NYC to Donald Trump: He’s not one of us
Donald Trump’s presidential campaign is rocking his hometown of New York City as he is poised for a thumping victory in the state’s primary on Tuesday.
Trump is dominating the polls with a double-digit lead over his rivals, Ted Cruz and John Kasich. The billionaire could pick up close to all of the 95 delegates at stake in the state, where he is especially popular among voters in upstate and rural regions.
That makes Trump’s unpopularity in this diverse metropolis — where he has been a fixture in the business, political and social scenes for decades — all the more striking. His candidacy is widely viewed as distasteful and offensive by many residents.
Delvin James of Harlem, a New Yorker of 25 years who is originally from Italy, works as a translator in the city. A registered Democrat who will vote for Hillary Clinton, James said Trump was an “embarrassment” to the city, particularly his comments about immigrants.
“My response is, wow. Every time. I always go, wow,” said James, 40, who is black. “Any other country, they have a representative here in New York. He’s already offended everybody in the whole world except white Americans.”
Lianna Remigao, 19, a student at City College, was born to parents from the Dominican Republic. To Remigao, New York City represents the “land of opportunity,” and says she personally feels targeted by Trump’s campaign platform.
“You can’t represent New York City and claim you’re a New Yorker if you’re so against the diversity and the melting pot that is this country — New York City, especially,” said Remigao, who is a Bernie Sanders supporter. “We have the Statue of Liberty that represents great things, welcoming people into America.”
Remigao’s boyfriend, Julian Irizarry, chimed in that Trump was making “New York look bad.” Irizarry, who grew up in New Jersey’s Hudson County, said Trump’s proposed temporary ban on Muslim immigration was racist.
“I don’t look at him as a New Yorker,” said Irizarry, who is of Puerto Rican and Italian descent. “I look at him the way I look at Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian — someone who’s just famous and rich.”
Polls show that the majority of city residents are opposed to Trump’s campaign, and voters describe his platform as an affront to their values. Trump has kept his distance from the city during the New York primary campaign, focusing his efforts in the state in upstate New York. He will hold a rally later Monday — on the eve of the primary — in Buffalo, where his support is strong.
Yet Trump is a ubiquitous presence across the city. Remigao and Irizarry spoke with a reporter on a grassy lawn at the southwest corner of Central Park, within sight of the Trump International Hotel and Tower, a 52-story structure with a gilded entrance on Central Park West.
Born in Queens, Trump himself has long been a fixture of New York City. For decades, Trump’s playboy lifestyle and multiple weddings and divorces were favorite features in the city’s tabloids. Trump flirted in the past with running for New York City mayor.
He has garnered the support of at least one prominent local Republican — former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who said he plans to vote for his long-time friend.
But other Republican leaders have steered clear. Former Gov. George Pataki, who briefly ran for president this cycle, endorsed Kasich; Michael Bloomberg, the Democrat-turned-Republican-turned-independent former mayor has denounced Trump aggressively and considered running as an independent against him.
His name pops up in real estate developments around New York. Along the Hudson River and parallel to the West Side Highway sit a row of buildings that make up Trump Place — luxury condominiums that stretch from 59th Street to 72nd Street. The Trump name is featured on numerous other buildings across the city, including Trump Parc, Trump Soho New York and Trump World Tower.
Trump resides in the penthouse of Trump Tower, a skyscraper in Midtown where he announced his 2016 campaign and where his popular reality TV show, “The Apprentice,” was based. It has become the headquarters of Trump’s White House campaign and the site of frequent press conferences.
His New York roots have been a flashpoint in the Republican race. Earlier this year, Cruz criticized Trump for his “New York values,” suggesting Trump was out of touch with the rest of the country. Trump responded by defending the city and citing its response to the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center.
“New York values were on display for all to see in the aftermath of 9/11 — a strike at the heart of our city and our nation,” Trump said last week at the New York state Republican Party’s annual gala. “In our darkest moments, as a city, we showed the world the very, very best in terms of bravery and heart and soul that we have in America.”
Trump’s rebuke to Cruz won applause even from some Democrats. But for the most part, local political leaders say he has been a disturbing political force, and someone who has frightened and insulted voters in the city.
Elected officials, many of whom represent diverse minority communities, say they have been bombarded with concerns about the prospect of a Trump presidency. His rhetoric about immigration, they say, has been especially alarming to New Yorkers.
“We folks in the city, we all live side by side with each other and Donald Trump has a more segregated type of message rather than a message of integration,” said Keith Wright, a Democratic Assemblyman from Manhattan who is running for Congress. “People are amazed at how well he is doing. They talk about it all the time.”
Ron Kim, a Korean-American Democratic Assemblyman from Flushing — a heavily Asian neighborhood in Queens — said some of his constituents “absolutely terrified” by the headway Trump has made in this election.
“We have a lot of pride in embracing the immigrant experience and making sure that we celebrate diversity and he’s running on the opposite of that and that’s very disappointing for New Yorkers,” Kim said. “Is this the beginning of hateful candidates coming up to national platforms? … I think for a community like mine, they fear that.”
Some leaders have taken active steps to distance the city and state from Trump. State Senator Daniel Squadron has helped lead a campaign to strip Trump’s name from the Donald J. Trump State Park, located in Westchester and Putnam Counties.
There have been similar petitions for the city to terminate its contracts with Trump on projects like the Trump Golf Links golf course in the Bronx and an ice skating rink in Central Park.
Squadron, a Democrat who represents parts of Brooklyn and Manhattan, said his constituents have pressured him to weigh in on the 2016 election — specifically, to “stand up to Trump.”
“The idea of building a presidential campaign on divisiveness and hate is offensive and New York State shouldn’t have a part in honoring a person who does it,” Squadron said, explaining the state park campaign.
“There was an enthusiasm on the streets about the Obama candidacy and it was energizing,” Squadron said. “There is a similar energy on the street now in my district, but it’s driven by a fear of Trump.”