New York 12th District
In 1957, amid a vast wave of Puerto Rican migration to New York, Leonard Bernstein wrote his musical West Side Story, with Romeo as an Italian-American and Juliet as a Manhattan Puerto Rican. Before World War II, there were 60,000 Puerto Ricans in New York City. Three decades later, with cheap airfares and no need to go through passport control, there were 800,000. But as the city’s industrial base grew stagnant, the number of Puerto Ricans in New York declined, and young New Yorkers of Puerto Rican descent increasingly moved to Puerto Rico. By the late 1990s, New York City was experiencing a large influx of Latinos from places not under the U.S. flag, and today most Hispanics in the city come not from Puerto Rico but from the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Mexico, Panama and Peru.
2008 Presidential Vote
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The 12th Congressional District of New York was designed to stitch together many of these diverse people. More than two-thirds of the district’s population is in Brooklyn, with the remainder split between Queens and Manhattan. In Brooklyn, the district hugs the waterfront and dips inland to include areas with many Hispanics. But this is New York, so it takes in many other ethnicities as well. Overall, the district in 2007 was 47% Hispanic and 17% Asian (mostly Chinese). Sixty-seven percent spoke a language other than English at home. The 12th includes the upscale Brooklyn Heights waterfront, with its stunning but after September 11, haunting views of Lower Manhattan, and nearby Carroll Gardens with young professionals intermingled with Italian immigrants. To the south is Sunset Park, once the home of Irish, Polish and Norwegian immigrants, now filled with Chinese, Puerto Ricans, Colombians and Ecuadorans. North of Brooklyn Heights is DUMBO (Down Under the Manhattan Bridge Overpass), with artists in old industrial lofts, and just above that, Vinegar Hill. Williamsburg has many Orthodox Jews and recent Latino arrivals as well as some hip young people.
Inland is Bushwick, with low-income Latinos. Just a few streets away, across the Brooklyn-Queens border, is Ridgewood, once mostly Irish, then Polish, now filled with new arrivals from Poland, Romania, Albania, Serbia and Bosnia. Nearby is industrial Maspeth. In Manhattan, the 12th District includes parts of the Lower East Side, Chinatown and Little Italy, although today there are virtually no Italians (only Italian restaurants), but still many Chinese, including the largest Chinese Roman Catholic church in the nation. The Bowery, which a century ago was the city’s entertainment center, is the birthplace of punk rock and is slowly gentrifying. Politically, the 12th District is heavily Democratic.