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What New York Voters Care About: Migrants and the High Cost of Living

From Brooklyn to the Bronx, voters across New York City trickled into polling sites on Tuesday, after a morning workout or during their lunch breaks, to cast ballots in races for City Council, district attorney and other local offices.

Turnout for the off-year races was expected to be low, but some council races had become heated, especially in pockets of the city where Republicans have made gains in traditionally Democratic districts in recent years. In interviews, voters in those districts talked about issues like crime, the cleanliness of the streets and the high cost of living.

Melissa Vitelli, a lifelong resident of southwestern Brooklyn, said she supported Ying Tan, a Republican and Chinese American community activist seeking to represent a newly created district in the Sunset Park neighborhood that was designed to reflect the area’s majority Asian population.

“We need change in New York,” Ms. Vitelli said. “Everything is way too expensive. We can’t buy houses here. It’s way overpopulated and they’re not taking care of citizens who live here, like me.”

Vivian Gemelos, 78, a Democrat who voted with her husband in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge neighborhood, said her top concerns were the twin crises facing the city: homelessness and the influx of migrants that has topped 100,000 people this year.

“It’s a very noble thing to want to take everybody,” Ms. Gemelos said, “but we’re neglecting our own residents.”

Ms. Gemelos did not say whom she had voted for in the contentious race between Councilman Justin Brannan, the incumbent Democrat, and Ari Kagan, a council member who recently switched parties to become a Republican.

In a nod to the election cycle’s sleepy nature, some voters said they were voting purely out of civic duty, rather than because of any tantalizing energy around a particular candidate.

At least one voter emerged after casting her ballot confused about two relatively dry statewide ballot measures involving debt limits for small city school districts and the construction of sewage facilities.

“Why can’t they just spell things out so we can understand it?” said the woman, Elizabeth Spear, 29, a nurse who stopped to vote in the Kensington section of Brooklyn after a morning run.

Kaya Laterman contributed reporting.

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