09/05/2012 08:58 am ET Updated Sep 05, 2012

Pennsylvania Avenue In Brooklyn: East New York Residents Talk About The 2012 Election (VIDEO)

While President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney vie to occupy a certain address on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C., those who live on or near a different Pennsylvania Avenue in New York City are just trying to get by.

Connecting Jamaica Avenue to the Belt Parkway on the eastern edge of Brooklyn, this Pennsylvania Avenue cuts through one of the city's poorest, most crime-ridden neighborhoods: East New York.

Walking along Pennsylvania Avenue -- lined by housing projects and row houses -- and talking to people there, it's clear the concerns of the neighborhood as the election approaches are not unlike those of others across the nation dealing with poverty.

"You got a lot of people out of work, not working," lifelong New York resident Theodore Barnwell, who lives near and frequents East New York, said of the area. Barnwell, 27, is preparing to join the National Guard after stints of employment at various retail stores, including NikeTown and H&M.

In 2009 -- the latest period for which statistics are available -- East New York saw its unemployment rate soar to 19.2 percent, a full 10 percent above the national average at the time.

"Stuff's being built up all around," said Dennis Langley, 54, a resident of the neighborhood who's made a career constructing floors. "But none of these guys are getting the jobs."

James Goddard, a nearly blind 65-year-old man who lives with his daughter just a block away from the Pennsylvania Avenue corner where he sits during the day on a milk crate, said poverty affects people's mental health.

There are mothers "who can't afford to put food on the table for their kids," he said. "And why? No jobs. You can't complain, you can't go to nobody and express what you're really feeling. That's why there are so many people running around here going out of their head."

Conversations with people on Pennsylvania Avenue about poverty inevitably veered into discussions about one of its side effects: crime.

"I'm trying to get me and my daughter to move out of this neighborhood," said Goddard, adding, "This is no place to raise kids."

According to The New York Times, the 75th Precinct, which includes East New York, had the highest rate of murders and robberies in 2011.

The NYPD employed its controversial stop-and-frisk program -- which critics charge with unfairly targeting minorities -- more frequently in East New York than in any other neighborhood in the city.

"I really don't see [cops] responding to crime," Barnwell said. "I just see them standing on corners, posting up on different blocks, and harassing people going by."

Maurice Lindsey, the Director of School Safety for Brooklyn, seen leaving a school on Pennsylvania Avenue, said he's more concerned about weapons. "I'm past the stop-and-frisk conversation, as far as it being popular. More important, is guns," he said, adding that he'd like to hear Obama's and Romney's positions on gun control.

Nearly 80 percent of Brooklyn voted for Obama in the 2008 election, and most people interviewed along Pennsylvania Avenue expressed support for his reelection.

Many expressed feeling a lack of efficacy -- the belief that their vote ultimately might not matter.

"The vote don't count," said Lawrence Davis, 52, a retired corrections officer who formerly worked at Rikers Island. "The average-Joe vote don't count."

But when asked if he'd still vote this fall, Davis responded, "Of course."

HuffPost Live will be taking a comprehensive look at the persistence of poverty in America Sept. 5 from 12-4 p.m. EDT and 6-10 p.m. EDT. Click here to check it out -- and join the conversation.

All photos by Joseph Prince. Video by Dustin Flannery-McCoy.



The Other Pennsylvania Avenue