Election Night At Brownsville’s Betsy Head Park


The parents sat along the long green benches at Betsy Head Park in Brownsville, watching their sons’ Pop Warner football practice. Some discussed the kids’ game on Sunday–that fumble at the end of the second half changed everything! Some flipped through newspapers. Some munched on sour candy.

Then came a loud noise from the street. It was mumbled and static-y, as if from an AM station just out of range. Heads turned to see a black van with a speaker on the roof slowly cruising by.

Somethingsomethingsomething vote for suchandsuch! Somethingsomethingsomething vote for suchandsuch!

A woman in a white shirt turned toward the older lady next to her.

“If we could understand it, that would be nice,” she said with a grin.

Talk turned to the day’s election. It was, after all, all around. Down the block, outside the Saratoga 3-train stop, a young man handed out fliers telling people to vote Charles Hynes for Brooklyn District Attorney. Beside a garbage can, on top of a pile of dried leaves, lay a folded pamphlet promoting Eliot Spitzer for city comptroller. At a nearby fast food joint, a sign reading “John Lui: A Mayor for the People” was taped to the window.

“This year,” the woman in white said, pausing as she rolled her eyes, “I’m just a little jaded with the candidates. All of them. The rhetoric is just pretty much all the same. They keep talking about the same thing–stop and frisk, ‘oh we’re gonna give to the schools.’ They say the same thing.”

“Just a bunch of thieves and liars,” said the older lady. “I had enough of that. We have to wait and see. Because it’s always blah blah blah blah blah, what we will, do what we will do. But it’s time to make a change, see how life will be.”

“People don’t like Bloomberg,” observed the woman in white, a high school teacher. “I dislike him in some ways too, the comments he makes. But when you look at our city, he did a lot. Is he a bully sometimes? Does he say crazy stuff? Yeah. He says inappropriate stuff.”

She added that she planned to vote, but the day passed faster than she hoped. After work, she drove to picked up her son from school. They got a quick bite. The boy worked on his homework as they ate. Before she knew it, it was time to take him to practice.

Still, she contemplated the options on the ballot.

“You know what’s sad?” she said. “I used to really, really like Weiner. And then, you know, all the stuff came out again. If you really knew that you wanted to run the city, couldn’t you check yourself a little bit? Self-discipline. Just a little bit. Same thing for Spitzer.”

So she probably would have voted for Bill Thompson, because her teacher’s union supported him. But she wasn’t very enthusiastic about it.

“I don’t know if he’s strong enough,” she said. “You need a lion for New York.”

The man in the blue shirt leaning against the fence a few feet away was in the same boat–between work and picking up his son for football, he couldn’t squeeze in the time to head to the polls. A maintenance worker for the education department, he hesitantly backed Thompson too. “But only because it influences my job,” he said–he just wanted a fair contract.

“Me personally, I though Bloomberg did a pretty good job in the beginning, but at the end, I mean, he won’t give us our contract,” the man said. “I’ve been working without a contract for about six, seven years.”

A father in a hat and khakis strolled up beside the man in the blue shirt. They slapped hands and talked about their sons’ performances on Sunday. They smiled as they gazed at the boys running around on the hard dirt field in front of them, kicking up dusty clouds with each cut. Neither man could remember the last time the park had a fresh coat of grass.

“Have you heard anything about the results?” the man in the hat asked. The sun was setting and the polls would close in a couple of hours.

“We’ll know tomorrow morning,” replied the man in the blue shirt.

The man in the hat, a sales rep for a manufacturing company, put in his vote for de Blasio this afternoon. But he couldn’t blame the folks around him who didn’t make it to the booth. He didn’t expect much to change himself.

“There’s some ambivalence, but it’s important,” he said. “I’m a firm believer that that’s the system. They pull levers and control certain things. But in my house, there’s certain things that I control, you understand?”