Glen Oaks votes limited by polling site changes

Aristotle Delacruz leaves the voting booth in Glen Oaks in a previous election as poll worker Douglas Goonewardena looks on.
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While voters throughout the borough took to the polls last week in the state primary elections, residents in the Glen Oaks Village co-op reported some confusion after the city Board of Elections changed their polling locations.

For as long as they could remember, residents of the village had always voted at PS 186 in Bellerose, according to Glen Oaks Village President Bob Friedrich.

But because of polling site changes, voters were split into three separate sites, causing confusion on Primary Day.

Because of redistricting throughout the borough, several elected officials have reported phone calls from residents unaware of their new voting locations. The confusion hit a breaking point when the BOE sent out the wrong polling sites to residents in some districts, including that of City Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village).

This time around, villagers were spread out over three polling locations: PS 186, PS 115 and North Shore Towers. The contrast was highlighted drastically in one specific corner, Friedrich said, where Langston Avenue and 260th Street intersect. Each side of the street voted in three different locations after years of casting their ballots in the same spot.

“This is insanity by the Board of Elections,” said Friedrich, who reached out to elected officials, including Councilman Mark Weprin (D-Oakland Gardens) and state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside). “The three voting locations create enormous confusion as neighbors who had walked to the voting booths together in the past will now be going to separate locations.”

On Primary Day, there were some voters turned away at polls because they were unsure of where to vote, poll operators said. A similar issue spread throughout the city, stirring controversy and backlash from city Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.

In a letter sent to the BOE last month, de Blasio called on the group to address issues in which voters were given incorrect poll site information and to better prepare for Election Day.

“It is deeply worrying that the Board of Elections was unable to execute a primary election smoothly, considering that only a handful of the races were closely contested and voters were few in number,” de Blasio said, referring to a dismal voter turnout in the Sept. 13 primaries. “With November’s presidential election looming, much more must be done immediately to prevent widespread confusion that could disenfranchise thousands of New Yorkers.”

And even if voters were correct in where they traveled to vote, Friedrich said the Board of Elections failed to consider how different facilities could accommodate the new foot and car traffic at different polling sites.

Friedrich said he was in talks with Bob Ricken, president of North Shore Towers, who was “blindsided” by the polling changes.

“Since North Shore Towers is a gated community with three large apartment buildings, they were unsure how they would be able to accommodate the voters from Glen Oaks Village and the private homes of Royal Ranch descending with cars on their co-op,” Friedrich said. “Did anyone at the BOE ever think about parking issues at North Shore Towers or the gated entry that will create gridlock for voters and residents?”

Polling places across Queens were shifted after the borough faced redistricting, but some were moved because of a lack of handicapped-accessible sites.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.

Posted 1:59 am, September 20, 2012
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