by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez / map via Redistricting and You website

The Bronx portion of the proposed district will account for less than 5% of the district and will render the borough essentially powerless and an after thought to anyone who represents that district.

Just like the South Bronx has nothing in common with the northern communities of Riverdale, Spuyten Duyvil, and Fieldston, City Island and the easternmost Bronx neighborhoods impacted by this redistricting plan have nothing in common with people living 30 miles away in Suffolk County on Long Island.

City Island and other far East Bronx communities will be split into the 3rd Congressional District which is mostly Northern Long Island along with parts of Queens and Westchester / map via Redistricting and You website

The only common factor for these communities are the Long Island Sound and climate change since they are all coastal communities but that alone isn’t enough.

“The fact that the East Bronx will only account for 3% of this new district all but ensures we’re going to be prioritized dead last, ” said Steve Swieciki, a City Island resident who is an activist and an organizer.

He added, “This is a decision that should be subject to the accountability and transparency that comes with open hearings, not rammed through with no public input mere days after we learned of the proposal. This is outrageous and wrong, plain and simple.”

Some residents of the impacted East Bronx communities have written an open letter to Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature urging them to reconsider.

Rep. Torres at Home in Riverdale with Jewish Support

Back in the proposed new District 15 map, many Jewish residents of Riverdale have expressed excitement and support for Congressman Ritchie Torres being their future representative in Washington. This comes to no surprise given Torres staunch support of Israel and consistently attacking those who are critical of the Jewish state and its conflict with Palenstinians where thousands of Palestinans, including children, who have died as a result of Israeli aggression in the area.

This is in stark contrast to the support shown for Rep. Jamaal Bowman who currently represents the area and isn’t always at the defense of Israel.

According to the Jewish Insider,

“Despite the somewhat awkward outline of Torres’s new district, which connects to the North Bronx by way of a jaggedly shaped ribbon of land that shoots up from his current territory, Jewish residents of Riverdale suggested that the pairing made sense. Torres, a former New York City councilman who has built a sizable Jewish support base that extends beyond the largely Hispanic 15th District, is no stranger to Riverdale, where he has built strong connections with Jewish community members in the area thanks in large part to his vocal support for Israel. 

“Such enthusiasm was on display on a recent Saturday in November, when Torres, 33, filled the Modern Orthodox Riverdale Jewish Center, the largest synagogue in the town, for a local AIPAC event.”

And the feeling is mutual, according to the Jewish Insider:

“I am looking forward to representing a congressional district that serves as a bridge between iconic neighborhoods: the South Bronx and Riverdale,” Torres told Jewish Insider on Monday. “Combating antisemitism and advocating for an abiding American-Israeli relationship have long been passions of mine. To have the opportunity to represent Riverdale, in light of those passions, feels like a marriage made in heaven.”

While we are one Bronx, we do not all have the same needs. Instead of pandering for contributions, Congressman Ritchie Torres should have put up a greater fight for the South Bronx he was elected to represent and defend and not so happily accept what will be a disastrous redistricting of the South Bronx’s 15th Congressional District.

Now, thanks to this redistricting, South Bronx residents and some of the most marginalized and at-risk populations, will have to fight for a piece of the pie against those with far greater financial means.

Who’s interests will Torres or any future representative of the district truly represent? The people’s or those with the money to propel them to office?

This redistricting is criminal, plain and simple. While the New York State plan is an attempt to oust as much as four Republican members of Congress, at what cost is this being done?

Remember that the South Bronx was sacrificed and sold out once this is said and done.

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Ed García Conde

Ed García Conde is a life-long Bronxite who spends his time documenting the people, places, and things that make the borough a special place in the hopes of dispelling the negative stereotypes associated with The Bronx. His writings are often cited by mainstream media and is often consulted for his expertise on the borough's rich history.