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Voters in Southeast Queens flock to the polls for Obama

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Thousands of voters in southeast Queens came out in astonishing numbers Tuesday to take part in what they called a historic moment for black and minority Americans.

Lines stretched for yards, and in some cases around the block, in polling places in neighborhoods like St. Albans and Springfield Gardens, as many voters claimed they planned to cast their vote for U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D−Ill.), the Democratic presidential candidate..

Although some people had to wait close to two hours to get to a machine, many said it was worth it.

“When you have people coming out in wheelchairs to vote, it feels good,” said first−time voter Kevin Martino, 35, outside the Robert Ross Johnson Family Life Center in St. Albans.

The residents of those neighborhoods said this year’s presidential election was very important to them for various reasons.

On a personal note, some voters said it was momentous because they had never thought they would see the day when a minority candidate would have such a strong shot at becoming commander­in−chi­ef.

“It means voting for change that we needed for a long time,” Springfield Gardens voter Dorothy Alston, 52, said of Obama’s run after she had voted at PS 37.

On the local level, some southeast Queens voters said they believed Obama would be the best leader to help solve their communities’ problems, such as the growing number of home foreclosures, rising job losses and other quality−of−life issues.

“It’s important that we have a representative of our community,” said Stephen Ward, 57 of St. Albans who voted at the Family Life Center. ”Now we’ll have a person representing our community representing the nation.”

Voters also gave praise to the senator for his international expertise. Donayle Johnson, an immigrant from Grenada, said he voted for the Democrat because Obama was the better candidate when it comes to world peace. He said he thought Republican nominee John McCain would not work well with leaders outside America, despite his decades of experience as a senator in Washington.

“I think [Obama] will bring the nation together because he is accepted around the world,” the 34−year−old voter said.

Joyce Kimbrough of Springfield Gardens said the enthusiasm for Obama was not only limited to the minority community. The Illinois senator’s plans and promises will benefit all ethnic groups and individuals across the nation, she said.

“He’s not running for black America — he’s running for the people. I don’t believe in a separate America,” Kimbrough said.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e−mail at ipereira@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 146.

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