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Rockaway Residents Divided on Whether to Spend Energy on Voting

By  Tuan Nguyen and Andrea Swalec | November 6, 2012 1:22pm 

QUEENS — As Election Day hit the Rockaways, some residents still busy securing food, heat and water said they said they had little idea where to cast their votes, and others reported they were too busy meeting their basic needs to track down ballot boxes.

Retired city employee Brad Stevens, 59, said he was too preoccupied by storm recovery to care about the national and local races.

“We have no heat, no electric, no cars, no transport to get anywhere. Voting is the last thing on my mind for now,” said Stevens, who lives in public housing on Beach 91st Street.

Shore Front Parkway resident Eddie Pizarro, 44, echoed the sentiment.

"I’ve got to take care of my family for now,” he said.

Others said they wanted to vote but didn't know where to do so.

"There nobody out here telling us where to go," said Syeeta Dickerson, a 38-year-old home health aid who lives on Beach 40th Street.

Beach 84th Street resident Gerald Scott said he feared voices in his neighborhood would not be heard.

“We don’t want to be cancelled out on this," said Scott, 44.

Unlike some of her neighbors, Shawnette Wilson, a Guyana native, said government response to the storm, including the presence of the National Guard, made her more eager to vote.

"I think Obama is doing well and has been taking care of us," said Wilson, 39, whose Beach 66th Street home suffered extensive water damage. "This makes people want to vote even more."

The city Board of Elections has combined and relocated polling sites because of flooding and damage. The Rockaways have four polling sites, located at P.S. 180 at 320 Beach 104th St.; Far Rockaway High School at 821 Bay 25th St.; M.S. 53 at 10-45 Nameoke St. and P.S. 104 at 26‑01 Mott Ave.

In an attempt to ease confusion, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced late Monday that he had taken the "extraordinary step" of signing an emergency executive order that will allow New Yorkers to vote at any polling site in the state.

Compared to the last week, he said, going out and voting "will be a walk in the park."

Board of Elections workers will be visiting closed polling sites Tuesday to tell voters where they can go, according to a poll worker who declined to provide his name because he was not authorized to speak with the media.

Voters can find poll sites on the board's website, via the board's smartphone applications or by calling 311.

Voters without Internet service or with spotty cell phone service can text “NYCVOTES” to 877-877, using a newly-launched system courtesy of NYC Votes! and Mobile Commons.

To help transport voters whose cars have been damaged, shuttle bus service will be running to help get voters to their poll sites.

Attorney Michael McDermott, 42, said he would head to the polls with gusto Tuesday after cleaning his home from sunrise to sunset for a week.

"It's a five-minute fantasy diversion," he said.