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Voting booth changes anger Brooklyn Heights residents

Many worry they won’t make it to new polling site

August 29, 2016 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A group of residents of 10 Clinton St. residents met with reporters on Monday to describe their fears they won’t be able to make it to their polling place for the upcoming election. Some of them are holding notices they received from the Board of Elections. Photo by Mary Frost
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“The Board of Elections goofed,” said Toba Potosky, president of Cadman Towers in Brooklyn Heights. “They goofed two times.”

Fuming residents of 10 Clinton St. met with reporters on Monday to complain that they received notices several weeks ago from the Board of Elections (BOE) that their polling place in the upcoming primary and general election was to be the Brooklyn Heights Library. The problem with that? The library is closed, with demolition scheduled to begin any time.

After being informed of the snafu, BOE then moved their polling place to Urban Assembly High School on the east side of Adams Street.

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The school, however, is too far away, the residents of 10 Clinton say, and because of construction on Adams Street, it’s too dangerous for many of the building’s cooperators to travel to.

Potosky pointed out that traffic at the Cadman Plaza West / Tillary Street intersection can be treacherous, especially for the elderly or infirm, who make up a large proportion of the complex’s residents. “And Adams Street is like a speedway,” he told the Brooklyn Eagle.

BOE disenfranchising voters?

Longtime voters at 10 Clinton are still upset that many of them — along with thousands of other Brooklynites — were erroneously kicked off the voting rolls during the last primary.

“I feel like I’m in the South — the Board of Elections is disenfranchising voters,” said Helen Spirer, a former social worker. “People who voted here for 30 years, they threw them off the rolls.”

The new polling location is “ridiculous,” she said, describing neighbors in their 90s who nonetheless are still active and engaged in politics. “I don’t want to go there and I’m a lot younger than many in this building. These are people who want to vote.”

Spirer said she was offering to drive her neighbors to the polls in what she called “the most important election since George Washington was elected in 1787.”

Residents air their concerns

Marge and Frank King moved into 10 Clinton in 1972, and voted consistently for 40 years — until BOE threw them off the rolls. Now they have been reinstated, but are still unhappy with BOE’s performance.

“They don’t have consideration for people who live in the neighborhood,” Marge said. “”They shift us around like rats.”

Marge, who uses a cane, said she walked to the new polling site a few days ago with the help of a friend.

“It took me about a half hour,” she said.

Barbara Shernoff, who lives at 10 Clinton with her husband Jeffrey, said it didn’t make sense that her building was in a different election district than the other building owned by the complex at 101 Clark St.

“We’re the sister building to 101 Clark St., and now we’re thrown out,” she said.

Kiwanda Tillman, who’s been living at 10 Clinton since 1994, worries she won’t have time to vote on Election Day.

“I work different shifts” for Transit, she said. At her old polling spot at 101 Clark Street (and later the library) she could “sign in real quick on my way to work.”

“The Board of Elections sends out people to check the locations,” said resident Rick Brown, who also mans the polling location at 101 Clark St.

“When they went to check the library, didn’t anybody know? It sounds a little funny,” he said.

A person familiar with Brooklyn Public Library’s polling arrangements with the city told the Eagle that the library system “alerted the Board of Elections well in advance — immediately after the June primary.”

The person added, “Polling sites change all the time … the library has no control over BOE’s timetable.”

The Eagle has not yet heard back from a BOE spokesperson.

Potosky said he spoke with state Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, “who put me in touch with a BOE representative who said they will consider moving the polling location after the Sept. 13 primary in time for the general election on Nov. 8.”

He says he also spoke to Borough President Eric Adams, “who is looking into the problem.” (Adams was out of the country on Monday and unavailable for comment.)

A longtime resident who lives on Montague Street said her polling place was also originally listed as the library, then was also moved to Urban Assembly.

“Like many people, I don’t like having to cross Adams Street,” she told the Eagle via email. “It would have been more ideal for one of the other churches or synagogues to absorb the extra inflow … I will say a prayer before crossing Adams St. and avoid trying to vote during rush hour.”

The Eagle has reached out to Assemblymember Simon as well. Check back for updates.

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