By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Stuyvesant Town residents in multiple buildings were shocked to learn last Wednesday that their polling sites had changed to a location in Campos Plaza Community Center at 611 East 13th Street. The Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association said in an email on Wednesday that residents who got the notices bombarded Councilmember Keith Powers’ office and the TA’s message center about the changes.
The message from the TA noted that residents from as far away as East 20th Street were being instructed to vote at the Campos Plaza polling site across East 14th Street.
The Board of Elections has been shifting polling places around in recent years, primarily to make sure that the sites are ADA compliant, and Powers’ office has been working with the BOE to find spaces in Stuy Town that can be used as polling sites.
Powers said that the changes are due to accessibility concerns because there are a number of long-term poll sites that the BOE has been using that are not fully ADA compliant. Schools are often a popular spot for polling sites but Powers said that a number of the schools in the neighborhood are not actually ADA compliant yet, although the city is also working to correct that discrepancy. In the meantime, he is still hoping that spaces in Stuyvesant Town can be usable and his office has been working with management to get access to those spaces.
Powers said that he has been working with the BOE, in addition to management in StuyTown, to come up with a space on the property so residents, especially those with limited mobility, don’t have to go as far to vote.
“We think we’ve identified some spots I can work,” he said. “I had to push them a little bit to make those spaces available but they’ve been willing to do that.”
StuyTown general manager Rick Hayduk said that there are specific criteria for polling sites that the BOE requires regarding accessibility and he said that management is attempting to work out sites for the current election period.
Powers said that he hoped the issue would be resolved before the upcoming election this November but the goal is to solidify polling sites in Stuy Town before the presidential primary next April.
Stuyvesant Town resident Michele Masucci said that she first contacted Powers’ office last year when her polling site was moved from 360 First Avenue to a site on East 14th Street and Avenue C.
“For us senior citizens and handicapped citizens, this is a very long distance to travel and walk to vote,” she said of the change.
Since then, Masucci’s polling place was moved even farther away from her apartment, since she was one of the residents who received a notice that her new polling site would be in Campos Plaza.
TA President Susan Steinberg was frustrated about the drastic changes to polling sites for residents.
“This begins to feel like voter suppression,” she said, also noting that there used to be spaces in the neighborhood available for voting that were no longer being used. “We are flabbergasted that a community once riddled with polling sites now can’t accommodate its voters.”
Powers said that he understood the frustration residents felt about the sites being moved so frequently.
“It feels like it’s disincentivizing people to vote by moving their place more than once in the last two years,” he said. “For the presidential election, it’s really important that we have places that are close for people to vote. I actually overheard some people talking about this on the bus who said something like, you know, I’m not even gonna vote anymore.”