Harlem — These residents are facing an uphill battle to vote — literally.
The city's Board of Elections is being criticized for shuttering polling sites at two apartment complexes, forcing hundreds of senior citizens and disabled residents to trek up steep sidewalks to vote at a relocated site.
Polling sites were closed within the last year at Morningside Gardens, at 100 Lasalle St. in Morningside Heights, and the Grant Houses, a New York Housing Authority complex at 75 LaSalle St. and 1315 Amsterdam Ave. in West Harlem, residents said.
Voters were told their new site was at P.S 36 at 123 Morningside Dr., which residents complain is a couple blocks away, near busy traffic and up a sharp hill.
Many of the voters are seniors and need canes, walkers or wheelchairs to get around.
“Once upon a time we could walk around,” said Grant Houses resident Laenoria Conyers, who did not give her age but said, “Just know I’m too old to walk up the hill.”
Norm Levine, 91, said he eagerly wanted to vote in the primary this past June — something he has done for years in the basement that operated as a polling site at Morningside Gardens.
With the poll site change, he said he was forced to take a cab to get to P.S. 36.
“In the United State, it’s crazy,” he said. “Because you’re going uphill, it was more steep than I was used to.
“It was an easy thing to go down to the basement.”
Residents are also concerned about being shuffled around as the polling sites in the election district have changed over the last year.
Residents of Morningside Gardens said they have been moved four times in the Manhattanville area since the polling site in the building was closed.
Joan Levine, who is one of the organizers of the group demanding the old polling site is reinstated, said the BOE should at least put a polling site at 75 LaSalle St., which would be easy for Morningside Gardens and Grant Houses residents to use as well.
“That’s not a reasonable expectation of anyone,” she said of seniors walking up the hill. “We are proposing very simple solutions.”
Residents said the explanation the city Board of Elections gave for the closure was accessibility issues for disabled voters at both complexes, which they lamented as “ironic.”
“I’ll be 90 next year, I can’t believe it,” said Morningside Gardens resident Joy Cooke. “But, I can believe it when I have to trek up these hills.”
This past Monday, residents rallied and signed petitions.
The BOE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Levine said the committee organizing the effort has not ruled out a lawsuit against the BOE.
“I think that’s our ace in the hole,” she said. “We hope not to do that because no one has the time or the money.”
With a September primary nearing and a presidential election in November, residents are concerned about turnout from the two complexes.
Data from the BOE shows there has been a sharp decline in voter turnout in the area, which residents are attributing to the closing of the sites and the arduous trip to the relocated site.
The Grant Houses complex includes two election districts — the 101st at 1315 Amsterdam Ave. and the 102nd at 75 LaSalle St. The 102nd cast 135 ballots in the 2014 Democratic congressional primary.
However, in the June primary this year, the voters cast 68 ballots, a 50 percent drop, according to official data. The 101st cast 185 in 2014 and 111 in 2016, a 43 percent decrease.
Morningside Gardens is in the 99th election district and cast 254 ballots in the 2014 primary. This year the number dropped to 194, or a 24 percent drop.
City Councilman Mark Levine — who is not related to the aforementioned Levines and represents the area — compared the closings to Texas and North Carolina, where both states’ voting restrictions were ruled discriminatory by federal courts.
He said he will work with the residents to apply “as much public pressure as possible.”
“We have a major election coming,” he said. “Right here in Democratic New York City, we’re creating barriers to voting just like in North Carolina and Texas.