Election Day 2020: Competitive Races in Southern Brooklyn Corridor

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Before a single ballot was cast today, millions of New Yorkers already voted early or by mail. Those who did come out are mostly voting for races that will not be close, and even though there are some Republican hotspots in Brooklyn, the state will more than likely be blue again. 

But there are a few races that are competitive, and despite the heavy focus on the top of the tickets, the parts of southern Brooklyn that are in Congressional NY-11 were all in for their local candidates of choice.

NY-11, which also covers all of Staten Island, is usually a red district but was flipped by Democrat U.S. Rep. Max Rose in the 2018 midterm elections as part of an apparent backlash to President Donald Trump and the Republican party.

The Republicans smell blood and want to pounce on what is one of the most flippable races in the United States House of Representatives as they try regaining a majority. 

On the Republican ticket is Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, who ran an underdog mayoral campaign to try unseating Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2017. Malliotakis gave up her assembly seat to run for this House seat, which has also opened up another competitive race for the New York State Assembly District 64 vacated seat. Democrat Brandon Patterson is up against Republican Michael Tannousis. These races also pair up with New York’s 22nd State Senate District, where Democrat State Sen. Andrew Gounardes faces Republican Vito Bruno following only one year in that seat for Gounardes.

A Democratic wave of support in Southern Brooklyn on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020. Photo by Michael Eric Rosenthal

Most of the polling places in southern Brooklyn had short waits and no lines snaking their way outdoors, a stark comparison to the long early voting lines from recent weeks. 

While the polling places in Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, and Bath Beach were also not crowded, the difference in energy and enthusiasm was obvious. 

Other than seeing some polling signs on fences and the ground around polling sites throughout most other parts of the county, it would be hard to tell that an election is today and that the election season had been underway for quite some time. 

In those aforementioned neighborhoods, there were not only more political signs and stickers on cars and houses, but there were supporters of all the candidates in these three tight races on almost every street corner where there was a polling place.

In Dyker Heights, two of the supporters on street corners by a polling place had a very personal reason to support Gounardes. They are his parents.

“I feel very positive,” Dianne Gounardes said while standing on the block’s southern street corner with a Rose supporter and with a Malliotakis supporter who all got along peacefully. When she tells people about her son, she said that they immediately tell her “oh, I know Andrew.” She said that it has been nice standing on the street corner to support her son, and even plenty of people who disagreed with her were polite.

When asked why people should vote for her son, she said “They know him throughout the neighborhood because of his community service since he was a little kid.” She added that he should get people’s votes because he has “the concerns of the community at heart.” 

On the northern corner of the block was Steve Gounardes, who also felt optimistic about what he was seeing during the day as he supported his son. They both came out at 6 a.m. to help their son for what Gounardes described as “a wonderful feeling,” adding “Any parent will do anything for their child or children, and we’re more than happy to help him in any way we can.” 

His son will be busy throughout the night, but when Gounardes goes home, he is taking a hot bath and relaxing.

A Malliotakis supporter in Bay Ridge on Election Day, Nov. 3, 2020. Photo by Michael Eric Rosenthal

Around the corner in Bay Ridge near the Christ Church polling location on Ridge Boulevard, a Malliotakis supporter explained why she backs the Republican ticket and why she went the extra step of showing that support on a street corner.

Rosa Cerrato, an Italian immigrant in her 60s, said “I support Nicole, I support Republicans, I support conservatives, I support freedom, I support everything the president is doing.” She fears a “reset” by Democrats if they gain enough power and also a march towards socialism, though there is little to no evidence to support those fears, especially with Joe Biden at the top of the Democratic ticket.

Cerrato came to New York from overseas 45 years ago and has stayed ever since. “If you come in this country, as an immigrant, why would you want to change it,” she asked. “You come here for a reason. Why change it from what you left? I don’t want to go back to where I left.”

As she gave her answers, a family of three eligible voters overhead as they walked out of and away from the polling site and stopped to give their rebuttals.

Ronald Stevens did not vote for Malliotakis because he said “she’s not for the people,” and Debbie Stevens added that she believes Malliotakis only wants power. 

“She tries to use the voters,” Debbie Stevens said. “She tries to sucker people into voting for her, but she could give a damn about people. Maybe she’s good with immigration, but so is Max Rose.” 

Both Stevens also called out Malliotakis for not having an office in Brooklyn. “It’s like she does a disappearing act,” Debbie Stevens said. Their 33-year-old son with autism, Michael Aneeter, likes to meet celebrities but felt that Malliotakis ignored him when he tried getting her attention at a public event in Bay Ridge.

They also said that there were at least a couple of voters not wearing masks inside Christ Church, and when they alerted poll workers, the workers told them that they could only suggest the masks but could not require them. They said that one poll worker also did not have his nose covered by a mask and that there could have been some more spacing among the voting areas.

About one street down from Christ Church, the 7502 Ridge Boulevard polling location had a strict no mask, no entrance policy, according to the poll workers present. They said that the only problem was that they ran out of stickers for people who voted and were waiting on more. One woman also said that two polling sites in Bay Ridge apparently opened up late today, at around 8:30 a.m.

While enjoying a cigarette outside at around 12:30 p.m., this female poll worker said she has done the job for 43 years and was initially paid $32.50 in 1977 to work the polls. It’s become somewhat of a family tradition that she carries on as well because her mother and grandmother worked at this same polling site too, which has been in use since 1950. 

Bath Beach also had supporters at street corners near polling places. At PS 229, Kenny Rice, 35, stood on the corner with his blue Malliotakis shirt and his Malliotakis sign. He voted first thing in the morning so he could be outside with his sign, and he said that he should have voted earlier but did not get around to it. 

Rice is drawn to Malliotakis’s law enforcement views and also that she seems to have the backing of some key factions that make up the New York Police Department. Like the other active street corners, this one also seemed to be surprisingly civil. Rice said that he got along fine with the opposition supporters who were there earlier and also with the replacements who were there during the time of this interview. 

“We actually talked about how it doesn’t seem like this corner matches the rest of the country,” Rice said. “It seems pretty divisive. We’ve been able to have conversations and actually be able to see each other’s opinions, on this corner, anyway.” 

And also like many of the other polling sites in southern Brooklyn throughout the morning and early afternoon, there were no lines, but there was a “slow drip of people,” according to Rice, who arrived at 7 a.m. and planned to stay until the polls closed. 

Heading more to the east as it became the middle of the afternoon, Gerritsen Beach actually started to finally see a reprieve from the long lines at PS 277 around 2 p.m. 

The poll worker said that the line had been out the door, but that was no longer the case. He added that the poll workers were not being overwhelmed. He also said that one elderly woman anecdotally said that she had never seen such long lines. 

Marine Park, Mill Basin, and Sheepshead Bay were not as busy but had the steady trickle of people that seemed to be happening at most polling stations in southern Brooklyn.

Brighton Beach’s Shorefront Y had people going in and out by almost 3 p.m., and the poll worker said that people were happy because they were done within 15 minutes. After exercising their democratic rights, some of these voters also exercised their bodies and mind by taking a stroll on the boardwalk and beach on a cool but nice fall afternoon.

Polls close in the state at 9 p.m. tonight for all of the races. Southern Brooklyn, and especially the areas that have these competitive local races, will be waiting and watching to see who will represent them in elected office for the coming years, and that’s before even getting to the extreme implications of the national results, whatever they may be.