Americans head to the polls on Tuesday to cast their ballot for the next president and for other local offices. In New York City, the country’s largest metropolis, residents are still reeling from Hurricane Sandy, which hit eight days ago and has left tens of thousands still without power, and some without homes. “Super polling-sites” have replaced the 60 polling sites that are out of commission due to the storm’s aftermath. To check your polling location, use the Board of Elections’ poll locator.
On Monday, Governor Cuomo signed an executive order allowing affidavit voting. Voters who that have been displaced as a result of Sandy can go to any polling place, sign an affidavit and vote there. No identification is necessary. Affidavit voters cannot vote in district-specific races if they vote outside their district.
Stay with MetroFocus for live updates. Today, we’ll focus on the very act of voting after a natural disaster disrupted life as we know it.
6:15 p.m. Red Hook, Hurricane Evacuation Zone A, has full poll site
Red Hook, Brooklyn, a residential area where heavy-industry once reigned and now artisanal production rules, is a neighborhood both loved and hated for its inaccessibility. There are no subways, and the bus service is spotty. But those who live and work in Red Hook are a certain breed. When Hurricane Sandy hit, it left the neighborhood in tatters: cars were overturned, trees uprooted, streets flooded. But the storm, which so many in New York City are referring to as a “Tale of Two Cities,” has brought the diverse community together.The majority of Red Hook remains powerless today. But through help orchestrated largely by the Red Hook Initiative, led by Occupy Sandy — a new incarnation of Occupy Wall Street — people are served hot meals every night, and volunteers are on hand distributing food, clothes and supplies. The community was also brought together on Tuesday for Election Day. The usual polling site for the southern section of the neighborhood, PS 15, is closed due to extensive flooding. PS 27, located just a few blocks north, has power and is serving as a “super-polling site” of sorts.
When we stopped by around 5:30 p.m., a steady stream of voters passed through the doors of PS 27. Most people we spoke with normally vote at that location, but Sarah Rose, who lives nearby and usually votes at PS 15, said she suspects the majority of the community will be voting in this election.
“I have the feeling that people in this neighborhood will definitely be voting today,” she said. “Especially because of what’s been happening recently. When you have FEMA in the neighborhood, people’s citizen responsibility goes up.”
John Ruiz and Noemi Cintron also showed up to vote, despite the fact that their five kids are still living in a house without power that just last week was filled with 10 feet of water on the ground floor.
“We always vote,” said Cintron.
Cintron said she knew where to vote because her kids were about to start school at PS 27, because PS 15 is shut down. She added that at PS 15, there was a map directing people to vote at PS 27.
Rosa Torres has been living in Red Hook for 49 years and always votes at PS 27.
“I’ve never seen such a crazy thing like this,” she said about Hurricane Sandy.
PS 27 was certainly more crowded than she’s seen it before.
“It’s full of people in there,” she said.
5:15 p.m. Selling Obama on the street
While campaigning is not permitted within 100 feet of polling places in New York, no one stopped this vendor from selling his President Barack Obama mugs and T-shirts on Parkside Avenue, alongside the long line of voters waiting at PS 92. This regular polling site is apparently notorious for long lines, while nearby polling site IS2 is usually smooth sailing, according to area resident and blogger The Q at Parkside.
5:10 p.m. Time, and more time, to tweet
4:40 p.m. “I don’t have a lot but I have the power to vote.”
While many of the voters MetroFocus spoke with expressed anger with city officials for not helping their communities more, or frustration with the Board of Elections for not alerting people to new polling sites, not everyone was feeling down.
Ramona Roxanne Beard and her daughter Ashley Adeline Beard live in Coney Island in a building that still has no heat, no electricity and no hot water. They live on the seventh floor and the elevators are down. They had to take the bus to get to their relocated polling site at PS 370 in Brighton Beach. But despite all the hardships, they were cheerful and optimistic.
“It takes too much energy to complain,” said Ramona Beard, a big grin across her face and her arm around Ashley. “My daughter just got her bachelor’s degree! Other people are living out of boxes and I still have my apartment, my clothes, my sneakers. I’m happy to be alive.”
The Beard’s usual polling site is at the community center right across the street from their apartment building, but it was damaged by Sandy. The memory of the storm is still fresh in Mrs. Beard’s mind.
“It was devastating but I’m like, ‘God, I thank you,’ because we didn’t lose everything,” she said. “I don’t have a lot but I have the power to vote.”
2:45 p.m. Elected official criticizes Board of Elections
Around 8 a.m. this morning, New York City Council Member David G. Greenfield tweeted:
MetroFocus reached out to Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny, who represents Coney Island and Brighton Beach and is up for re-election, to report on what he was seeing in his district.
Brook-Krasny said at least one of the three polling sites in his district, at 2730 West 33rd Street, didn’t open until 8:04 a.m. A line of people had formed outside and left without voting, he said. At Abraham Lincoln High School he was hearing reports about people’s addresses not appearing on the voting lists.
“This is a crisis created by the Board of Elections,” said Brook-Krasny, who said his office had assisted the Board of Elections with finding suitable polling locations. “People shouldn’t have to walk 40 blocks to vote.”
Brook-Krasny said he suggested setting up tents near the Coney Island boardwalk that would run on generator power, like the tents set up in the Rockaways. He said the location was more central, and would be easier to find. But his idea was turned down by the BOE.
“The BOE said tents were unacceptable in Coney Island because of looting. This is outrageous. We’ve had it [looting] under control for five days now. We have Homeland Security out here. Guys with machine guns,” he added.
The Board of Elections did not immediately return an email asking for comment.
1:50 p.m. Language obstacles in Coney Island, Brooklyn
It wasn’t until about 6 p.m. on Monday, the day before the presidential election, that the Board of Elections finalized where residents of Coney Island, Brighton Beach and other neighborhoods in Southern Brooklyn would vote today. This made for some confusion. But to not know the location of your polling place is one thing, to not know where it is and to not speak English is another.
At Abraham Lincoln High School in Coney Island on Tuesday morning, two Russian woman from the housing development across the street — holding five high-rises of approximately 30 stories each — said because many locals don’t speak English very well, few people knew where to vote.
One of the women, who only identified herself as Anna, translated for her neighbor Raiza Kletkina.
“They can’t just hang signs in English, they need a big notice in Russian!” she said, her red hair poking from beneath a tight-knit hat.
Kletkina said through Anna that she would alert her neighbors to the new polling place, but said it would be hard for many of them to get out and vote.
“We have no elevators, no heat,” she said.
11:15 a.m. Crowds in Brooklyn Heights
Tom Stewart reported that his polling place at St. Ann’s and the Holy Trinity Church in Brooklyn Heights had long lines. It took him two hours to vote, perhaps, he thought, because of a shortage of capable poll workers.
10 a.m. Affadavit voting at 265 Bergen Street, Brooklyn
Andrea Plaid, a journalist and blogger, evacuated her apartment in Sea Gate at the tip of Coney Island on the eve of Hurricane Sandy. She is one of thousands of displaced New Yorkers who can vote anywhere in the state today by using an affadavit form. Still, Plaid was a bit nervous about access when she arrived at the poll station at 265 Bergen Street to cast her vote, but it turned out to be “really, really simple,” according to Plaid.
[tweet https://twitter.com/christinakni/status/265867095554789376 align=’right’ width=’350′]”Were they going to ask for ID, what kind, would I have to find another place and would I have the money on my MetroCard?” were the concerns Plaid detailed. She had arrived prepared with many types of identification, but she didn’t have to show anything. Additionally, within the packed poll station she was directed to the table of voting district 63, where there happened to be no line. She was given her affadavit ballot immediately, voted and was on her way as others inched forwards in their respective district lines.
9:30 a.m. A new “super polling site” in Coney Island, Brooklyn
Abraham Lincoln High School in Coney Island, Brooklyn, has never been a polling site before — and yet it’s a “super polling site” today for voters from Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach and other nearby communities.
There were no lines this morning at 9 a.m., but the stream of voters was steady. How did these voters, who are suffering from the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, know where to cast their ballot today?
Cora Dennis lives in a ground floor apartment in Coney Island that was devastated by flooding. She is staying with a friend in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, because her apartment is uninhabitable.
“The hurricane makes it hard for people to vote,” she said. “they don’t have the transportation.”
Dennis has a car, and says she was lucky enough to buy two gallons from someone else, which she put in her car herself.
“Hopefully it will get me back to Bed-Stuy,” she said, with a half-hearted chuckle.
Dennis said she didn’t know where she was supposed to vote, but she knew there had to be a place somewhere in Coney Island. So she drove to her neighborhood that she hadn’t seen since evacuating last week. She asked people on the street where to vote, and once directed to Abraham Lincoln, signed an affadavit there that allowed her to vote in the presidential and state-wide elecions only.
She would not say who she voted for.
A cold early morning in Staten Island