The newly proposed 15th congressional district, which is drawing heat from Community Board 1 and South Bronx residents.

New York State’s highest court strikes down new congressional maps

The state’s highest court Wednesday struck down the new Democrat-drawn congressional redistricting map for New York, saying that it represented unconstitutional gerrymandering.

In a 4-3 split, the Court of Appeals ruled that the lines had been drawn “with impermissible partisan purpose” and violated the intent of a 2014 constitutional amendment that created an Independent Redistricting Commission to redraw district lines without partisan intent.

An independent commission did meet, but members could not agree and the Democrat-controlled legislature took over the process, rearranging lines in a way expected to allow Democrats to gain three Republican-held seats in the House of Representatives.

“The legislature responded by creating and enacting maps in a nontransparent manner controlled exclusively by the dominant political party – doing exactly what they would have done had the 2014 constitutional reforms never been passed,” Chief Judge Janet DiFiore wrote in a 32-page opinion.

The court said that a politically neutral special master should draft new lines that will govern the November congressional elections, a process likely to require the state to postpone its June 28 congressional primary elections until August.  A special master already was appointed by a trial court judge in Steuben County after Republicans challenged the redistricting map.

The ruling is likely to again realign territory in the 15th Congressional District, currently represented by Rep. Ritchie Torres. The district lines approved in February added Riverdale — one of the wealthiest communities in NYC – to the 15th District, which previously had solely encompassed the South Bronx.

Despite assurances by Torres that the change would not affect his ability to represent the South Bronx, many community members were concerned that their voices could be diluted because he would have to pay attention to a community with very different needs and demographics.

Torres is expected to retain his seat, no matter how lines are redrawn.