Sandy at the Polls, Part II: Voting in Park Slope, Red Hook

Moments of calm and contention have been playing out at polling sites in Brooklyn and the rest of New York City's boroughts throughout the day. At 11:38am, @BradLander, a New York City Councilmember, sent the following tweet:  

MS 51 poll-site is worst we've ever seen. Just sent  & NYPD 78th Pct over to try to maintain calm and take complaints 

Others attested to MS 51's issues. "Frustration is mounting at polls...4 hr line moving at a trickle...We need more volunteers," tweeted . "Took me 1 hr 45 min to vote & the lines are just as long as they were when I arrived," reported . "MS 51 in Park Slope, Bklyn is overwhelmed. 5+ hr lines. Ppl r shivering outside, machines empty inside. Need help," pleaded  just before noon.

MS (Middle School) 51 is located in one of Brooklyn's most prosperous and coveted neighborhoods. At 2:30, when I stopped by, the situation had calmed somewhat. There were about 50 people outside, mostly white. There was not a fallen tree or any sign of storm damage in sight.  A woman who had tried to vote earlier in the day told me she expected to wait about an hour more and was fine with that.  One gentlemen looked up from his book and said, "We've moved about 10 feet in 10 minutes, not too bad and much better than before." Others in line were not so stoic. "This is ridiculous," snapped one woman loudly. "Nobody knows what's going on." 

After a week of the uncertainty post-Sandy, it is not surprising that people are snapping. As I neared completion of an hour-long wait on my third voting try at the school in my own district, the woman behind me in line commented "This isn't bad. But you know, I think everyone just wanted something to feel normal and predictable and under their control."

She's right. Put in that context, the consternation and upset of Park Slope residents makes justifiable sense. Across the street from MS 51, in Washington Park, many residents were dropping off supplies for Hurricane Sandy victims. Like others in the city, those living in Park Slope have been donating and volunteering all week, trying their best to help those in dire need.

In addition to acting to protect voting, Brad Lander and those in his office have been Herculean in their attempts to provide assistance to hurricane victims. Not long after his initial tweets about MS 51, he tweeted:

Hot, ready to eat food - esp meats - needed ASAP in Red Hook at Cavalry Baptist Church, 773 Hicks Street...

Red Hook, Brooklyn is about 12 blocks away from Park Slope. It is one of the city's most impoverished neighborhoods. With temperatures plummeting and another potential storm on the way, most Red Hook residents have been without electricity, water, and heat for the past 8 days. With PS 15 further down the street out of commission due to flooding, PS 27 had become the combined polling site for the majority African American and Latino neighborhood. Things seemed to be going smoothly. A steady stream of voters were entering and leaving at around 3PM, without incident.