Stories

The toughest Election Day

Coverage from the five boroughs as a storm-shocked city heads to the polls

By rental car and taxi service, Howard Beach residents get to new polling sites

Lindenwood, Queens, 7:30 p.m.

 
Queens voters were forced to double park in order to cast a ballot at P.S. 232 in Lindenwood near Howard Beach today.

Because of Hurricane Sandy, the P.S. 232 poll site combined voters from P.S. 207 in Rockwood Park and P.S. 146 in Howard Beach, creating a full house.

Kevin Sullivan, a staffer with Sen. Joseph Addabbo’s campaign, said turnout was better at some sites and worse in others, but that staffers worked to inform displaced voters that they could cast their votes at the so-called super sites, including P.S. 232.

“We distributed flyers yesterday throughout Howard Beach, Lindenwood, Breezy Point, Rockaway Park and The Rockaways — most of the places that had polling sites that were affected,” he said. “We tried to get the word out the best we could.”

Sullivan said the Addabbo campaign placed a taxi service outside some of the closed polling sites to take voters to locations where they could vote.

But even with those within walking distance said shortages of gas and electricity have presented challenges.

Lindenwood resident Chris Jaworek, 34, said he had to get gas in New Jersey before heading to his familiar polling site, P.S. 232, to vote.

Bob Mackie, 56, of Ozone Park said his family has been without power since Monday night, but were able to walk to their normal polling site. He brought his wife to vote — even though he refused because he said he doesn’t like either presidential candidate.

He said voters have bigger matters on their minds this year.

“Due to the catastrophe, politics is really the furthest thing from everyone’s mind,” he said. “We’re thinking about water, heat and electricity. It’s 45 degrees in the house.”

Mackie noted that a lot of people casting their votes at P.S. 232 in Lindenwood are from storm-ravaged Howard Beach.

Larissa Triolo of Howard Beach said, “It’s pretty packed in there.”

Triolo, who just got her electricity back yesterday, said she and her husband had to get a rental car because their vehicles were ruined in the storm. But she said her husband couldn’t get gas for it today.

“Lucky, he could walk here,” she said.

—Lindsey Bever

 

Democracy and disaster in Staten Island

Staten Islanders affected by Hurricane Sandy are passionate — and divided — about the importance of voting today.
 
The presence of the elections was felt strongly in the storm-stricken borough. The Staten Island Ferry is peppered with ads to re-elect Rep. Michael Grimm. His opponent, Mark Murphy, was in the ferry terminal this morning greeting Manhattan-bound commuters. “I think everybody is going to vote today,” said Murphy optimistically.

Some island residents, like Donna Dimino, who lives near the corner of Olympia Boulevard and Norway Avenue, an area hit by flooding, is among many Staten Islanders translating strong feelings about government response to superstorm Sandy into votes at the polls. Although she did not express a preference about the congressional race, she was frustrated with the relief effort response, and made it clear that she was not voting for President Barack Obama’s reelection.

“They didn’t get to us for two days,” she said of the relief efforts. “Our basement was flooded with five feet of water.”

Read the rest of “Disaster and Democracy on Staten Island,” by Beth Morrissey

 

One Street, Two Worlds: Crowds and confusion at tot-size poll

Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, 4 p.m.

 

Voters cram into a day care center on Marlborough Road in Brooklyn. Photo: Anna Goldenberg

 

“It’s been like a stampede,” said Inez Holmes, coordinator at Marlborough Gardens polling station south of Prospect Park. The day care center is crammed with 20 polling booths, four scanners and around 50 people. The station serves five election districts and is also open to voters who have been displaced from other polling sites by superstorm Sandy. Voters scurry around the crowded room, looking for the right line for the scanners, pens, or the door.

Holmes removes a transparent plastic pouch with a metal chain from her pocket. “I am supposed to use this to measure a five feet distance all around the ballot-marking device,” she says, “but there is simply no space.” There is also no space to place signs that indicate where to stand in line for the scanners.

The police officer on scene shakes her head: “The situation is out of control.”

Two other polling stations in the neighborhood, located in schools, are not in use for this election. At least one of them was closed because of the hurricane. Consequently, more people stand in the line stretching from Marlborough Road around the corner to Cortelyou Road than ever before, say voters.

“The line was much smaller four years ago,” says Noah Price, 33, a Ditmas Park resident waiting to cast his ballot. Even facing the prospect of standing in line for up to one-and-a-half hours, his mood is good: “I’ve seen two different storefronts in the past five minutes. We’re definitely moving forward.”

On the other side of the road, at Cortelyou Road Public Library, coordinator Diana Girdwood has had a “smooth” day. At 4 p.m., there is almost no line at the polling station, which serves two election districts and has two ballot scanners. “I don’t know what’s going on over there,” Girdwood says with a nod across the street. “The crowd comes and goes, but no one had to wait for more than 30 minutes.” — Anna Goldenberg

 

Seniors stuck upstairs and far from polls

Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, 2 p.m.

 

Photo: Nathaniel Herz

Democracy isn’t easy when you’re stuck in an eight-story building without heat, electricity, or functioning elevators.

In Brighton Beach, one candidate for state office feared that the combination of relocated poll sites and missing services would keep his supporters away from casting their ballots.

“I have a number of people who won’t come out to vote because they can’t get down” from their apartments, said Ben Akselrod, an Independence Party candidate who’s trying to unseat Democrat Steve Cymbrowitz in the state’s 45th district. “They can’t — they physically can’t. We’re talking about people in their 70s and 80s.”

Akselrod was most concerned about voters who live at 161 Corbin Place in Manhattan Beach, which had previously been designated as a poll site but then abandoned at the last minute.

The building, which is without electricity or hear, houses many senior citizens, who Akselrod said would struggle to reach the new poll site several blocks away.
Several voters were observed being turned away from 161 Corbin this afternoon, including one who said she had been told by the city’s 311 hotline yesterday that the site was still open.

The World attempted to interview several dozen residents of the building about the impact of the change in sites, but none spoke fluent English.

Some appeared to be mobile enough to walk to their new poll site at 3300 Coney Island Avenue a half-mile away, but others — including those in wheelchairs — would likely struggle to make the trip.

The building’s management would not allow a reporter inside to interview residents about voting.

“We’re dealing with basic life issues,” said Terry Marks, chief development officer for the Jewish Association Serving the Aging, which runs the building.

As for voting, Marks said, “I can’t even address that right now.” —Nathaniel Herz

 

Faith in government undeterred

Gravesend, Brooklyn

 

Voters near Coney Island can find hurricane aid at their new poll site. Photo: Shadi Bushra

At Abraham Lincoln High School on Brooklyn’s Ocean Parkway, which has absorbed six polling sites from Brighton Beach and Coney Island, many residents who survived the storm say they still have faith government is doing its best to help.

“We’re all human,” said Francis Chery, whose home was flooded. “We can’t expect them to have everybody working 24/7.”

Chery, of Cuban and Haitian descent, compared the damage done in New York to that in Haiti, also hit by Hurricane Sandy as it moved up the Atlantic coast of North America, killing dozens and triggering a wave of cholera.“At least we have a government with the resources to help us,” she said.

 —Shadi Bushra

 

The hottest race here is for City Council

Edenwald, Bronx, 3:30 p.m.

 

Voters filling out ballots in this neighborhood in the northern reaches of the Bronx describe the high-profile national and state campaigns as mere sideshows to a far hotter contest: the race to replace disgraced Bronx City Council member Larry Seabrook.

Despite downed trees and power outages, the six hopefuls in District 12 campaigned in the wake of superstorm Sandy, fighting for last-minute and potentially decisive votes. Even on Election Day, some power lines and branches remained strewn on the sidewalks near polling stations. But voters, too, were undeterred.

“It’s a big thing and people want to get their vote in and be heard,” said Harold Manson, a poll worker at P.S. 86 who described a relentless stream of voters since polls opened at 6:01 this morning.

Voters, Manson said, were taking advantage of Governor Cuomo’s executive order allowing city residents to vote at any polling station. He said that at the current rate, hundreds of affidavit ballots would be presented at P.S. 86 by the time polls close at 9 p.m.

But few are actually displaced in this neighborhood. Instead, voters who find themselves frustrated by the results of redistricting – either inconvenienced by their new polling places, or confused by the new lines – are simply returning to their old polling places with affidavit ballots.

“The information is not there,” Manson said.  —Greg Barber

 

What a three-hour line to vote looks like

Flatbush, Brooklyn

—Amanda Hickman

Coney Island voters stay focused at top of the ballot

Gravesend, Brooklyn, noon

 

Storm-battered Coney Island voters streamed up Ocean Parkway to Abraham Lincoln High School to vote in today’s presidential election.

Though the city Board of Elections made sure that ballots for their Senate and Assembly candidates were available at this polling “supersite” hastily arranged to accommodate voters dislocated by superstorm Sandy, those races hadn’t registered for many here.

“I don’t know who they are,” said Coney Island resident Becky Cooper of Senate and Assembly candidates on her ballot. She said she voted for President Barack Obama and for the incumbent junior U.S. senator, Kirsten Gillibrand.

Other voters have become familiar enough with one or another party to be comfortable just voting for an entire slate.

“We hate Democrats,” said Khina Zeitserman, who emigrated to the U.S. 25 years ago with her husband from Ukraine.

Their experience under communism has left them deeply distrustful of any form of redistribution of wealth, which is how they interpret the Democrats’ agenda. Yet that same experience also makes them wary of some Republicans’ condemnation of the Obama administration’s policies as “socialist.”

“I wouldn’t say that,” Zeitserman said. “His policies just aren’t up to our requirements.” — Shadi Bushra

Instead of election flyers, State Sen. Golden hands out FEMA aid information

Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn, 11:15 a.m.

 
State Sen. Marty Golden mixed last-minute campaigning with relief work in Gerritsen Beach in Brooklyn.

Inside a poll site at P.S. 277, Golden strolled past voters and shook hands, while an aide distributed fliers advertising FEMA assistance.

As a representative of one of New York City’s most storm-battered neighborhoods, Golden said he was splitting his Election Day work between getting out the vote, and getting out the help needed by his constituents.

Standing outside his SUV on Gerritsen Avenue, Golden touted efforts like a delivery of 1,200 cases of water he said he’d secured for the neighborhood.

“These people here are without electricity,” Golden told the World. “That’s the focus for me.”

Golden had voted earlier in the day, at Fort Hamilton High School in Bay Ridge. Outside P.S. 277, he talked with workers and joked with his constituents, including one woman who was adamant about showing up to the polls despite the damage from Sandy, telling Golden: “I’d crawl on glass to vote.”

John Quaglione, Golden’s press secretary, said that the senator had seen an outpouring of support from volunteers who showed up at his office ready to help with recovery after the storm.

But, Quaglione added, the campaign was not being neglected. “We have both ends covered, and we’re very confident,” he said. —Nathaniel Herz

 

Brooklyn residents who “lost everything” take time out to vote

Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn, 10:30 a.m.

 

Voter Ned Burke in Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn. Photo: Nat Herz

Residents of Gerritsen Beach in Brooklyn are still without power, and still working to salvage possessions from their flooded homes and basements.

Six days after superstorm Sandy hit the neighborhood, many of these people took time from the grim work of gutting and cleaning to cast their ballots.

“They’re pretty conscious of what is an isn’t important,” said Richard Burke, 64, outside his relocated poll site at P.S. 277 on Gerritsen Avenue, where fire trucks and relief equipment rumbled past. “I ran into people in there — they’re living with other people because they lost everything. They’re still voting.” Burke was among those whose homes were wrecked by the storm.

Dave Ryan, a poll watcher working for the campaign of state Sen. Marty Golden, said that the site had been about two-and-a-half hours late in opening because workers had not been given a key by the city Board of Elections to open boxes containing ballot scanners.
Poll workers at P.S. 277 declined to answer a reporter’s questions, and asked him to leave. —Nathaniel Herz

 

Staten Island ferry terminal

8:00 a.m.

 

“Vote for Mark Murphy! Vote for Staten Island! Don’t let them cut FEMA!” —campaigner for a Democratic congressional challenger in the Staten Island ferry terminal this morning as commuters pushed their way toward the boat to Manhattan.

Congressional candidate Mark Murphy greets voters commuting to Manhattan at the Staten Island ferry terminal. Photo: Beth Morrissey

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