Queens’ Dem primaries: A low turnout affair

By the TimesLedger staff

Retired voters cast ballots at Bell Academy earlier in the day

By 6:45 p.m. there was no rush inside the gymnasium at PS 169 in Bayside, where most people who voted in the Democratic primary to fill U.S. Rep. Steve Israel’s seat had showed up earlier in the day.

One of the poll workers said many of the voters were retired and were free to vote during the day, but turnout had been slow.

“The infrastructure worked. There’s been no problem,” he said. “The demographics of the area — people are older.”

According to a count of vote totals thus far, 489 people had cast ballots at this location. One coordinator said the fact that it was the last day of school may have lowered turnout.

Patrick Donachie

Few voters visit downtown Jamaica poll site

On the first floor of the Grace Houses at 155-02 90th Ave. in downtown Jamaica, poll workers were left waiting between sporadic visits from voters. Joan Augustin, the coordinator for the polling place, said only 21 voters had cast ballots since the early morning hours. Another poll worker said she had never seen it so slow.

“A lot of people don’t know that there’s an election today,” Augustin said. “Though we have a small site, we have a heavy load. People in this area come out to vote.”

The only election on the ballot was in the Democratic primary for the 5th Congressional District between incumbent Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) and challenger Ali Mirza, a small businessman. Some of the poll workers said that they were unfamiliar with Mirza. Antonia Smith, one of the poll clerks, said she had not seen advertising for Meeks or Mirza.

In Harlem, they’ve got plenty of candidates, plenty of people running,” she said, referring to the race to succeed retiring U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-Harlem). “That’s the hot seat.”

“Meeks didn’t spend the money,” Augustin replied. “He didn’t have to.”

Smith guessed the activity might increase in the hours after 5 p.m., when people finished work, and she assumed that the seniors who lived in Grace Houses would eventually travel downstairs to cast their ballot.

Patrick Donachie

Kids take over poll at PS 166 in Astoria

The voting precinct’s inspector was trying his best to maintain order during a late morning rush at PS 166 in Astoria. It wasn’t voters Gregory Lecakes was concerned about when yelling “single file” and “stop yelling” but hungry elementary students who poured through the polling place.

“We’re talking 1,200 kids running through here,” he said. “It’s a bit much.”

The polls were open in the 12th Congressional District for the Democrat primary between U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) and challenger Peter Lindner.

The precinct coordinator, Gloria Moloney, was beginning to get a headache.

“What are you going to do?” she said over the cacophony. “It’s their lunchroom and it’s their last day of school so they’re rambunctious.”

Moloney and Lecakes had another problem. They were bored.

“We’ve only had 12 people vote in the first four hours,” Lecake said. “I think it will pick up as people get home from work.”

Moloney agreed.

“By that time the children will be gone because they’re on a half a day,” she said.

Maloney looked up to see a confused adult making her way through the children.

“Hey, I’ve got a live one!” Moloney said as she moved to escort the voter to the proper table.

Bill Parry

Turnout low in Douglaston

In northeast Queens, where give candidates are vying for the seat to be vacated by U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Melville), turnout was low, with voters barely trickling through door of the PS 89 gymnasium in Douglaston.

“It’s about as low as an off-year election with only judges on the ballot. We’re talking double digits so far … 41 since the opening of the poll,” Steven Kasny, the Republican scanner inspector at the polling station, said at 11:10 a.m.

One Douglaston resident who came out to vote said: “I think what I would like is to have more Queens representation in respect to who will be congressman.”

A large portion of the 3rd Congressional District is concentrated in Nassau with some parts in Suffolk and a swath of northeast Queens running from Whitestone to Glen Oaks.

“They seem to weigh more into Nassau and less into Queens,” the resident said.

Mark Hallum

How many Queens Democrats head to the polls Tuesday will be a key question after the votes are counted in the congressional primary.

The race to replace U.S. Rep. Steve Israel (D-Melville), who represents part of northeast Queens, is one of the two major contests in the city. The other is the primary to replace longtime Rep. Charles Rangel (D-Harlem), who used to represent a slice of western Queens before the lines were redrawn in his district.

Democratic contenders are vying for the chance to challenge Republican opponents in four congressional districts in Queens when the November general election rolls around.

Observers are expecting a low turnout for the primary, which is being held on the same day that public schools close for the summer and during a semi-holiday week preceding the three-day July 4 weekend.

Five candidates are competing to succeed Israel, who announced his retirement in January from the 3rd Congressional District seat. Attorney Jonathan Clarke, North Hempstead Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman, North Hempstead Town Councilwoman Anna Kaplan, Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern and former Nassau County Executive Tom Suozzi are all running for the spot to face Republican Jack Martins in November.

The 3rd District includes parts of Bay Terrace, Little Neck, Glen Oaks, Floral Park and Whitestone, as well as sections of Nassau and Suffolk counties in Long Island. During the campaign northeast Queens voters expressed concern about airplane noise from the LaGuardia flight paths and the need for better, affordable transit options to the candidates in the race.

In CD 5, which includes parts of Jamaica, South Jamaica, St. Albans, Queens Village and the Rockaways, U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-Jamaica) is facing a primary challenge from Ali Mirza, a small businessman who is running on a platform decrying corruption in Washington and proclaiming progressive bona fides. The winner will face Republican challenger Michael O’Reilly, an attorney and a 2015 candidate for judge in New York City Civil Court.

U.S. Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-Brooklyn) is running against Jeffrey M. Kurzon, who also challenged her in 2014, and Yungman Lee, a banking executive, in CD 7, which includes parts of Maspeth, Ridgewood, Woodhaven and Ozone Park, as well as areas in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

In CD 12, which includes parts of Astoria, Long Island City and Woodside, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) is facing off against Peter Lindner. Her district also covers a large swath of Manhattan and part of Brooklyn.

Voters must be registered as Democrats to cast a ballot in the primary. You can check your enrollment status on the New York State Board of Elections website.

Polls in New York City opened at 6 a.m. and will close at 9 p.m. To determine your polling location, you can search by your address at nyc.pollsitelocator.com/search, call the city’s Voter Phone Bank at 1 866-VOTE-NYC, or e-mail your address to the city’s BOE at vote@boe.nyc.ny.us.

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