People have the power

The voting center where many Stuyvesant Town residents now come to. Photo: Jon Friedman

By Jon Friedman

The powers-that-be tested my devotion to civic duty on Tuesday.

Happily, I aced that challenge. I voted in the Democratic primary between the long-time incumbent Rep. Carolyn Maloney and challenger Suraj Patel. By Tuesday evening, Maloney had been declared the winner and ultimately won with 58.4 percent of the vote.

There was an annoying snafu. My usual voting site on First Avenue, close to 22nd St., is a two-minute walk from my apartment. All of a sudden, on Tuesday, I had to vote on East 14th St., near Avenue B. This decision turned my stroll to the polls into a schlep.

I know, I know. It’s not like I had to get in a car and drive a hundred miles. And you bet, I do feel lucky to live in a democracy that affords me the opportunity to voice my opinions. But come on! Am I not a New Yorker? Don’t you mutter and curse, too, when you have to walk out of your way to find the nearest CVS or Starbucks? Of course you do. We all do.

For the record, a Maloney aide — a helpful high school student — told me that I was dislodged because there had been a glut of voters convening on the First Avenue site. City Council Member Keith Powers, whom I also encountered on Tuesday, assured me that he was trying to restore my routine. I believed him, and thanked him.

To ease the congestion for the besieged volunteer workers and the bedraggled would-be voters, “they” — those nettlesome powers-that-be — sent some of us to the outer edge of Stuyvesant Town, two avenues east of the First Avenue L-train station on 14th St.

It was worth the trouble. Patel, a self-described lawyer, activist and entrepreneur, faced long odds. With so much of Manhattan opposing President Donald Trump’s policies, some residents described this election as a question of which candidate can do the best job of dogging Trump in Washington.

By my unscientific observations, the voters seemed to be different than in previous primaries. They had a definite sense of purpose this time around. They looked thoughtful and serious.

As it turned out, there was a method to the mishegas. In the past, on First Avenue, tempers got frayed at times, especially in either the early morning or the late afternoon hours. People understandably hated standing on a line when they wanted to go to the office or trudge home after a long day.

Even though voting is a significant act, I definitely miss hearing the majestic clang whenever I closed the curtain and stood alone in an old-fashioned voting booth. Sorry, but the business of putting a long piece of paper, with my vote recorded on it, into a big, antiseptic machine (which promptly devours, and hopefully records it!), does not confer on me the same psychic thrill as I enjoyed in the good old days.

I also noticed lots of volunteer campaign aides in my neighborhood of Stuyvesant Town. They ranged from a college senior to ninth-graders from Marymount. They were kind and solicitous — and, best of all, incredibly inspiring.

They were true believers in democracy.

They made me feel glad that I sucked it up and hoofed it all the way to my new voting location. And you know what else? Their dedication made me feel something else.

I felt rightfully foolish for complaining in the first place about having to schlep to the polls.

Jon Friedman, who teaches journalism classes at Hunter College and Stony Brook University, most recently wrote about New York City’s World Cup fever.