Before a primary challenge to Joseph Crowley, Board of Elections makes changes to voting in Queens — even after civil rights probes

Is the DOJ countenancing the appearance of corruption by the Queens machine ?

By Progress New York Staff

The New York City Board of Elections is making changes to the voting places for residents of LeFrak City in Corona, Queens. The elections authority is reportedly moving two of five election districts out of the 20-building apartment complex and into a branch of the Queens Public Library. The relocations represent a compromise of its original plans : to move five election districts to schools about a half-mile away, according to a report published by the Queens Chronicle.

Whilst it has not yet been shown that the Queens Public Library is a tool of the Queens machine, New York City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Woodside) used a job there as a stepping stone to network with other electeds, notably New York State Assemblymember Catherine Nolan (D-Long Island City), to ascend into public office. The library’s finances were also allegedly exploited by its former board president and CEO, Thomas Galante, before special legislation was passed and signed into law so he could be ousted from his post.

The decision by the Board of Elections to the move any of the voting places has been met with questions about legitimacy. After some residents filed a lawsuit against the Board of Elections, a judge ruled that the decision to move the voting places for 6,000 voters was “irrational, arbitrary and capricious,” according to the report in the Queens Chronicle. Ethan Felder, a lawyer for some of the residents, said that he believed that the Board of Elections was acting with an intent “to confuse, discourage and make it harder for people to vote,” according to the report in the Queens Chronicle.

In response to the continued acts by the Board of Elections to potentially make it harder people to vote, the U.S. Department of Justice is remaining mum. The press office serving U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue did not answer questions for this report.

The changes in voting places by the Board of Elections can potentially influence election outcomes by potentially making it more difficult for minorities, low-income residents, senior citizens, and people with disabilities to vote. Less than a year ago, the Board of Elections settled civil rights litigation about the controversial purging of the voter rolls in Queens and Brooklyn in the time leading up to the 2016 Democratic Party presidential primary election.

Approximately 15,000 people live in LeFrak City’s 4,605 apartments, according to estimates.

Crowley is the subject of so much scrutiny, none of which leads to accountability

As chair of the Queens Democratic Party county committee, U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Queens) has a role in selecting leadership posts and distributing patronage jobs to his supporters across several Government agencies, including at the Board of Elections. That the Board of Elections is being accused of making it more difficult to vote for demographics that may disproportionately support his primary challenger, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, in the face of a recent legal settlement with Federal and State law enforcement authorities points to a sign of a culture of unaccountability at the Board of Elections and possibly a culture of apathy at the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

U.S. Rep. Crowley has been the subject of ethics or legal probes for the way he raises campaign donations from or has private meetings with individuals or corporations in the financial, real estate, and pharmaceutical industries. How he voted to roll back a key provision of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street regulatory bill was highlighted in the press, given his reliance on political donations from individuals with ties to the nation’s largest banks. News reports have raised questions about how lawyers with whom U.S. Rep. Crowley has close political ties are able to profit from their work in the Surrogate’s Court in Queens. Other news reports have raised questions about how he subverts the democratic functions of the New York City Council in order to have a say in determining its speaker and some of its committee chairs and to distribute patronage jobs to his political supporters amongst the City Council central staff.

Recently, Progress New York, and its predecessor, Progress Queens, have published reports, revealing that there has been Federal law enforcement interest in the activities of the Queens Democratic Party county committee. These reports were based on evidence obtained from sources by each of Progress New York and Progress Queens. In the face of no apparent action by Federal law enforcement authorities to hold U.S. Rep. Crowley accountable, Progress New York is publishing two pieces of information that reveal that there has been Federal law enforcement interest in the activities of the Queens Democratic Party county committee. The evidence represents propriety information about Internet traffic to Progress Queens, showing that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been closely following press reports about the activities of the Queens Democratic Party county committee. It is not known whether the Federal law enforcement interest represents a preliminary inquiry or a full investigation. For prior reports, the FBI has refused to answer press inquiries.

Despite all of these controversies, U.S. Rep. Crowley brazenly acts as if he is above the law. Perhaps, given how the knows that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the U.S. Department of Justice consider political conditions before taking legal action, U.S. Rep. Crowley may believe that he will not be held accountable for any ethical or legal lapses.

Editors’ Note

Progress New York decided to publish some evidence about the Federal law enforcement interest in the activities of the Queens County Democratic Party in order to provide the voting public with enough information before the June 26 primary.