The city Board of Elections has decided to drop its appeal of a 2017 court ruling that prevented the agency from permanently relocating LeFrak City’s longstanding polling place.
The news was first announced in a Tuesday night statement by Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx), with BOE Executive Director Michael Ryan telling the Chronicle on Wednesday that it was obvious the appeal was creating more headaches than it would have solved.
“The pursuit of the appeal was creating the misperception that the board did not want to locate the polling sites on the property of LeFrak City,” Ryan said in a telephone interview. “We don’t want to contribute to any misunderstandings or any unrest in the LeFrak community with respect to their poll sites.”
After the BOE announced last summer that it would relocate all five election districts from the Corona complex’s Continental Room to area schools more than a half-mile away — citing accessibility issues — the LeFrak City Tenants Association filed a lawsuit to stop the move.
In October, New York County Supreme Court Justice Erika Edwards ruled that four of the five election districts be returned to the original location and labeled the BOE’s moving of the polling site for more than 6,000 voters as “irrational, arbitrary and capricious.”
The BOE challenged the ruling on procedural grounds this spring, claiming the court had no right to render its decision.
Earlier this month, the agency announced that it would permanently keep three election districts in the Continental Room and move two to LeFrak City’s library in time for the June 26 Democratic primary between Crowley and Bronx progressive activist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
At the time, Ryan told the Chronicle that the BOE was still planning to go ahead with the appeal — oral arguments before the state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division were set for September.
But in the weeks since, he admitted on Wednesday, continuing the legal process had become untenable.
“Even though we are still strongly committed to the legal issues in the procedural appeal,” he said, “it was creating more of a distraction than anything.”
Crowley celebrated the decision in his statement issued Tuesday.
“Maintaining the polling sites sends a strong message to LeFrak City residents, and to the entire city, that their voices matter and their right to vote is paramount,” he said. “I’m glad to see the Board of Elections has dropped their misguided legal effort to move these polling sites and that my constituents will be able to vote within their community.”
Ethan Felder, a lawyer representing the LCTA — and a volunteer for Ocasio-Cortez’s campaign — said he was delighted when informed of the news on Wednesday, calling it a “major victory” for the complex’s residents who have long opposed the BOE’s move.
“The BOE dropping the appeal shows in no uncertain terms the power of ordinary people and community leaders coming together,” Felder said. “The credit really goes to [Black Leadership Action Coalition President] Bertha Lewis, [LCTA President] Malikah Shabazz and the LeFrak City community that was so steadfast and dedicated throughout the whole litigation process.”
“It also reveals how unnecessarily political poll site determinations can be,” he added, “as well as the need for structural voting reform toward a system of professional management at the BOE rather than politicization.”