By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Residents of 260 65th St., one of the two high-rise co-ops that comprise the Towers of Bay Ridge, have long enjoyed a privilege afforded to very few in New York City. On election days, the residents have taken the elevators from their apartments down to the lobby to vote.
The lobby had voting machines because each of the two Towers of Bay Ridge (the other building is at 350 65th St.) is so huge, that it comprises its own election district. The two buildings combined have 811 co-op apartments. For decades residents in 260 65th St. voted in their lobby and residents in 350 65th St. did the same in their building.
Until Election Day 2012, that is.
During the most recent election, residents of 260 65th St. found that the voting machines in the lobby were gone.
All Towers residents were now required to vote in 350 65th St. The change was made after the New York City Board of Elections ruled that a decrease in the number of registered voters in 260 65th St. meant that the building no longer had enough voters to qualify as an election district onto itself. An election district must contain at least 635 registered voters.
“It led to a great deal of confusion,” said Linda Orlando, who has lived in the Towers for 39 years and who works as a poll inspector on election days.
“It used to be that 260 65th St. was the 76th Election District and 350 65th St. was the 77th Election District. But this year, the city decided to consolidate the election districts,” Orlando said. “Plus, there were people who don’t live in the Towers who were now in the same election district. You had strangers coming into the building to vote. That’s fine if it’s a school or a public building. But this is an apartment house,” she said.
The change also resulted in long lines at the voting booth, Orlando said.
Councilwoman Sara Gonzalez (D-Sunset Park-Red Hook) whose council district includes the Towers said one solution to the problem is to register more voters in 260 65th St. so that the co-op building can once again be designated as an election district.
Gonzalez recently conducted a voter registration drive in the lobby of the building. She set up a table and chatted with residents about the importance of voting.
The new election district mix-up proved to be problematic for the elderly and disabled residents who comprise a considerable segment of the Towers population, according to Gonzalez.
“The residents of Bay Ridge Towers are well-informed and very active in their community,” Gonzalez said. The voter registration drive “was a great opportunity to get to know them better,” she said.
“I look forward to returning several more times until we get the required number of registrations,” Gonzalez said.