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TESTIMONY BEFORE THE NEW JERSEY APPORTIONMENT COMMISSION

March 16, 2011     Passaic City Hall

Presented by Chejin Park, Korean American Voters’ Council

 

Good Afternoon! Thank you for the opportunity to propose the Korean American community’s opinion pertaining to the apportionment of NJ Legislative Districts.

On behalf of the Asian Americans in Bergen County, New Jersey, Korean American Voters’ Council urges the Apportionment Commission to recognize Palisades Park, Fort Lee, Edgewater and Leonia as a “community of interest” and keep the four municipalities in one legislative district by including Edgewater and Fort Lee into the 37th Legislative District.

The Asian American community is one of the fastest growing ethnic communities in the State of New Jersey for last 30 years. The Asian immigrants, especially Korean Americans, settled in the eastern part of Bergen County and formed a large Asian American community. Soon it became a highly concentrated community of interest. When legislative district maps were drawn 10 years ago, most parts of the Asian American community were included in the 37th Legislative District. However, Fort Lee and Edgewater, which comprise the core of the Asian American community along with Palisades Park and Leonia, were separated from the rest of the Asian American community and placed into the 38th Legislative District. For the last ten years, one community of interest was divided into two different districts and their interests were not properly represented in the NJ Legislature. Therefore, we are strongly asking the Apportionment Commission to keep the Asian/Korean American community of interest together by including Fort Lee and Edgewater into the 37th Legislative District.

 

Community of Interest

Keeping a “community of interest” together is one of traditional districting criteria. A community of interest is where residents have “actual shared interests” or some “common thread of social, economic or political interests.”  Under this definition, the four municipalities (Palisades Park, Leonia, Fort Lee, and Edgewater) are a community of interest sharing characteristics of racial composition, ethnicity, language, limited English proficiency, immigration experience, settlement pattern, voter registration, health and social services, health care, schools, and dependence on bilingual services.

 

Palisades Park, Leonia, Fort Lee, and Edgewater

Racial/Ethnic Composition

Palisades Park, Leonia, Fort Lee, and Edgewater are the core of the Korean American community in Bergen County. The four municipalities have high concentration of Asian American population. 57% of Palisades Park, 38% of Fort Lee, 35.5% of Edgewater, and 35.1% of Leonia residents are Asian Americans. Specific ethnicity information from Census 2010 is not available yet. However, we strongly believe that most of the Asian Americans in the municipalities are Korean Americans.  

 

                                                Total Population                      Percent of APA

Palisades Park              19,622                                     57.8%

Fort Lee                       35,345                                     38.4% 

Edgewater                    11,513                                     35.3%

Leonia                         8,937                                       35.1%

2010 Census Redistricting Data

 

Immigration Pattern

Due to the proximity to New York City and convenient public transportation, Fort Lee, Leonia, Palisades Park and Edgewater have been major destinations for new immigrants. The Korean American population in the four municipalities has been rapidly increasing since the late 1980s. Fort Lee was the epicenter of the Korean American small businesses in the 1980s. Then the Korean American business started to expand to Palisades Park in the 1990s. Now those two municipalities are forming the backbone of the Korean American economic activities and residence. While the Asian American community in Palisades Park and Fort Lee was expanding, Leonia and Edgewater provided the Asian immigrants with affordable housing with accessibility to Palisades Park and Fort Lee. Therefore, the four municipalities are sharing the same immigration and development experience.       

 

Language / High Limited English Proficiency

Since Korean Americans’ immigration history is relatively short, most Korean Americans in the four municipalities speak Korean as their primary language at home and business. According to the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund’s 2008 exit poll report, which was conducted in Palisades Park and Fort Lee, 62% of Korean voters had limited English proficiency and 22% of them used interpreters at the poll. The high rate of limited English proficiency among Korean Americans made the Korean American community dependent on social and health services in Korean.

 

Bilingual Health/Social Services

Many organizations located in the Legislative District 37 are serving Korean Americas in Fort Lee and Edgewater. And the Korean Americans in the two municipalities are also relying on the bilingual services provided by the facilities in District 37:

Holy Name Medical Center, which is located in Teaneck (LD 37), is acclaimed for its Korean Medical Program. The Korean Medical Program offers Korean-speaking customer representatives who greet patients as well as translate and coordinate with physician offices. It offers Korean menu selections, television channels, newspapers and magazines for inpatients, and a free community shuttle van service. The program also actively provides community outreach initiatives such as health fairs, education programs and physical lectures. Significant numbers of patients of the program are Korean Americans from Fort Lee and Edgewater.

Friends of Grace Seniors Korean Community Center(FGS), which was originally established in Fort Lee and moved to Englewood (LD 37), provides Korean Americans in Bergen County with over 70 different cultural, educational, and wellness classes in Korean. It specialized especially in health care, screening tests, diabetes education for senior Korean Americans. Many senior Korean Americans in Fort Lee and Edgewater are recipients of the FGS programs.

 

Main Shopping Destination for Asian Americans Creating Jobs for Asian Americans

Main Street in Fort Lee and Broad Avenue and Grand Avenue in Palisades Park are highly concentrated with Korean small businesses. There are two major Asian groceries located in Fort Lee and one in Edgewater. These stores are the major shopping destinations not only for Asian Americans but also for residents in the neighborhood. The Asian small businesses are providing most of the job opportunities for the Asian Americans in the neighborhood including the four municipalities.  

 

 

 

Korean Cultural Event

Korean Thanksgiving Festival, which is the largest Korean cultural event in New Jersey, is held at Overpeck Park in Leonia (LD 37) every year.  The festival is organized by the Korean American Association of New Jersey. Most of the organizers and volunteers are residents of Fort Lee, Palisades Park, Leonia, and Edgewater.

 

Education: Edgewater and Leonia share Middle School and High School

The Edgewater Public Schools (LD 38) has only one school in its district, Eleanor Van Gelder School which serves only K through 6th grade. For grades 7 – 12, Edgewater public school students are sent to the Leonia Public Schools (LD 37) as part of a sending/receiving relationship.  Students attend Leonia Middle School for grades 7 and 8 (a school with grades 6 – 8), and Leonia High School for grades 9 – 12.

 

Korean Registered Voters

According to Korean American Voters’ Council’s analysis on Korean American voter registration data (November 2010), there are 9,142 registered Korean voters in Bergen County.

 

                                    Korean Registered Voters in Bergen County (Top 10 Towns)

Municipalities

Korean Registered Voters

FORT LEE

       1,442

PALISADES PARK

       1,417

PARAMUS

          435

LEONIA

          338

CLIFFSIDE PARK

          335

ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS

          304

EDGEWATER

          299

CLOSTER

          295

TENAFLY

          287

RIDGEFIELD

          279

CRESSKILL

          244

 

38% (3,496) of total Korean registered voters are residing in Fort Lee, Palisades Park, Leonia, and Edgewater. Please consider that Fort Lee and Palisades Park are the top two towns with Korean voters. In the two towns there are 2,859 Korean Voters, which comprise 31% of total Korean voters in Bergen County. By splitting those two towns into two different legislative districts, Korean Americans’ voice in the NJ Legislature was significantly limited.  Based on KAVC’s exit poll and phone surveys, approximately 70% of Korean Americans voted in 2008 elections.

Palisades Park, Leonia, Fort Lee & Edgewater: a Community of Interest

There are many more characteristics that are shared among the four municipalities. By simply taking into account the characteristics we discussed above, the Apportionment Commission may be able to recognize the municipalities as a community of interest.

 On behalf of the Asian Americans in the four municipalities, the Korean American Voters Council strongly urges the Apportionment Commission to recognize the four municipalities as a community of interest and keep them together in the 37th Legislative District.

Should you need more information or have any questions, please feel free to contact me at 201-488-4201 or kavcny@gmail.com.

Thank you again for this opportunity to deliver Korean Americans’ opinion.

 

KOREAN AMERICAN CIVIC EMPOWERMENT
NEW YORK OFFICE: 163-10 NORTHERN BLVD. #307 FLUSHING, NY 11358 TEL: (718) 961-4117 FAX: (718) 961-4603
NEW JERSEY OFFICE: 185 BRIDGE PLAZA N SUITE 306 FORT LEE, NJ 07024 TEL: (201) 488-4201