Poll hike! Gowanus voters told to trek to Red Hook or vote from home

Poll hike! Gowanus voters told to trek to Red Hook or vote from home
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

It’s a poll too far.

A polling place move is supposed to make voting more handicap-accessible for Gowanus residents, but the voting booths are headed to a hard-to-reach part of Red Hook, meaning ballot-casters will have to vote with their feet — and some might not make it.

“The change makes no sense. It is totally out of our area,” said 11th Street resident Jane Janiak, 66. “As a senior, I know I won’t do that trip and I can’t see mothers with children doing it either.”

For the past several years, Gowanus residents have cast their votes at Camp Friendship on Eighth Street in Park Slope, between Fifth and Sixth avenues, but 1,683 registered voters recently learned that they will have to schlep to the Joseph Miccio Community Center in Red Hook for the Democratic primary election on Sept. 10. The Board of Elections says it made the move because Camp Friendship was deemed “inaccessible” to people with handicaps following a recent federal ruling that all polling places must be Americans with Disabilities Act compliant, an election board spokeswoman said. But area voters say the new polls are less, not more accessible.

Impacted voters say that the new polling location, which is on W. Ninth Street between Hamilton Avenue and Henry Street, is way out of the way for Park Slope seniors, disabled people, and stroller-pushing parents, since the site is across busy Hamilton Avenue from the nearest B61 bus stop, three long blocks away.

“How are we supposed to trek down to the Miccio Center and cross that wide and dangerous roadway?” asked Third Avenue resident Lorraine Muczyn, 70, who has a heart problem. “No citizen of New York City who wishes to vote should face this kind of unfair situation.”

Residents said that their polling place has moved in the past, but that each move was only a few blocks — never as far as this. When voters received mail notifying them of the change, they inundated the office of Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) with complaints, which the councilman’s office says it hears loud and clear.

“The Board of Elections should be making it easier, not harder, for people to vote,” said Alex Moore, a spokesman for Lander.

The Board of Elections’ response? People who do not like it should vote from home.

“Anyone that feels the distance is too far, they can always request an absentee ballot,” said election board spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez.

The Board of Elections website specifies the following reasons to qualify for voting with an absentee ballot: occupation, business, studies, travel, imprisonment, illness, disability and hospitalization. Apparently borough voters can add inconvenience to that list.

Voters can find their polling site, and absentee ballots, at www.vote.nyc.ny.us.

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.

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