Potential Council District Split Raises Ire of Midwood Orthodox Community - The Jewish Voice
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Thursday, July 7, 2022

Potential Council District Split Raises Ire of Midwood Orthodox Community

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The proposed division of a Midwood City Council district has local Orthodox residents up in arms, worried that such a move may dilute their strength as a united voting bloc and weaken their ability to obtain sufficient government funding for their unique organizational needs.

Residents of Brooklyn’s 48th Council District, currently represented by Michael Nelson (D–Midwood), are asserting that much-needed financial support of local community groups will severely diminish if New York City’s Districting Commission goes ahead with its proposal to split Southern Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish enclave into two separate districts. The division would relocate a portion of the religious voting bloc to the 45th Council District, which is represented by Jumaane Williams (D–East Flatbush).

“Jewish communities should not be sliced and diced,” declared David Pollock, the associate executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council. “It minimizes their ability to catch the attention of elected officials.”

“We have our own organizations that need support from the City Council,” explained Josh Mehlman, a resident of the area who would become a constituent of the 45th district after many years in the 48th. “We have our own interests and our own community groups that deserve funding.”

Local Orthodox residents are also apprehensive that the division would render their district significantly less conservative than it is currently, as the new configuration would take in a large community of socially left-wing Russian Jews who live in the Warbasse apartments in Brighton Beach.

“The Orthodox are concerned about values issues, like homosexuality,” Pollock noted. “Races being fought over gay marriage and those kinds of things are not too much of a concern for the Russian voters.”

As the redistricting has not yet been confirmed, the city was giving local residents the opportunity to express their concerns at a public hearing on the plan at St. Francis College on Remsen Street in Brooklyn Heights on January 10. “They will have an opportunity to come and testify regarding that,” said Carl Hum, the executive director of the Districting Commission.

The hearing was bound to be lively. “We’re extremely worried,” said Shimon Lefkowitz, a prominent community member whose residence on Avenue I in Midwood would be shifted from the 48th Council District to the 45th district. “This is something that caught us all by surprise. We’ve always been able to vote in numbers and this is being taken away from us.”

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