Primary Day: Voters head to polls in Queens

Primary Day: Voters head to polls in Queens
By TimesLedger Staff

Polls are officially open for the New York State Democratic Primary and there are several races to follow in Queens.

Former City Comptroller John Liu is looking to defeat state Sen. Tony Avella in a rematch of the 2014 primary for District 11 that saw the incumbent win by less than 1,000 votes.

Liu is running on the grounds that Avella gave control of the state Senate to the Republicans after leaving the mainstream Democratic Party for the renegade IDC.

Meanwhile, Avella is touting his record in his bid for re-election and hopes to continue with his work on quality-of-life issues in the northeast Queens district.

In District 13, state Sen. Jose Peralta is looking to fend off a challenge from Jessica Ramos.

Ramos has campaigned heavily on criticizing her opponent for his past membership in the IDC, which was opposed by both mainstream Democrats and progressives alike for its coalition with Republicans.

Peralta has been leading the fight to renew speed camera legislation and has a key endorsement from the Queens County Democratic Party.

In the state Assembly, Brian Barnwell is facing a challenge from Melissa Sklarz in the 30th District, while challenger Oster Bryan looks to defeat incumbent Clyde Vanel in District 33.

Barnwell is focused on finding a solution to the growing unaffordability crisis in his district, especially for seniors, as well as school overcrowding and immigrant rights, while improved, fairer property taxes for seniors, more reliable public transportation and better health care are priorities for Sklarz.

Vanel is campaigning to create more jobs, tackle quality-of-life issues, retain and attract small business and bring new technology to his southeast Queens district, while Bryan a teacher and civics leader, hopes to reinforce the community by bringing a hospital back to the district, improving local schools and supporting smaller local businesses.

There’s also a three-headed race to follow in District 39 where Ari Espinal — who won the seat in an uncontested special election back in April — faces challenges from Catalina Cruz and Yonel Letellier Sosa.

State Senators James Sanders, Michael Gianaris, Leroy Comrie, Joseph Addabbo and Toby Ann Stavisky are running unopposed in the primary, as are state Assembly members Stacey Pheffer Amato, David Weprin, Nily Rozic, Ed Braunstein, Daniel Rosenthal, Andrew Hevesi, Alicia Hyndman, Michele Titus, Vivian E. Cook, Michael DenDekker, Jeffrion Aubrey, Aravella Simotas, Catherine Nolan, Mike Miller and Ron Kim.

Low voter turnout in Bayside

Voters in Bayside showed up to the polls at PS 41 — located at 214-43 35th Ave. — early Thursday morning with varying hopes for this year’s state primaries.

Eva Pittl, of Bayside, said she is keeping a close eye on the gubernatorial race between Cynthia Nixon and Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“I’m hoping Cynthia Nixon, and in general, women, get voted in,” Pittl said. “It’s about time. I also hope more women and minorities come out to vote.”

Other families and individuals waited in line to cast their ballots for the local races at the elementary school as the school day began.

“I just showed my four-year-old grandson how to vote,” said Dan Boyle of Bayside. “For me, I want members of the New York state Legislature to follow the model of the Cadets at West Point: I will not lie, cheat, or steal; nor will I tolerate those who do.”

Jin Lang of Bayside said his vote is for the protection of his family and community.

“I’m a Chinese Republican, you don’t see too much of that,” said Lang. “I want to protect small businesses and communities. The younger generation of Chinese Americans are awakening. The first generation did not participate much with voting, but we [the next generation] are educated, we know what is important.”

— Cassidy Klein

Katz, Moya stand with Espinal

State Assemblywoman Ari Espinal (D-Jackson Heights) cast her ballot for re-election this morning at St. Leo Catholic Academy — located at 104-19 49th Ave. in Corona.

Espinal was confident as she walked into the polling site, which has seen a big turnout in voters.

“Now we have a chance to empower the community,” Espinal said. “We have a real chance to have a fighter in Albany who knows the neighborhood…who has been born and raised in this community and wants to empower it.”

Espinal represents Assembly District 39, which covers parts of Corona, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights.

“In April I said I was going to hit the ground running, and I did and nothing can stop us now,” said Espinal.

Borough President Melinda Katz and City Councilman Francisco Moya (D-Corona) stood beside Espinal in a show of support.

“I couldn’t be prouder of seeing her grow from a spunky little kid in the streets of Corona to this great woman who is now a legislator in Albany making sure she’s delivering for the neighborhood she grew up in,” said Moya.

Meanwhile, Katz expressed the importance of voting in today’s primary.

“The voter turnout is high, which means many voters are engaged,” said Katz, who visited Queens neighborhoods Thursday morning.

According to poll coordinator Shirly Goodwin, the turnout for the today’s primary have been very unusual.

“When we came in this morning at 6 a.m. there were about two to three people waiting outside to vote,” said Goodwin. “So far, everything is running smoothly.”

Goodwin said the polling site has received 66 public votes since 6 a.m.

— Carlotta Mohamed

Higher voter turnout expected later this afternoon at VFW polling site

It was a slow morning for poll workers at the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization — located at 5111 108th St. in Corona— as they sat by their tables waiting for voters to come in.

Maynard Davenport, chairperson of the election polling site for Assembly District 39, said so far the site received 28 votes since opening at 6 a.m.

“It’s kind of slow but we expect to have at least 200 people come by the end of the day,” said Davenport. “There are five different positions to vote on, and people should be aware and turn out.”

Davenport said the voters who stopped by to cast their ballot were between the ages of 20 to 70.

“We’ll see by the end of the day,” Davenport said. “It’s a nice group of candidates that are running. Every single vote is important.”

— Carlotta Mohamed

Queens Village polling site sees high number of early voters

With this year’s primary moving to a Thursday, so as not to conflict with the Jewish holiday Rosh Hashanah and the 17th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center — which fell on a Tuesday — there was concern throughout the borough that voter turnout would be down.

But the change in date, which was made official earlier this year by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, did not prevent more than 350 voters from casting their ballots at the PS 34 polling site in Queens Village before 10 a.m, according to election coordinator Mari-Yan Pringle.

“This area is known to have a pretty decent turnout and I suspect we will see larger numbers in the evening hours from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.,” said Pringle.

Every few minutes, 10-15 voters have streamed into the school, located at 104-12 Springfield Blvd., according to Pringle. Throughout the morning, mostly senior citizens and middle-aged residents came out to vote, she added.

“There were folks that came out early in the morning ready to vote,” said Pringle. “They were at the cafeteria sitting before we opened at 5:30 a.m.”

Election hours in New York are from 6 a.m. to 9p.m.

There are 35 people on staff at the site ready to help voters, including ballot marking device inspectors for people with disabilities who need help filling out their ballots.

One person who used the device was long time Queens Village resident Joyce Duncan.

“It helps me with my sight,” said Duncan, who said she can’t see very well from her left eye. “It makes the image bigger so I can see with it from my right eye. It’s good that we have something like that.”

— Naeisha Rose

Western Queens voters come out in waves

State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) was confident in his re-election bid as he cast his own ballot at the The Renaissance School in Jackson Heights Thursday morning.

He doubled-down on his conviction that the Democrats would win back the majority in the state Senate and that he would throw his full support behind state Sen. Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers), possibly dispelling any doubts of his loyalty to the mainline party almost two years after his defection to the now dissolved IDC.

The IDC gained intense scrutiny for caucusing separately from Democrats while negotiating with Republicans, who hold the majority, to pass progressive legislation.

“We’ve been preparing for this for months now and we wanted to get a feel for what is happening on the street. Since this morning — for the last few months actually — people are coming out very energetic,” Peralta said of his support. “Now on the verge of getting back to the majority, in January we’re going to have 32, maybe 33 [Democrats]… So it’s just a matter of making sure that we send somebody back [to Albany] who has the proven track record, experience, relationships and seniority.”

Although the IDC disbanded in April after an ultimatum from Gov. Andrew Cuomo that they would face primary challenges if they did not return to the party, Peralta still faces a challenge from Jackson Heights activist and for de Blasio administration staffer Jessica Ramos.

The polling site was busier than usual for a midterm election, as approximately 500 votes had been cast at around 10 a.m. with the stream of voters remaining strong and steady.

Kerry Neil, 47, has lived in Jackson heights for over 15 years and said she has not been pleased with her representative — Peralta — turning over to the IDC.

The existence of the breakaway group was one of the biggest issues driving her decisions at the polls, she said.

“I voted Democrat and I want them to really be focused on the issues we have and not be doing back deals,” Neil said.

Some voters were more focused on the race for governor between the incumbent Cuomo and Nixon.

“I specifically wanted to come out to vote for Catalina Cruz and Jessica Ramos, and then also to vote for Cynthia Nixon,” said Wade Dooley, 32. “I feel like [Nixon] could make some significant changes, like what she’s talking about doing with MTA. I think our transportation is a huge issue, specifically in this neighborhood with a lot of things happening with the No. 7. It’s a huge issue that needs to be remedied and it doesn’t seem like Andrew Cuomo is doing much about that.”

— Mark Hallum

Steady stream of voters flood Whitestone polling site

As elementary students bustled around PS 184 in Whitestone, state Senator Tony Avella (D-Bayside) greeted constituents at 11:30 a.m.

Avella is running for re-election and faces a challenge from John Liu.

Despite the primary day changing from the usual Tuesday, there was a steady stream of voters at the elementary school located at 163-15 21st Road, according to election coordinator Esther Picard.

“Now it’s lunchtime, but earlier a lot of people came out,” said Picard at noon.

More than 200 voters, young and old, came out to vote throughout the day as early as 6 a.m., according to Picard.

“Ten people would come in every few minutes,” said Picard. “It was a variety.”

— Naeisha Rose

Liu greets voters in Flushing

At the corner of 149th Street and 25th Drive near JHS 185 in Flushing, former City Comptroller John Liu waved, greeted and took pictures with voters for several hours outside the school.

Liu is running against state Senator Tony Avella (D-Bayside).

Nearly 250 voters — a mix middle-aged residents and seniors — had made it to the ballot before 11:20 a.m., according to an election coordinator.

“People are coming out to vote,” said Liu. “There’s been a lot of news, not just for state Senate, but for governor, attorney general, even for lieutenant governor.”

State Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) joined Liu at the polling site, located at 147-26 25th Drive.

“John has been an advocate standing up for Democratic values all the time,” said Kim. “He has never betrayed the party and left us with an inability to do our jobs in Albany for the people in New York like IDC members have done for the last few years.”

Kim, who does not have an opponent in the primary, hopes that there will be more funding for schools in the district with Liu’s leadership.

“We need a strong Democrat to be a part of that movement,” said Kim.

— Naeisha Rose

Stay tuned for more updates throughout the day.