ITHACA, N.Y.—The draft map is out for the City of Ithaca’s Wards.

The City’s Redistricting Working Group released the draft ward boundaries on Thursday, announcing a public input session for Tuesday, March 29 to gather feedback on their proposed new map.

The City’s wards were intended to be drawn along two main guiding principles: preserving unique neighborhoods, communities, and constituent groups within district lines; and achieving populations within a 5% deviation between districts. Public input was also gathered to inform the shapes of the districts.

There appear to be no glaring errors according to the working group’s criteria, although the proposed Ward 5 does oddly separate a portion of the Fall Creek Neighborhood, pairing the east side of Linn Street with areas most closely associated with Cornell’s student population.

Notably, the working group’s proposal does maintain five wards. There had been some talk of the city dropping down or increasing its number of wards if it suited the ends of preserving neighborhoods, and staying within the little wiggle room state law leaves for difference in district populations.

On the left, the City of Ithaca’s current wards. On the right, the proposed draft of the city’s wards updated to the 2020 census data. Use the arrows above to scroll between the current map and the new proposal.

Ward 1

The map makes some substantial changes to the city’s five wards. The district that has perhaps experienced the most significant change is Ward 1.

The current Ward 1 encompasses Ithaca’s West Hill and West End neighborhoods, stopping along NYS Route 13, but wraps around Ward 2 to include the City’s South Hill Neighborhood and a portion of Downton Ithaca.

The proposed redraw for Ward 1 would still have it include the West End and West Hill areas, but ditches the odd reach into the South Hill area while adding the Southside and Northside neighborhoods, as well as some smaller portions of downtown Ithaca. 

As a result, the proposed district is markedly more compact, and would have a significant constituency in Ithaca’s Black residents.

If this map were adopted, Alderpersons Cynthia Brock and George McGonigal would remain in Ward 1.

McGonigal commented to The Ithaca Voice that if this map were to be adopted, he would, “miss representing South Hill, but understand the arguments for combining South Hill with East Hill into one district.”

Ward 2

Ward 2 retains Ithaca’s downtown core in the proposed draft, and grows further up into Collegetown to the point of North Quarry Street. In this proposed district, the Northside Neighborhood gets traded for the Fall Creek Neighborhood.

Of all the proposed wards, this one would have the greatest population, with 6,593 residents based on 2020 Census Data.

Alderperson Ducson Nguyen would remain in this ward, although Alderperson Phoebe Brown would be moved from the current iteration of Ward 1 to the proposed Ward 2, possibly setting the stage for a race between Brown, Brock and McGonigal in 2023 for the proposed Ward 1’s two council seats.

It seems that this is the only example of sitting council members potentially having to run against one another in a race if this map were to be adopted.

All seats on common council will be up for reelection in 2023.

Ward 3

The proposed redraw for Ward 3 includes the South Hill area previously in Ward 1, and crosses NYS Route 79 to pair it with the East Hill’s Belle Sherman neighborhood and residential portions of Collegetown. These two neighborhoods are characterized by a mix of residential homes and housing catered toward, respectively, Cornell University and Ithaca College’s students.

Both Alderpersons Rob Gearhart and Jeffrey Barken would remain in Ward 3, although Gearhart announced that he will not be running for council again in 2023.

Barken commented that he is “fine with these proposals” and is “looking forward to addressing the concerns of new constiuents added on the South Hill should these maps be adopted.”

Ward 4

Cornell’s Campus, student housing complexes, as well as the bulk of Collegetown are placed into the proposed Ward 4.

Alderpersons Jorge DeFendini and Patrick Mehler would remain in this district if it were to be adopted.

Mehler, who has made involving college students in local government a central point of his platform, commented to The Ithaca Voice, “I’m very satisfied with these new maps and believe that some of the student communities in the city are more fairly represented than previously.”

Ward 5

The Cornell Heights Historic District, and the portions of Ithaca that get informally lumped into the Village of Cayuga Heights are included in the proposed version of Ward 5. This proposed district notably includes the eastern half of Linn Street in the Fall Creek neighborhood.

Acting Mayor Laura Lewis, still technically a Ward 5 Common Council representative, would be shifted into the proposed Ward 2 from Ward 5, effectively filling the slot left by Alderperson Brown’s ward shift.

Though, Lewis would lose leave her seat on council if she is elected to serve a one year term to finish out the four years former Mayor Svante Myrick was elected to serve. 

Currently, she is running unopposed in the mayoral race, and time is short for another candidate to emerge.

Alderperson Robert Cantelmo would remain in this proposed Ward 5 if it were to pass.

Cantelmo commented to The Ithaca Voice, “I thank the City’s redistricting working group for their efforts and encourage residents to inform themselves about the proposed changes and participate in Tuesday’s public input session.”

The City Redistricting Working Group will be hosting a virtual public input session on Tuesday, March 29 from 5:30- 7:30 pm. This meeting will be conducted via Zoom, and the public is invited to register to speak at the public information session here, or to submit their comments by filling out this form. This meeting will be streamed live to the City’s YouTube channel, and archived for future viewing.

Jimmy Jordan

Jimmy Jordan is a general assignment reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact him at jjordan@ithacavoice.com Connect with him on Twitter @jmmy_jrdn