Risk of Losing Influence and State Aid if Plan Goes Through
YONKERS, NY – January 31, 2012 — Yonkers City Council President Chuck Lesnick today testified before the Legislative Task Force on Demographic Research and Reapportionment at The Bronx Museum of the Arts and voiced his concern and the city’s need to keep the state’s senate district representing Yonkers undivided. A proposed plan before the state legislature would divide Yonkers into two separate districts and create the opportunity for a non-Yonkers resident to be elected to represent the fourth largest city in New York State and the largest in Westchester County.
Below is Lesnick’s statement to the task force:
My name is Chuck Lesnick and I am the City Council President of the City of Yonkers, New York.
I am testifying here in The Bronx because unlike five of the six largest cities in New York State, Yonkers, the fourth largest, does not have a hearing scheduled in the City of Yonkers. Nor is there one scheduled in Westchester County or anywhere else in the Lower or Mid-Hudson Valley.
Yonkers is a city of some 200,000 people – the fourth largest city in New York State. We have a school district that serves more than 26,000 students and growing.
Approximately one half of our local population is non-white and 45% of our households include a language other than English spoken at home. Just under 14% of our residents live below the poverty line.
I am concerned that if the proposed senate districts are adopted Yonkers could lose its strong voice in the New York State Senate, and as a result, lose out on very much needed school aide that historically, had been restored by a powerful advocate in the Senate.
For many years, most of Yonkers has been in one senate district and that senator, be it Chippy Flynn, Nick Spano, or Andrea Stewart-Cousins, has worked hard to represent us on matters that concern our City.
The proposed lines, as they now stand, split Yonkers down the middle into two sections, and in such a way, that Yonkers would no longer to hold a majority in either district and thus, weaken our representation in Albany.
While I have no doubt that Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who presently represents the 35th District that covers Yonkers will continue to work for us with the same dedication and professionalism, the next senators from districts that include a divided Yonkers might not have the same interest.
Furthermore, the senate district that encompasses the east-side of Yonkers represents the area of the city with the lowest percentage of public school children and the area where constituents are typically less concerned with the funding of our public schools. Dividing a city that has spent significant effort in uniting its neighborhoods makes no sense.
Currently, nearly 75% of our school children come from the south-west area of the city. We must not and cannot afford to lose our voice in Albany to speak up for our kids.
While partisan politics clearly drove these proposed lines, the results are constitutionally flawed, in that the representation of cities like Yonkers were weakened to illegally create a new additional senate district.
The City of Yonkers needs and requires a state senate district that puts most, if not all of Yonkers into one district. I hope you understand our situation and will agree accordingly.