Brownsville leaders make final push for early voting turnout

early voting
Brownsville elected officials and community leaders held a press conference outside the neighborhoods early voting site.
Photo by Ben Verde

Brownsville community leaders are encouraging locals to head to the polls after a week of early voting that saw comparatively few lines outside the neighborhood’s voting site — saying there’s too much at stake for them to stay home. 

“Everything in this election is on the table,” state Sen. Zellnor Myrie said during a press conference outside the Van Dyke Community Center on Thursday. “The resources for Van Dyke Community Center is on the ballot. The resources for our small businesses on Pitkin and Rockaway [avenues], it is on the ballot. Money to help prevent gun violence in our community, that is on the ballot.” 

Polling locations across the city have seen hours-long lines to vote over the past week, with Myrie waiting three hours to vote at the Brooklyn Museum on Tuesday. Yet, crowds have failed to materialize the Van Dyke Community Center for most of the week, and Myrie’s office claims turnout of eligible voters in Brownsville lags other neighborhoods.

“We want to see that same energy, that same type of engagement, right here in Brownsville, because our community deserves to be counted,” said Myrie, who is up for reelection. 

Local leaders stressed the connection between civic engagement and potential improvements to the area, saying federal money would only come if enough neighbors showed up to make their voices heard. 

“If you want to continue to see change, if you want to make a lot more progress in Brownsville — we need community centers, we need healthcare options, our parents need more supportive centers and programs,” said Camara Jackson, executive director of the Brownsville community organization Elite Learners Inc. 

Among several compounding factors, Myrie says he believes the lower turnout could be driven by a lack of awareness about the relatively new practice of early voting, or the stress caused by the pandemic.

“Brownsville was one of the epicenters of the epicenter of the COVID-19 crisis,” he said. “When we are trying to figure out how we are going to put food on the table, people who have lost jobs who are trying to seek some kind of opportunity, folks don’t know if they are going to keep a roof over their head because they can’t pay rent, when they hear the message ‘vote vote vote’ that may not be the top thing they are concerned about.”

Early voting ends Nov. 1, find your poll site here.