Four candidates, four campaigners – as diverse as their neighborhood

By Emily Ulbricht and Bimina Ranjit 

With household incomes ranging from less than 9 thousand dollars to more than 1.3 million a year, Senate District 31 is extremely diverse. The southern section encompasses the Garment District and the Upper West Side, with more than eighty percent white residents; in the north, the populations of Washington Heights and Inwood comprise up to eighty five percent Hispanics.

The four Democrats who are running for District 31 State Senator are just as diverse: three men, one woman. Two Dominicans, one African-American, one white Jew. Two are from Hamilton Heights, one from Washington Heights and one from the Upper West Side.

They are all Democrats but their campaigns diverge in terms of specific issues and policy ideas, giving different reasons to support each.

We travelled through District 31, interviewing campaigners for each of the candidates.

The one thing Marisol Alcantara stands out for is… “I’m a youth advocate, so… youth. She’s investing in young people and ensures they have education and opportunities.”

Eddie Silverio, 47, Director of a Youth Center in Washington Heights, for Marisol Alcantara 

“I am known for my bow ties. But today I’ve chosen a special one, in the colors of Marisol.

“I took the day off to campaign today: Primaries elections are the most important election, that’s where your voice is heard. I vote since I’m 18 years old and will vote for the rest of my life. People fought in the 60’s for our right to vote, and I will never forget that.

I know Marisol for 20 years, since she came to the youth center I work at, to volunteer and we’ve worked on several campaigns. I support her, because she brings fresh ideas. We need someone who is not in the system and I think Marisol will bring the twist and make a difference.”


The one thing Micah Lasher stands out for is… “His energy and his devotion to the neighborhood and the causes that are important to New Yorkers.”

Elizabeth Mann (Micah Lasher’s wife), 41, from Upper West Side, for Micah Lasher

“It’s a family business: His mother, his sister, his brother-in-law, we’re all out here today to support him.”

“I’m here since 9 a.m. I dropped the kids at school and came right onto the street to campaign… It’s important to be out here, talk to voters and show that we all do it work. It’s the right moment for Micah: He worked for former Mayor Bloomberg and Attorney General Schneiderman and brings a lot of experience to support progressive causes. Now is the opportunity for Democrats to obtain a majority in the Senate and Micah wants to make it work. If he goes to Albany, it’ll be a challenge for the family, but we’ll make it work.”



The one thing Robert Jackson stands out for is… “He served as city councilman for three terms. He does community service without expecting publicity. He is humble and sincere and does not work for credit.”

Linda Johns, Washington Heights resident campaigning for Robert Jackson

“I would not vote for Lasher because he is for charter schools and Alcantara would caucus with the republicans, I have been supporting Jackson for all these years and I still do.”

“Jackson initiated the lawsuit again the state for inadequate funding in New York Public school, he walked 150 miles to Albany with group of parents to support the lawsuit, after they won the case and sum of 16 billion dollars.  Unfortunately, due to economic crisis the state took a lot of that money back.

If he is in senate there is higher possibility of restoring the funds back to public school.”




The one thing Luis Tejada stands out for is… “He has the experience of the local and knowledge of politician. He has held jobs like being a taxi driver and building super, and now he is in politics.”

Pio Tejada (Tejada’s brother), campaigning at Inwood for Luis Tejada

“He is my brother and I support him for I know he is a deserving candidate, he founded Mirabel Sisters cultural and community center and I work there with him. “

“For last fifteen years Luis Tejada has been working for the tenants rights in this neighborhood, fighting for the poor people harassed by their landlord. He has lots of insights for he has been physically in the community, I think he should be the guy for the state senate, he knows what he is doing.”


What to do in a voting machine jam

By Jessie Shi

Grace United Methodist Church at 125 W. 114th St. is one of the polling stations. Credit: Jessie Shi/The North Polls

Four years after The Board of Elections installed a system of electronic voting machines in New York City, there were no major problems reported in the polling districts in northern Manhattan this primary day. 

Workers at the Grace United Methodist polling station dealt with two glitches, the first around 8 a.m. and the other a few hours later. In both cases, the paper ballot that voters feed into the scanning machines jammed.  Election coordinator Alexander E. Medwedew says the jams briefly delayed the voting procedures of around 25 people in total.

Because of the importance of maintaining the integrity of the vote, there are elaborate procedures for fixing a jam, even a simple one.  Here are the instructions from the Basic Poll Worker Manual for what to do when a jam happens:

  1. A bipartisan team open the door of the scanners with the police present
  2. The team check to make sure the flaps are open
  3. The coordinator calls for more seals when finished

If scanner jams remain:

  1. Scanner inspectors tell the coordinator to call the borough office
  2. Scanner inspectors direct voters to other scanners until a technician arrives

If all scanners break down:

  1. Scanner inspectors notify the coordinator immediately
  2. The coordinator calls the borough office
  3. Scanner inspectors wait for the coordinator to tell them to begin the emergency procedures
The Basic Poll Worker Manual gives detailed instructions for all the poll workers on election days. Credit: Jessie Shi/The North Polls

Emergency procedures:

  1. Direct all voters to place their ballots into emergency ballot boxes. There are usually two at each poll station.
  2. If the broken scanners are fixed, inspectors scan all emergency ballots into the scanners
  3. If the broken scanners are not fixed, the coordinator collects all emergency ballots to the Election Day tables for tally


Luckily for the voters at Grace United Methodist, both problems were resolved at the first stage and voting resumed in about five minutes.

Appel’s campaigning reflects his vision for AD 69

By Abigail Morris

Challenging a longstanding incumbent is a bold move, especially when they have as many ties to the community as District 69 Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell. But that’s exactly what challenger Steven Appel hopes to do.

Steven Appel meets a young voter on 104th Street

Appel believes that O’Donnell’s long term has made him complacent and some parts of the community feel ignored. These are the potential voters that Appel’s platform intends to help.

“How do we make a more proactive constituent services model, [one] that doesn’t wait for people to come to our office but instead goes out into the community and asks people what they need?” he said. 

This is reflected in his campaigning –  his strategy today avoided the O’Donnell stronghold at PS 165 in Morningside Heights and instead travelled around the rest of the district. He said, “It’s going really well, we’re very encouraged by the reception in the community.”

“I think a lot of people realize that parts of the district have been ignored and ready for someone to step in and listen to all corners of the community.”

But O’Donnell’s  many supporters feel Appel does not have the same rapport with the community. Luis Roman, public defender at Legal Aid Society,  “O’Donnell’s records in the past 14 years has been incredibly impressive,” he said,  “He’s active in the issues that affect our community.”

Some residents weren’t impressed with politics in general. Doralynn Pines, long-time resident in Morningside Heights, expected to see more campaigns about the candidates beyond the leaflets she received.

“Many of our officials seem kind of sleepy,” she said. “At 80, I have been saddled with disappointment at the local level of politicians.”

NYC’s largest LGBT political club: “Lasher’s our guy”

By Elizabeth Haq

The city’s oldest and largest LGBT political club has endorsed three candidates in Manhattan’s contested Democratic primaries, and is making a special push for one of them.

The Stonewall Democrats of New York City held a volunteer event last night for Micah Lasher, the 34-year-old first-time candidate running for Senate District 31. They’ve also endorsed Carmen N. De La Rosa in Assembly District 72  and Daniel O’Donnell in Assembly District 69.

A former chief of staff to Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and director of state legislative affairs under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Lasher doesn’t lack friends in high places. In fact, out of the four candidates running for the vacant seat, he’s the closest to the city’s intellectual and financial elite – they helped him raise over $450,000 in campaign funds.

So what makes the Upper West Sider fit to represent this widespread, often underrepresented community?

Rose Christ, vice president of the club for the last four years, said that an effective representative doesn’t have be a mirror of his or her constituents.

“I like people that worked aggressively when they were staffers,” she said. “They have an insider’s perspective and just need the influence to make things happen.”

From left to right: Rose Christ, Stonewall Democrats volunteer, volunteer Linda Farrell. Credit: Liz Haq/The North Polls

Christ herself was split between Lasher and Robert Jackson, until one particular issue.

“Religious organizations using public schools for programming,” she said. It’s a sticking point for Stonewall members who believe that religious events are often discriminatory, and sometimes outright hateful, of the LGBT community.

According to Christ, Lasher is the only candidate who adamantly opposed the use of public spaces for religious programming. He also mentions the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), a proposed New York law that protects gender identity and expression under human rights and hate crime laws, as a priority on his campaign website.

“The other candidates won’t prioritize passing GENDA, especially the candidate being supported by the IDC,” Christ said, referring to the Independent Democratic Conference. The breakaway coalition that caucuses with the GOP in New York State Senate has thrown its support behind Lasher’s opponent, Marisol Alcantara.

“That was a deciding factor for a lot of us. That’s when I thought Lasher’s our guy,” she said.

Jared Odessky, volunteer. Credit: Liz Haq/The North Polls

Primary Day? Not again!

By Alaina Raftis

PS133 in Chelsea is one of 48 poll stations in State Senate District 31. Credit: Alaina Raftis/The North Polls

Yes, you’re not imagining it.  We did just have a primary, on June 28, when New Yorkers picked the candidates to replace longtime Congressman Charles Rangel.  And a few months before that, April 19, it was the Presidential primary battle. Today’s primary election, for New York State legislative offices, is the third of the year.

“This primary will probably be the lowest voter turnout on record. People are too confused,” said Donathon Salkaln of Manhattan. 

Salkaln, who is running today for alternate delegate on the judicial nominating convention, was outside PS 133 in Chelsea this morning passing out flyers with the title, “Don’t Forget Primary Day is Tuesday, September 13th.”

Light foot traffic outside the polls at PS 133 in Chelsea where there was on average five to six voters per hour this morning, according to a Board of Election coordinator. Credit: Alaina Raftis/The North Polls

“They’ve had three primaries and it’s been a total waste of money. I think every one of these is about $14 million. That money could go to affordable housing.” said Salkaln.

Holding federal and state primaries on two separate dates in New York costs “counties an extra $25 million by the Legislature’s estimate” according to an article on

It didn’t used to be this way.  In 2012, a federal judge ordered the congressional primary to be moved earlier in order to comply with a law requiring enough time for military absentee voting. Since then, the divided New York State legislature has been trying to come up with a common federal and state primary date. But once again, they were unable to reach a compromise, which led many of us to the polls for the third time this year.

109th Street was full of signs supporting various candidates on primary election day. Credit: Alaina Raftis/The North Polls

These primaries are all pointing toward one more voting day: Nov. 8. That’s when the winners of the 2016 primaries will face off, including Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, who are vying to become the 45th President of the United States.

Going for the (G)old: Senate Candidates Vie for the Senior Vote

Residents at the Inwood senior center wait patiently for lunch. Credit: Nafisa Masud/The North Polls

By Nafisa Masud 

As the morning of the primary drags on and campaign volunteers try to lure voters into the polls on their way to work, there’s one group of people that’s sure to make an appearance — senior citizens. The older residents of upper Manhattan are historically active in the polls: a 2015 NYDaily News report shows 38 percent of those aged 60-69 and 36 percent of those aged 70-plus turned out to vote in 2014. That’s compared to only 11 percent of eligible voters in the age group 18-29.

Why so active? Poll station volunteer Shanene L. Harmon says, “They know the importance of voting. They’re the ones reading the news. With social security and benefits, they’re impacted the most by who gets elected.” Others, like poll worker Esa M. Moses, think it is more than their own interests. “The senior citizens are faithful. They care about what’s going on,” she says.

Several candidates vying for the open Senate seat in District 31 have recognized the loyalty, and availability, of this demographic. Marisol Alcantara’s campaign team organized services to shuttle the seniors to and from poll stations, and Luis Tejada visited several senior centers. “They’re gonna make the difference in the election today,” Tejada says. Robert Jackson and Micah Lasher weren’t available to comment.

First stop for this disenfranchised voter: The polls.

By Danielle Prager

Da’Ud Nashid, 50, a convicted felon who spent 28 years in a New York State prison, was one of the first to arrive at Washington Heights Academy, the polling center for the 72nd District’s State Assembly primary. He came, despite the fact that he can’t vote.

“I’m here to learn about the process,” said Nashid.

New York State law prevents individuals with a felony conviction from voting while incarcerated or on parole. Following the completion of his or her sentence and parole, the individual is required to re-register with their county’s Board of Elections.

Nashid, who did not want his picture taken, is part of the estimated 122,000 convicted felons who are disenfranchised in New York State.

“It’s part of our civic duty to vote. Not only in national elections, but in small elections like this,” said Nashid, who says he’s planning to vote as soon as he’s eligible.