While District 21’s polling site has been located at the complex’s Continental Room for decades, the Board of Elections recently split the polling site between P.S. 13 and the High School for the Arts and Business.
Last week, Judge Andrea Masley ruled that it was too late to relocate the polling site back to LeFrak City and Judge Erika Edwards upheld the ruling two days later despite concerns.
Edwards echoed the same concerns from Masley’s interim order that raised several questions, such as why the Board of Elections wouldn't consider auxiliary polling locations and why was there a sudden change in polling site locations without adequate public notice or community input.
In Masley’s order, she wrote that “moving poll sites is no joke,” also adding that “this court is confounded by the BOE's decision to move 6,071 voters to two new voting sites instead of implementing temporary ADA modifications and moving 1,496 to address overcrowding.”
The polling site change came a month before the hotly contested primary race between former councilman and state senator Hiram Monserrate and Assemblyman Francisco Moya to replace Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland.
LeFrak City Tenants’ Association president Malikah Shabazz expressed disappointment with the Board of Election’s decision to move all five election districts from the complex, which houses more than 15,000 residents.
“With the move by the Board of Elections to move the polling site, I truly believe they sabotaged the primary election because they did not try to remedy this issue,” Shabazz said. “People have to put their personal agendas on the side when you’re dealing with the general population.
“This is a situation that everybody, no matter race, color or creed, regardless of disability, everybody is affected by this move and it’s wrong for them not to have an open meeting where it can be openly discussed regardless of the outcome,” she added.
Ethan Felder, an attorney and member of Community Board 6, has been working with tenants on the case.
While he felt Edwards was sympathetic about the situation, Felder said the city was “stubborn and obstinate about doing absolutely nothing to accommodate the residents, many of whom are disabled and unable to vote due to the polling site change.”
The Board of Elections claimed the Continental Room was not ADA compliant, but proponents for LeFrak City argued minor adjustments, such as fixing the placement of fire extinguisher, replacing heavy doors or adding a portable ramp with a handrail, would have sufficed
Beyond the ADA compliance issues, Masley noted that there are still issues regarding overcrowding.
The city stated that they would not be able to provide absentee ballots at the Continental Room for residents who can’t make it to the new polling sites. In response, civic groups like the Tenants Association and the Black Leadership Action Coalition will provide transportation for voters to P.S. 13 or the High School for the Arts and Business.
“It’s really community groups coming together to right this wrong that the city’s done,” Felder said.
In the upcoming months, there will be a full hearing on the matter. Resident hope the polling site will return to LeFrak City before the General Election in November.