More than two dozen LeFrak City tenants braved the rain on Monday for a press conference on the steps of City Hall, as they blasted the Board of Elections over its efforts to have their polling place relocated.
“It was very much us telling the story of what has happened,” said Ethan Felder, the attorney representing the tenants, in a Tuesday interview. “Voter suppression is real and it can happen not just in the South, but here in New York and in Queens.”
Late last month, the BOE filed an appeal of an October 2017 court ruling that prevented the agency from permanently relocating LeFrak City’s longstanding polling place inside its Continental Room.
The city said last year the site had to be moved because it was not accessible under the Americans with Disabilities Act due to the slope of a ramp from the sidewalk, but some tenants saw it as a political move.
A number of area lawmakers have come out in support of those living in LeFrak City, including state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) and Rep. Joe Crowley (D-Queens, Bronx), with the latter penning a letter to the BOE on April 10 demanding the agency immediately drop its appeal.
“Given this unprecedented level of community engagement and the risk of disenfranchisement,” Crowley wrote, “it is disconcerting that the BOE is still attempting to move this polling site, which would severely impact the ability of more than 6,000 voters to access the polls.”
On Tuesday, Felder applauded Crowley for not only sending the letter, but also for appearing at last week’s emergency tenants’ meeting at LeFrak City.
“He did show up, to his credit, and offered us money to fight the legal battle,” the attorney said. “We’ll see if he delivers on that commitment. Councilman Francisco Moya promised the same.”
Crowley’s opponent in June’s Democratic primary, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, appeared alongside the tenants at Monday’s City Hall rally. The only lawmaker to attend was Councilman Andy King (D-Bronx).
“From my standpoint, it was disheartening that no other city elected officials were present,” Felder said. “The public advocate was invited, the mayor was invited. The establishment has taken a detached and indifferent stance on the voting rights of these tenants.”
The attorney added he will be submitting a motion with the state Supreme Court’s Appellate Division for an extension to the April 18 deadline to file his own brief against the BOE’s appeal.
If granted — “almost a certainty,” Felder said — the deadline to file his brief will be pushed back to Aug. 8, with oral arguments slated to begin Sept. 4.
In its 46-page brief filed March 19, the BOE claimed that New York County Supreme Court Justice Erika Edwards “encroached on the Board’s authority” when she ruled last October the BOE’s relocation of the polling site for more than 6,000 voters was “irrational, arbitrary and capricious.”
“The Board, not the court, has the expertise and experience to manage elections in the largest municipality in the country,” the briefing reads. “The court’s judgment should be reversed.”