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All Three Options For New Ward Maps Get Support at Public Hearing

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PATERSON, NJ – Which proposal for Paterson’s new ward map is the best one? Well, there was little consensus on that question during Monday night’s public hearing on the issue.

Six people who spoke during the hearing endorsed one of the three specific proposals. Two favored Plan 1, two backed Plan 2, and two backed Plan 3.There were also several speakers who didn’t like any of the plans, including representatives of Paterson’s Dominican community who said they would take legal action if the ward commission did not adopt their proposal.

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The redistricting commission is scheduled to make its decision on the city’s ward maps at a meeting Thursday night at 5:30 pm at City Hall.

 “Everyone has a different view on the different plans,’’ said the commission’s chairman, John Currie. “I’m sure some of us are going to have different opinion when we discuss it on Thursday.

The wards are being redrawn to reflect population shifts from the 2010 census. In order to keep the wards evenly balanced, the 2nd Ward is going to have to lose more than 2,000 people and the 4th Ward is going to have to gain 2,000. The proposals from the consultants ranged from a map that would put about 4,000 in different wards to a version that would redistrict almost 25,00 Patersonians.

[Editor's note: Here's a copy of the complete presentation provided by the city's redistricting consultant. Please disregard the maps for Plans 4 and 5. They were dropped from the formal presentation.]

The Latino Leadership Alliance of New Jersey has urged the commission to redraw the map to provide a better opportunity for members of the city’s Hispanic majority to win ward council seats. In particular, the group has targeted the Riverside neighborhood, which it says is currently split between the 3rd and 4th wards. The Alliance wants all of Riverside combined in a newly-configured 4th Ward.

“We object to your adoption of any of the three maps proposed by the consultant,’’ said Maria Feliciano, the group’s vice president. “We will file a legal objection in the New Jersey Superior Court should this commission adopt such a map.’’

“The Hispanic community of Riverside is split into two wards,’’ Wilkin Santana, a 4th Ward city council candidate, said during the hearing. “I don’t think it’s fair to split a community into two wards. We just want fairness. We just want equal representation.’’

The Latino Alliance’s position drew criticism from some speakers. “I don’t think the map should be changed around to accommodate one section and not accommodate another,’’ said city activist Donald Lynch.

“It saddens me when people talk about unity and community and yet you talk about one ethnic group,’’ said City Council President Anthony Davis, who is running for re-election in the 1st ward.

Davis, along with Paterson Schools Commissioner Jonathan Hodges, said he supported Plan 2 as the best option. One of Davis’ opponents, Pedro Rodriguez, said he thought Plan 1 was the best option because it would unite the Bengali community along Union Avenue that he said is currently split between the 1st and 2nd Wards.

Mayor Jeffrey Jones endorsed Plan 3, the option that would result in the most people switching wards. Jones said he had studied Paterson’s voter turnout records from recent years and called the numbers embarrassing. He said the city’s voters needed something to shake them out of their apathy.

 “It’s a jolt in the arm, I agree, but it’s one that I believe is necessary,’’ said Jones.  

Frank Filippelli, who is running for the open at-large seat on the city council, said the city was "taking a step backward'' with its ward redistricting process. "We're doing a segregation thing,'' he added.

Here are the highlights of the three plans outlined last week by Frank Moosic of BonData, the Pennsylvania-based firm the city hired for the redistricting:

Plan 1: It would entail changes to five of the city’s six wards, leaving only the 6th Ward untouched. The new boundaries in this plan would affect 4,148 people. It involves three main changes. The 1st Ward would lose 2,147 people who live south of the river between Main and Straight streets. The blocks north of Broadway would become part of the 4th Ward, while those south of Broadway, down to Grand Street, would become part of the 5th Ward.

Also under Plan 1, eight blocks of the second ward, a rectangle bounded by Union, Albion, Chamberlain and Manchester avenues would be shifted into the first ward. There are 1,858 people in that area.

Finally, Plan 1 would take a sliver of the 3rd Ward around E. 15th Street and move it into the 4th Ward. That would affect just 143 residents.

Plan 2: In this version, the 1st Ward would stay intact while changes would be made in the other five. Overall, city blocks inhabited by 7,102 residents would move to other wards. The largest population group affected would be the 3,137 people who live in an arrow-head shaped segment of the 6th Ward bounded by Market Street, 20th Avenue, Summer Street, Cedar Street and Madison Avenue would become part of the 5th Ward.

Also, a triangle in the 2nd Ward bounded by Getty and Bloomfield avenues and the railroad tracks would become part of the 6th Ward. That would affect 2,216 people. A thin rectangle bounded by Broadway, Straight Street, E. 18th Street and Ellison Street would shift from the 5th to the 4th wards. That change would affect 1,606 people.

Plan 3: This proposal entails major changes to every ward would affect 24,667. Under this plan, the resulting wards would be most the compact geographically, said Moosic. Under this plan, the population of the six wards would be most balanced.

Under Plan 3, the 1st Ward would lose 3,544 to the 5th Ward, the 2nd Ward would lose 3,208 people to the 1st Ward, the 3rd Ward 3,849 to the 4th Ward and 2,566 to the 6th Ward and the 4th Ward 2,073 to the 3rd Ward.

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