Editor’s Note: This is the fifth and last in a series examining voting patterns in the recent Democratic Party primary election, which determined the nominee for the 65th Assembly District seat. Each installment in this series has looked at a separate Lower Manhattan neighborhood. This installment focuses on the Lower East Side.)
In the recent primary election that determined the Democratic nominee for the Assembly seat representing the 65th District in Lower Manhattan, a broad swath of communities stretching along the East River from the Brooklyn Bridge up to Delancey Street, and then hooking west and north, jigsawing as far left as Essex Street and as high as East Fifth Street, contributed more votes than any other Lower Manhattan neighborhood.
The September 13 primary race was won by Financial District resident Yuh-Line Niou with 2,790 votes throughout the district. She was followed by Battery Park City resident Jenifer Rajkumar, with 1,701 votes, and Lower East Side resident Paul Newell, who garnered 1,425 votes. The incumbent, Alice Cancel (who also lives on the Lower East Side), took 1,108 votes, while Battery Park City resident Don Lee won 995 votes. Gigi Li, the former chair of Community Board 3, received 844 votes.
The City’s Board of Elections calculates that there are slightly more than 43,000 registered Democrats in the 65th Assembly district, which means that overall turnout (with 8,880 votes cast) was just over 20 percent. On the Lower East Side, according to the State Board of Elections, there are 21,781 residents registered as Democrats and eligible to vote. Of these, 5,294 turned out for the September 13 primary, which translates into a local participation rate of 24.3 percent. In all of Lower Manhattan, this is second only to Battery Park City’s participation, which came to 24.8 percent. But the disparity in the populations of the two communities (Battery Park City has 2,231 registered Democrats, or roughly one-tenth the tally of the Lower East Side) means that Battery Park City’s voice in the primary results was a whisper, while the Lower East Side roared. (Elsewhere in Lower Manhattan, Democratic voters in Chinatown and Little Italy showed up at the polls at the rate of 17.59 percent, while the Seaport/Civic Center neighborhood’s rate was 16.4 percent the Financial District’s turnout was 9.7 percent.)
All of which means that 59.62 percent of all the votes cast in the September 13 primary came from the Lower East Side, which is divided into 40 local precincts, also called election districts. This community voted strongly for the race’s overall winner, Ms. Niou, whose tally of 1,544 votes gave her 29.16 percent of the local vote, as opposed to the 31.41 percent of the vote she captured in the race overall. The second-biggest vote getter on the Lower East Side was Battery Park City resident Jenifer Rajkumar, who tallied 1,031 ballots, or 19.47 percent of all the votes cast on the Lower East Side. She was trailed by Lower East Side resident Paul Newell, who captured 975 votes, or 18.41 percent of the local total. Another local resident, Alice Cancel, finished fourth, with 859 votes, or 16.22 percent of those recorded in the neighborhoods of the Lower East Side. Battery Park City resident Don Lee placed fifth, with 445 votes, or 8.40 percent of those cast locally, and former Community Board 3 chair Gigi Li came in sixth, with 427 votes, or 8.06 percent of the nearby tally. In this way, the Lower East Side’s results reflected those of Lower Manhattan as a whole, where the overall order of finish was identical.
All six candidates relied on the Lower East Side for a disproportionate share of their vote totals in the race as a whole. Ms. Niou took from this community 55.34 percent of all the votes she would get throughout Lower Manhattan, while Ms. Rajkumar counted on it for 60.61 percent. The two Lower East Side residents in the race depended on their home turf even more heavily: For Mr. Newell and Ms. Cancel, the totals were 68.42 percent and 77.52 percent, respectively. Mr. Lee and Ms. Li took 44.72 percent and 50.59 percent of their overall support from this community, as well.
This seems to confirm that the patchwork of neighborhoods nestled along the East River and in the shadow of the Williamsburg Bridge remains the crucial voting block in Lower Manhattan. Along with the directly adjacent communities of Chinatown and Little Italy, the Lower East Side has, for decades, determined the outcome of local elections. And the combination of its large population with a reliably high rate of voter turnout appears likely to keep this status firmly in the community’s grasp for many years to come. While local pundits have long predicted that the influx of tens of thousands of new residents to the Seaport/Civic Center, Battery Park City, and the Financial District augurs an imminent shift of Lower Manhattan’s political center of gravity, such a realignment still appears to be a distant prospect.
But it is Lower Manhattan as a whole that Ms. Niou has won the Democratic Party nomination to vie to represent in the New York State Assembly in the general election, tomorrow (Tuesday, November 8). In practical terms, however, the heavily “blue” landscape of Lower Manhattan makes the Democratic nod tantamount to winning the wider contest, and usually relegates the actual election to the status of a formality.