BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
As Election Day nears, residents of Corona’s LeFrak City are taking action to ensure that its polling site becomes permanent.
On Monday, the Black Leadership Action Coalition, The Black Institute, LeFrak City Tenants Association, South Asian Fund for Education, Scholarship and Training (SAFEST), Rev. Phil Craig, lawyers and elected officials took to the steps of City Hall to call on the city’s Board of Elections (BOE) to not shut down a polling site in LeFrak City.
In 2016, the BOE ended the use of LeFrak City’s Continental Room as the community’s polling site, forcing residents to travel almost a mile to vote. The majority of LeFrak’s residents are seniors, many of whom had voted at the polling site for nearly 50 years. The community rallied to bring the polling site back, arguing that its relocation had confused and inconvenienced LeFrak residents, preventing some of them from voting.
In October 2017, one month before the November election, the community celebrated a victory after New York County Supreme Court Justice Erika Edwards sided with the residents.
However, last month, the BOE filed a 46-page brief with the state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division, appealing the court order filed by Edwards, which reversed the BOE’s actions to relocate the poling site that serves Districts 15, 16, 18 and 25.
“We are demanding that the New York City BOE withdraw their appeal immediately,” said Bertha Lewis, the president and Founder of The Black Institute and the Black Leadership Action Coalition. “We won fair and square in the New York Supreme Court. Not only was their relocation ‘irrational, arbitrary and capricious,’ but so is their decision to appeal. This vindictive move and their comments in the brief of Justice Edwards are shameful. They are not above the law. Every elected official in the city and state should stand with us and LeFrak City tenants. This is voter suppression at its height, thereby disenfranchising one of the largest concentrations of minority voters in the city. We might as well be in Mississippi.”
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-Elmhurst), who had a representative at Monday’s rally, said he supports Lewis, the groups she leads and the tenants of LeFrak City.
“Plain and simple, this is an attack on the more than 6,000 LeFrak City residents,” said Peralta. “Through their actions, the BOE has shown [it is] playing political games in order to disenfranchise voters living there. The courts have ruled—any poll site relocations at LeFrak are irrational—and I am calling on the board to withdraw [its] appeal efforts.”
Congressman Joe Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) sent a letter to the BOE asking that they stop the appeals process immediately and offered to help the LeFrak community with legal costs.
“The right to vote is paramount and I stand strongly with LeFrak City tenants as they fight to ensure that their longstanding polling sites remain within the community,” said Crowley. “Any restriction of voting access to communities of color, low-income neighborhoods, senior citizens, or any eligible voters stifles our citizens’ voices and their right to be heard. I will not allow that to occur in LeFrak City. It is past time for the New York City Board of Elections to drop their misguided effort to move these polling sites.”
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144, email@example.com or @reporter_ariel.