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The Politics of Mapmaking

It’s Thursday. We’ll look at how a state commission released not one but two sets of maps — one Democratic, the other Republican — for Congress …

The Politics of Mapmaking

It’s Thursday. We’ll look at how a state commission released not one but two sets of maps — one Democratic, the other Republican — for Congress, the Assembly and the State Senate.

Credit…Cindy Schultz for The New York Times

It is a tale of two sets of maps that is almost Dickensian in its complexity.

One was the work of the Democrats on New York’s new bipartisan redistricting commission. The other came from the Republicans on the panel, which was set up to take politics out of the mapmaking process behind deciding how to eliminate one congressional district upstate and redraw the 26 districts that will remain. Everyone expected this process to be messy, but not for it to turn into a partisan squabble right from the start.

If the commission fails to compromise on a single set of maps for the House — and for the State Senate and the Assembly — the Democratic majorities in Albany could step in to draw the final versions. There are national implications, as Democratic officials there and in Washington know only too well. Changes to the boundaries of congressional districts in New York could threaten as many as five Republican incumbents, which could help the Democrats retain their majority in the House.

The upshot? New York might be the biggest redistricting weapon for either party nationwide.

That was what David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report told my colleagues Nicholas Fandos and Grace Ashford, who have been following the story. As they noted, with Republicans preparing to use their control of states like Texas, Florida and Georgia to pick up House seats, the likely targets of redistricting in New York include Republican districts from the East End of Long Island to rural stretches upstate.

Under the state Constitution, the redistricting commission is supposed to draw the maps. If it cannot agree on where to set the boundaries, or if it produces maps that lawmakers simply don’t like, the Legislature can try to redraw them — assuming the House districts that result satisfy constitutional requirements and are roughly equal in size.

On Wednesday, Republicans on the 10-member commission deplored the panel’s failure to come to an agreement on the maps so far. Democrats argued that two sets of maps could be better than one, because voters could compare them and send feedback to the commission.

There is nothing new about gerrymandered boundaries, of course — nearly 15 years ago, a State Senate district upstate was described as looking like “Abraham Lincoln riding on a vacuum cleaner” from Albany toward Syracuse, with the stovepipe hat butting into the Adirondacks. This time around, part of a congressional district on the Democrats’ map seemed to have a sharply chiseled nose and chin. On the Republicans’ map, a district that stretched from the Canadian border past Albany resembled New Jersey. Kind of, if you squinted, anyway.


Weather

Keep the umbrella handy. There’s a chance of showers and thunderstorms in the afternoon, with temps in the mid-70s during the day and dropping to high 60s at night.

ALTERNATE-SIDE PARKING

Suspended today (Yom Kippur).


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Three words on a dress

Credit…Nina Westervelt for The New York Times

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s “Tax the Rich” dress was still being talked about on Wednesday. But it was not under discussion at the City Island Lobster House on a certain un-citylike dot of land off the Bronx — part of her congressional district, about 14 miles from the flash and flamboyance of the Met Gala, where she wore it on Monday evening on her way to a very A-list table.

The Met might as well have been 14 million miles away. Marie Mandarino, the owner of the City Island Lobster House, was asked if anyone had mentioned the white mermaid dress or the message that was spelled out in bright red lettering.

“Not to my knowledge,” she said. “I honestly think it was disgusting, but that’s just my point of view. ‘Tax the rich’ at a $30,000-a-plate fund-raiser, which is totally ridiculous? But I don’t talk politics or religion with anyone here. It’s a good way to lose friends.” (Actually, tickets were priced at $35,000.)

But the dress — by Aurora James, founder of Brother Vellies and the 15 Percent Pledge — remained a topic of discussion among fashion critics and on social media. GQ said it was “precision-engineered Met Gala messaging,” adding that Ocasio-Cortez “took advantage of the event’s viral-making context.” Other fashion types said the dress was more interesting than the words on it — words executed ironically in the finest haute craft.

Along with Fashion Week and the reopening of Broadway, the Met Gala was another milestone in what Vanessa Friedman, The Times’s fashion critic, called “the vaccine-required re-emergence of New York.” (And, she added, “you know something has changed when the biggest celebrity at a fashion show is not Gina Gershon or Nicky Hilton, but Kathy Hochul, the new governor of New York.”)

As my colleague Annie Karni noted, Ocasio-Cortez’s attendance at the gala and her dress were easy targets for her usual critics. On Twitter, Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s eldest son, tagged her as a fraud for sending a message about taxing the rich “while she’s hanging out with a bunch of wealthy leftwing elites.”

The image of Ocasio-Cortez “rubbing elbows with those people” on Monday night irked some on the left, said Briahna Gray, the former national press secretary for Senator Bernie Sanders’s 2020 campaign and the co-host of the “Bad Faith” podcast.

Ocasio-Cortez wrote on Instagram that she had anticipated criticism. “Ultimately the haters hated and the people who are thoughtful were thoughtful,” she wrote. “But we all had a conversation about taxing the rich in front of the very people who lobby against it, and punctured the 4th wall of excess and spectacle.” She also said that elected officials attended events like the Met Gala “due to our responsibilities in keeping cultural institutions accessible to the public.”

“Did you know that if you live in the NYC area you can go to the Met (including the same costume exhibit the wealthy saw last night) for as little $ as you’d like?” she asked.

Later, in a follow-up fund-raising email, she told supporters to buy their own “Tax the Rich” attire. A T-shirt costs $27, and a sweatshirt $58.


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MetROPOLITAN diary

Yellow handlebars

Dear Diary:

Yellow handlebars, blue frame, golden rubber-rimmed tires and a rear rack. Forty years old and in mint condition.

A Craigslist ad directed me to her during a summer at home. Bike shortage no more: I had found my wheels.

There was no room for the bike in my Hell’s Kitchen apartment — there was barely enough for my bed — so out on the street she stayed. It was my first mistake as a bike owner in the city.

Ready for a 7 a.m. spin, I pulled on my spandex, filled my water bottle and jogged downstairs. In the bike’s place was a lock that had been cut in half like a stick of butter.

I began to scour lost-bike pages on Instagram and websites obsessively. In the meantime, I found a second set of wheels. Two months passed, and I continued to scroll.

At one point, a picture caught my eye: dozens of bikes piled up under an overpass. The caption said they had been taken to the 20th Precinct.

I looked more closely, and there it was: yellow handlebars, blue frame, golden rubber-rimmed tires and a rear rack.

Now I have two bikes in my Hell’s Kitchen apartment. Who needs a bed anyway?

— Hunter Travers

Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Read more Metropolitan Diary here.


Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.

Melissa Guerrero, Jeffrey Furticella, Rick Martinez and Olivia Parker contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].

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