LIVE UPDATES: Polls open in Brooklyn with all eyes on southern Brooklyn council elections

people at poll sites in Brooklyn
The polls are open in Brooklyn for the 2023 general election.
Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

The polls are officially open for Election Day 2023, and Brooklynites are heading out to cast their votes in some of the city’s most-watched council races.

Early voting turnout in the city was particularly low this year — only 86,000 voters headed to the polls during the nine-day early voting period, accounting for just 1.9% of all registered voters in New York City. But Brooklyn had the second-highest number of early voters of all five boroughs, with more than 23,000 check-ins. 

All eyes on southern Brooklyn

Most of Brooklyn’s council races are not competitive, and many won’t appear on the ballot at all – especially in Democrat-heavy northern Brooklyn.

But three races in southern Brooklyn have emerged as some of the most competitive in the city. In District 47 — comprised of Coney Island, Bath Beach, and Bay Ridge, Democrat Justin Brannan and Republican Ari Kagan are gearing up for what is arguably the biggest race of the day after a long and heated campaign.

“The new 47th District will unite southern Brooklyn from Bay Ridge to the boardwalk,” Brannan wrote on X on Tuesday morning. “My job is to show up for you 24-7-365. No problem too big or too small. That’s what I’ve done & will always do. No flip-flopping. No fearmongering. Treat everyone with dignity & respect. GO VOTE!”

car advertising Brannan in Coney Island
A truck decked out in Justin Brannan ads drove through Coney Island on Election Day morning. Photo by Jada Camille

In nearby District 43 — the city’s first Asian-majority council district, encompassing parts of Bensonhurst, Borough Park, and Sunset Park – Democrat Susan Zhuang, Republican Ying Tan, and Conservative Vito LaBella are fighting for the seat. Brannan currently represents District 43, but chose not to run there after redistricting drew large parts of his current district into D47. And in District 48 — which encompasses Brighton Beach, Homecrest, Sheepshead Bay, and Manhattan Beach — Republican incumbent Inna Vernikov is facing a challenge from Democrat Amber Adler and third-party candidate Igor Kazatsker. Though Vernikov’s victory is likely in a Republican-heavy district, the candidate has faced controversy in recent weeks after she was arrested for allegedly bringing a firearm to a protest outside Brooklyn College. 

Voters will also be choosing candidates for Brooklyn Surrogate’s Court, Supreme Court, and Civil Court – though all but the Supreme Court race are uncontested – and voting on two ballot proposals.

Voters sound off

Despite the high stakes, things were quiet at the poll site at P.S. 90 in Coney Island. Poll workers said only 30 voters had turned up to cast their votes by 10 a.m., though they said turnout had been “slow but steady” — possibly because most of the people assigned to vote at P.S. 90 are in D48, not D47. They expected to see an influx of voters at around 4 p.m., when Brooklynites start to get out of work.

After he cast his vote, Max, who did not give his last name, told Brooklyn Paper he feels his politics are further left than most of the district. 

“I vote even in low turnout elections. [District 48] is in the news given that the representative is in the news for something they did,” he said, referring to Vernikov’s recent controversies. “That was enough for me to vote.”
people voting in council election in southern Brooklyn
Voter turnout was slow on Election Day, though poll workers said they expected a rush later in the day. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Max added that he would never miss an opportunity to vote with the Working Families Party, and that he wanted his voice to be heard in the election. 

“This democracy doesn’t work if we don’t show up. It’s as simple as that.”

Another voter outside P.S. 90 told Brooklyn Paper he was casting his vote for whoever was the registered Democrat – that the party was the only criteria he used to vote. 

At the Carey Gardens poll site, also in Coney Island, things were a little more lively — with 66 voters as of 10:30 a.m. A handful of voters said they were still undecided even as they headed inside to cast their ballots. One Carey Gardens voter, Lorna, who wanted to be identified by first name only, said Coney Island has plenty of flooding and sewer issues, and need an advocate to stand up for the nabe.

“We, the people of the community, need a lot of support and proper representation in the community and that’s why I am here to vote,” she said. 

Though the morning was slow in Coney Island, the poll sites in Bay Ridge were busier — Fort Hamilton High School, an early voting site, saw 500 voters on Saturday and 600 on Sunday. Poll workers said they expected a slow Election Day, but 135 people had turned up to cast their votes at the school as of Tuesday afternoon.

Robert Maroney, an Xaverian High School teacher who voted along with roughly 323 other people at P.S. 185 on Ridge Boulevard on Tuesday, said the school has been his polling place for many years — and that he always has a good experience there.

“I’m old. I’ve been voting every year since I could vote,” Maroney said. 

Though he did not share which candidate he voted for, Maroney said local elections are just as important in his eyes as federal ones. 

“I always hope for the people I vote to win. But you get what you get,” he said. “It’s just as important to vote for city council as it is for the president because they impact your life more than the president sometimes because it’s local.”

In District 43, Zhuang volunteers greeted voters approaching P.S. 310 in Sunset Park. Like in Coney Island, poll workers said morning turnout had been slow — but expected an afternoon uptick.

One voter, Xing, who did not give her last name, brought her son along with her to vote. Education is her biggest concern with this election, she said. Another Sunset Park voter, Emily — who also asked to use only her first name — said crime and safety brought her out to the polls. She is particularly concerned about plans to build a homeless shelter near P.S. 310 and two other local schools, she said.

poll workers
Poll workers sat ready to check voters in at the Kings Bay Y in Sheepshead Bay. Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Both Xing and Emily told Brooklyn Paper they were happy with the redistricting process that made D43 into an Asian-majority district. 

Further north, at P.S. 93 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, voters still showed up to vote despite a noncompetitive election. 

“It’s fair to complain about all the things that are still going wrong in Brooklyn and in the city, like the homelessness crisis and gentrification pushing unprotected low-income families around, definitely, but the pace at what many other things are improving in Brooklyn nowadays is astonishing and I believe that the money there is in local politics is definitely the engine, so we need to keep making these elections a big deal or we will go back to get nothing done and falling behind,” 76-year-old Ashlee Vance. 

Local races are just as important as citywide or larger elections, said 31-year-old Elena Dayme, another Bed-Stuy voter. 

“People don’t realize that choosing your hyperlocal representatives can work in your favor much more efficiently than voting at a mayoral election,” she said. “It’s way easier to communicate with local representatives and pressure them into pressuring corporations and figures of power to serve our communities.”

The incumbent representatives in Bed-Stuy and Crown Heights, Democrats Chi Ossé and Crystal Hudson, are running unopposed. 

“Everyone in the ballot is incumbent this time around, which is a shame,” said another voter at P.S. 93, 24-year-old Shaya Chase. “This is the moment when we should be telling our representatives to do better or that we will fire them.”

In District 39 — which includes parts of Cobble Hill, Gowanus, Park Slope, and Kensington, incumbent Democrat Shahana Hanif is facing Republican challenger Arek Tomaszewski. At the polls on Tuesday, a Park Slope voter said he would stand by Hanif.

“I was skeptical when she started out, but Shahana has somewhat helped this district,” said 58-year-old Duff Mirazur. “She listens. Much more needs to be done, but I don’t think the guy who’s running against her has shown he’s got what is needed.”

Polls open all day

The polls are open in New York City until 9 p.m. on Nov. 7. To find more information about your local races, check out Brooklyn Paper’s voter guide — or visit the Board of Elections website to find your polling site and view a sample ballot. 

Check back all day for live election day updates. Last updated 11/7/2023, 2:34 p.m.