By Bill Parry
Community groups and residents of LeFrak City in Corona filed a complaint Tuesday with State Supreme Court charging the city’s Board of Elections is in violation of the state Constitution after moving a polling site that has been in use for more than 50 years.
The LeFrak Tenants Association, the Black Leadership Action Coalition and the Black Institute led by community activist Berth Lewis contend that removing the polling site from the complex’s Continental Room represents voter suppression and discrimination just weeks before the New York City Primary.
Lewis has endorsed City Council candidate Hiram Monserrate in the race for the District 21.
“Voter suppression is rife in our country, but I am in total shock that it is taking place in my city, New York City, in what is supposed to be the most progressive city on the planet,” Lewis said. “The actions taken by the Board of Elections just weeks before a critical primary election in New York City are horrific and must be stopped immediately. It is so clear that this is an act of discrimination, disenfranchisement, voter suppression, and a flagrant disregard for 15,000 residents’ constitutional right to vote.
“We have filed a complaint in our state’s highest court today, but this is only the beginning. The corrupt board, our elected officials and the court will need to cop to this racist and heinous attempt at voter suppression and we will not stop until they do.”
The Board of Elections could not be reached for comment. In conjunction with the lawsuit, the plaintiffs will be seeking a temporary restraining order that will allow LeFrak City residents to utilize their traditional polling site for the upcoming primary.
“The board has totally ignored all of our requests for reconsideration,” LeFrak City Tenants League Coordinator James Galloway said. “When we went before the board to file a complaint, they said they would work with us to find a solution. But they haven’t. Instead, they’ve been giving us the runaround. I think they’re hoping they can run out the clock and make it impossible for us to vote in a convenient and safe site.”
The Board of Elections moved the polling site to three locations less than a mile away because the Continental Room did not comply with federally mandated accessibility laws. The affordable housing complex is populated primarily by black and Hispanic tenants and it is seen as a hotbed of Monserrate supporters in his race against state Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-Jackson Heights), who has been endorsed by the Queens Democratic Party.
“A strategy to influence the outcome of an election by discouraging or preventing people from voting, the way this Election Board is doing in LeFrak City, is morally wrong and downright disgusting,” National Action Network Queens Chapter President Rev. Dr. Phil Craig said. “The Queens residents will not tolerate such behavior from the NYC Board of Elections or any public office for that matter.”
Both Moya and Monserrate support keeping the polling site in LeFrak City.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr