By Lakshmi Gandhi
Surrounded by campaign materials and holed up with his laptop and overactive cell phone in a corner of the Starbucks on 181st Street in Washington Heights, Gregg Ross carefully coordinated volunteers for Barack Obama Tuesday morning.
Boxes of fliers, stickers, and posters sat on the chairs and floor beside him.
"The energy we have experienced for Barack is very exciting," said Ross, 23. "It has gained momentum recently."
Gregg Ross coordinated the uptown volunteer Obama effort from a Starbucks.
Ross was part of a network of New York-based coordinators charged with directing volunteers towards polling places.
"This is a grassroots movement," he said. "We put this together ourselves in this neighborhood. It was from the bottom up."
Ross was responsible for dispatching all of the volunteers canvassing in New York's 71st Asssembly District, which encompasses West Harlem and Washington Heights. As volunteers arrived at the Starbucks to get their assignment and collect materials, Ross reminded them to stay 100 feet from the polling entrance - and to report back if they see any suspicious activity.
Throughout the day, Ross monitored the status of various polling sites to ensure that the area was adequately staffed by Obama supporters. He dispatched volunteers to a total of 11 polling places.
Even though Rep. Charles B. Rangel, the influential chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and the rest of the Harlem and Washington Heights political machine supports Hillary Clinton, Ross believes that those endorsements do not hold much sway with the electorate.
"What we found is that people aren't interested in the endorsements of the establishment," he said.
Volunteer Flora Huang has also noticed a neighborhood shift in attitudes towards Obama recently.
"Two months ago, I noticed it was very hard to get people to support Obama," she said, noting most of the Obama supporters she has met recently were younger voters.
Huang, 33, campaigned in the district early Tuesday, and was approached by several Starbucks customers who asked for signs and buttons.
As the Starbucks began to fill up, customers began to eye the seats covered in campaign materials.
"Could you maybe move that box?" asked one woman pushing a double stroller.
Ross quickly put it on the floor. "I don't want to take over the place," he said.
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