TimesLedger Newspapers is covering the 2013 primaries for Queens borough president, eight City Council seats and citywide offices.
Asian-American group tracks Queens’ polling problems
The Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund is preparing to release a list of irregularities observers found at polling sites in Queens and other boroughs today, including voters who were turned away at a Jamaica site after two machines broke and workers ran out of ballots.
Glenn Magpantay, a program director at the nonprofit, had been involved in a lawsuit against the Board of Elections over putting Bengali on the ballot in certain areas of the city. The board had promised to do so for the primary.
“We were at a poll site in Astoria, where the board said they will provide them,” Magpantay said. “But there were no Bengali ballots.”
The polling site in question was St. Joseph Catholic Academy near the corner of 30th Avenue and 43rd Street.
At PS 84 farther north, two Bengali translators said they had assisted a handful of voters for the primary, but during the presidential election last year they were swamped.
But a much larger enclave of South Asian voters call the Jamaica area home, and poll workers at PS 131 there also had trouble, according to AALDEF.
A machine there broke down at 6 a.m., just as the polls were opening, Magpantay said. Then the backup machine broke down. Workers gave out affidavit ballots to 300 Bengali voters, but then ran out.
“People have been turned away,” he said.
At St. Andrew’s School in Flushing, AALDEF observed poll workers would did not want voters to fill out affidavit ballots.
Stringer says voters will choose trustworthy comptroller
Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer campaigned with state Assemblyman Franciso Moya at 1:30 p.m. in Elmhurst, one of Queens’ most diverse neighborhoods. Stringer said he believes voters will pick the candidate with the most integrity. “You can’t trust somebody who has proven in the last job that they are untrustworthy,” he said. Passerby Evelyn Pamintuan agreed, saying Stringer earned her vote for that reason and because “when you handle money, that is especially important.”
CD 19 candidate Graziano emphasizes Avella’s backing
Council candidate Paul Graziano was joined by his fiancée Elzbieta Karwowska at Scheuer House in Bayside at about 3 p.m. He prominently displayed campaign literature that shows his endorsement by state Sen. Tony Avella, and said he was hearing that Avella’s backing has been a positive thing for him in the race. One voter, though, pointed to Graziano’s photo and said, ‘I like this guy,” Graziano’s fiancée joked.
Halloran seat candidates bring heavy hitters to Bay Terrace
The Bell Academy in Bay Terrace was the hot spot for candidates in the Council District 19 race, as four of the five Democrats - including Chrissy Voskerichian and John Duane - greeted voters there around noon. Austin Shafran was joined by former U.S. Rep. Gary Ackerman, his supporter, as Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and state Assemblyman Ed Braunstein helped give out fliers alongside Paul Vallone. Sal Bacarella, who is running for state committeeman in the 26th Assembly District, chatted with Republican voters.
Republican mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis made the round to diners in northeast Queens, which his staff member said is one of his strongholds in the borough. Other areas where support for the supermarket chain owner is strong include former state Sen. Serphin Maltese’s stomping grounds of Maspeth and Middle Village, as well as parts of the Rockaways. While his decked-out campaign bus was stopped along Northern Boulevard and the Clearview Expressway, Catstimatidis said the outer boroughs are tired of being secondary to Manhattan and if elected mayor, he would make sure Queens would get more attention.
Voting quiet on Liu’s hometown turf
With no primaries on the City Council level in Flushing, turnout was decidedly light, according to a poll coordinator at PS 20, typically one of the neighborhood’s busier locations.
By about 1 p.m., only about 300 voters had shown up to cast their ballots. The area is an important one for City Comptroller John Liu, who has consistently said his poll numbers have been underrepresented throughout the primary, where he has been polling in fifth place.
When Liu was elected to the comptroller position in 2009, he rode a wave of excitement from Flushing and other Asian-American enclaves around the city. They were eager to elect a member of their community to citywide office and came out to vote in droves. But Flushing Tuesday did not initially seem to have numbers greater than other polling locations throughout Queens, although workers said the greatest rush traditionally occurs in the evening.
About 70 percent of the downtown area is comprised of Asian residents, and many Mandarin speakers who emerged from the school said they had cast votes for Liu.
“I like him, and the whole community is going to vote for him,” Amy Zhang said.
But not everyone was behind the former Flushing City Council member.
Sean Mollahan said he voted for former city Comptroller Bill Thompson.
“I don’t want some flashy guy doing the job,” he said. “I want someone who is going to put his nose down and work.”
Mollahan also cast his ballot for former Councilwoman Melinda Katz, who is running against City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) in the race for borough president
“Vallone is really more conservative. He doesn’t really align with my values,” he said.
While inside PS 20, TimesLedger observed a woman who did not appear to speak English who was requesting help, yet no one came to her aide for several minutes.
One poll worker who was sitting at a table gestured to another woman sitting in a folding chair and said: “Ask her. She’s just sitting there.”
Flushing resident Frances Santaniello said workers could not find her name, and after she was shuffled to three tables, she decided just to leave.
“I feel like they don’t know what they’re doing in there,” she said.
Poll workers at JHS 190 Russell Sage in Forest Hills, reported about 50 voters had cast ballots as of 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.
Stephen Pfeffer, a site coordinator, said the day had been slow, but thought there could likely be an upswing in the evening as voters return home from work.
“We could have a rush of 125 people,” he said. “It’s hard to predict. But I hope we have a good turnout.”
Pfeffer, who has been volunteering for 15 years, said the turnout seemed a little light so far this year.
Forest Hills resident Gila Drazen left the site after voting for Christine Quinn and Melinda Katz. She said she voted for Katz because she knows her personally -- they attend the same synagogue -- and because she likes her record. She also is not fond of Peter Vallone Jr., she said.
Drazen, a native of Nebraska, said she is not used to the lever machines used in city elections, but had no problem using one, unlike other voters throughout the borough who had reported difficulties.
At PS 270 in Laurelton. coordinator John Butler said an entire lunchroom was supposed to be set aide for voting, but they’re sharing the space with kids. About 100 rambunctious children were screaming during lunch with the voting machines crammed on one side of room.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous” said voter Valerie Seignious.
Wills stays neutral on race for City Hall
Over in Rochdale, Ruben Wills was campaigning for public advocate candidate Tish James and Borough President contender Melinda Katz, but staying neutral in the mayoral race.
Voting light at PS 166 in Astoria
PS 166 in Astoria was like a ghost town at noon, with about 200 voters having cast their ballots so far.
“It’s a mayoral primary, so it’s going to be slow,” said poll coordinator Greg Lecakes, who said one of the five lever machines went out of commission earlier in the day due to a mechanical problem, but was soon repaired by the poll workers there.
The city Board of Elections had received numerous complaints about faulty machines in other areas, however.
“I think my great great grandfather voted for William Howard Taft on that machine,” he said.
The polling site was deep in City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr.’s (D-Astoria) territory. The lawmaker is involved in a tight race for borough president with former Councilwoman Melinda Katz.
“He’s a nice guy, and he’s trying to help the schools,” said Ourania Theoharakis.
Paul Vallone’s son roots for Dad
Outside Bell Academy in Bay Terrace, City Council District 19 candidate Paul Vallone was meeting voters and chatting with elected officials, including state Sen. Toby Ann Stavisky (D-Flushing). He said he cried on his way out the door this morning when his young son got serious before saying goodbye and said, “Good luck today, Dad.”
Vallone’s results party will be at Vivaldi’s in Bayside Tuesday night, but the candidate said he will be leaving it at some point to visit his brother, Peter Vallone Jr., at his borough president party in Astoria.
De Blasio stops in old neighborhood of Astoria
Public Advocate and mayoral frontrunner Bill de Blasio made a stop on the corner of Steinway and 30th Ave. in Astoria at about 10:30 a.m. where he glad handed potential voters alongside state Sen. James Sanders from southeast Queens.
“It’s great to be back in Astoria,” said de Blasio, who lived in the neighborhood for two years before moving with his wife to Brooklyn.
“Queens loves you,” said Sanders, who had supported de Blasio over Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), the choice of the Queens Democratic Party.
De Blasio said he has been getting a great response from voters around Queens. At one point a woman screamed: “Go Bill!” from a passing car.
De Blasio trumpeted his plan to build 200,000 units of affordable housing, and spoke with a resident about his position that the NYPD should only be going after specific leads instead of entire communities.
In Ozone Park a registered Republican, Violet Boes, voted for only one candidate Tuesday afternoon: Joe Lhota.
She was one of 105 voters who had come to PS 63 Old South in Ozone Park.
“I’ve met him,” she said when asked why Lhota was her choice for mayor. “I like his ideas. I hope he can do a good job.”
Voters in Astoria - Peter Vallone Jr.’s stronghold - seemed to be strongly behind the Astoria councilman, with one woman speaking in his favor even though she thought he was running for his Council seat again. Poll workers said that early turnout at PS 122, which is at the corner of Ditmars Boulevard and 21st Street, was strong.
Sean Scheller, a 12-year-resident of Astoria, said his councilman secured his vote.
“I’ve found the Vallone family to be very responsible to the needs of our neighborhood,” he said.
Naima Garvin credited Vallone’s work with helping to save PS 122’s Gifted and Talented program as part of the reason she supported him.
“He cares about our community, so I feel like he will represent us well as borough president.
But Cheryl Allison, a native of Germany and 15-year resident of Astoria, said she voted for Melinda Katz.
“I am tired of the Vallone dynasty,” she said
There were 190 votes recorded at PS 173 in Fresh Meadows as of 11 a.m., poll workers said, and no reported confusion with the machines.
The ballot boxes containing the candidates’ names were much slimmer in Fresh Meadows when compared to those at Bell Academy in Bay Terrace, where several voters reported
confusion in the booth because the levers didn’t line up directly with the names.
“Things have been moving very smoothly so far,” a poll worker said in Fresh Meadows.
Voters flock to polls in Astoria
Turnout was better than expected at PS 84 in Astoria, according to long time poll coordinator Loretta Csikortos. More than 350 people had pulled the lever as of 10 a.m. Thomas Grosso said he cast his ballot for Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) in the race for borough president.
“Why? Because I see him all the time in church,” he said.
Grosso said the return of lever voting machines was a welcome sight, since they are easier to use. At the Astoria polling locations, only a few machines temporarily became stuck, but widespread problems were being reported elsewhere in the borough.
Margaret Fedison will spend the day greeting voters at Ridgewood Junior High School.
“Come on down,” she told a new group. “This is like the Price is Right.”
Fedison, who arrived to volunteer at 5 a.m., said that although the polling site has been quiet all morning, she has seen more voters than she expected.
“There’s been a nice flow,” she said. By around 11 a.m., about 70 people had voted at the site.
At the Sutphin Boulevard stop in downtown Jamaica this morning, 1199 volunteers were out for Bill de Blasio, Scott Stringer and Melinda Katz.
At JHS 72 Rochdale poll workers discovered one lever machine was not working around 6:30 a.m. Mechanics came by a little after 9 a.m. and said they needed a new machine. It arrived a bit before 11, but it’s sitting there now waiting to be set up.
Coordinator Amy Bailey said 43 emergency ballots had to be cast because the machine was down. They were put into a cardboard box with a slit on the top and will be counted at end of day. About 300 people had voted here by about 11 a.m.
Voters and poll workers at Bell Academy in Bay Terrace said there was some confusion over how the names lined up with the levers in the voting machines.
“This could turn into a complete nightmare,” said Paul Graziano, a candidate for City Council District 19. Two other candidates for the same seat were at the site confirming the confusing voting machines, including Austin Shafran and Chrissy Voskerichian.
There were about 250 votes already recorded as of 10 a.m., workers said.
One Board of Elections worker was on site to oversee one machine, which was temporarily out of order.
Bay Terrace Community Alliance President Warren Schreiber said it was one of the most popular voting spot in the northeast.
Borough President Candidate Melinda Katz cast her vote at PS 144 in Forest Hills a little after 10 a.m. She said she heard early turnout was very good. By 10:20 a.m., her entire polling site had recorded 268 votes.
Several voters complained of confusion with the setup of candidates’ names, saying that the names don’t perfectly line up with the lever for the candidate. “A lot of people can vote for people they don’t want,” said Forest Hills artist Carol Crawford, who said she had been accustomed to using the lever machines for years. “This is the first time I felt the confusion,” she said. One woman speculated the confusion was because candidates’ names in English were written smaller to allow for translations into other languages.
Peter Vallone Jr. cast his vote at PS 122 in Astoria. He was the 34th person to vote at the 42nd District machine a littler after 9 am. His father, the former head of the City Council, beat him to vote, a poll worker said. Vallone Jr. said he was optimistic he would be celebrating tonight.
©2013 Community News Group
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