Donald Trump Receives A Hero’s Welcome In Republican Staten Island | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Donald Trump Receives A Hero’s Welcome In Republican Staten Island

Posted: Apr 18, 2016 at 12:10 am   /   by   /   comments (1)

The only way Staten Island might be more suited to Donald Trump would be with shorelines coated in gold leaf and streets paved in the classiest marble.

The island, five miles off the coast of Manhattan and about 1,000ft from New Jersey, is a rare Republican bastion deep within the blue limits of New York City. Its population of nearly half a million people is disproportionately white, Italian and Irish American, and its suburban-style neighborhoods are packed with cops and firefighters. As a result of its deep ties to the city’s emergency services, the island has some of New York City’s most personal memories about the terrorist attacks of September 11 2001.

Yet many residents also have a major chip on the their shoulders. The borough has never benefited from the tourism that enriches the other boroughs, for instance, and its only real famous attraction is the Staten Island Ferry. As a consequence it is best known to commuters and tourists who want river views of the city – and immediately return to Manhattan.
And though Trump has no feats of real estate to brag about on the island, it’s close enough to his towers that Islanders have been reading about the businessman for decades in the tabloids. They’ve also been far enough removed that they have been voting for candidates that play to racial politics since Richard Nixon.

The result is fertile territory for Trump: one poll of Staten Island Republicans has him getting 70% of the vote there, and he’s even been endorsed by the county party chair and many local officials, making the candidate with no political experience an unlikely “establishment” choice.
On Sunday, Trump spoke at a Republican Party brunch there, marking his only stop in within city limits before the state’s presidential primary on Tuesday. The hotel hosting his event stands at the juncture of two highways, and he spoke in a ballroom adorned with video screens of American flags.

Before the main event, Trump held a press conference where he was endorsed by a group of retired policeman. Its head, a mustachioed ex-policeman named Lou Telano, singled out Trump’s immigration policy for praise. On an island filled with first-, second- and third-generation Americans, the former policeman invoked the past to defend Trump’s restrictive ideas of building a wall and banning Muslims.

“There was a wall then,” Telano said. “The wall was Ellis Island.” After the press conference, Trump was surrounded by fans who tried to stop him for selfies. One shouted excitedly: “Staten Island loves Trump. Italians love Trump!”

When Trump finally took the main podium in front of a Republican crowd, he was received with a rapture usually reserved for the Paul McCartney in Shea Stadium or Bruce Springsteen at Madison Square Garden. Although surrounded by tables heaped with fruit and danishes, attendees spent all of his speech standing, chanting “USA” and sprinkling in riffs such as “we love you President Trump” and “build the wall”. Many wore “Make America Great Again” baseball hats, and few looked at their phones, let alone the glossy programs scattered at their tables.

The crowd was so passionate that Trump occasionally had difficulty finishing his speech – he could hardly mention the name of his main rival, Texas senator Ted Cruz, without someone reflexively shouting “Lyin’ Ted!”

They soaked up his appeals to city crowd, cheering when Trump proclaimed: “We’re New Yorkers! We are smart! We have New York values!” One of the few moments of the speech received with anything less than ecstasy was when Trump complained about losing contests in Colorado and Wyoming in recent weeks, with the excuse: “Colorado is run by the bosses.” The line was met by a shouted allusion to Colorado’s legalization of marijuana: “they’re smoking pot!”

Many people at the event said they had supported Trump since his campaign’s surreal beginning, when the former reality TV star descended an escalator toward a podium and then accused Mexicans of sending “rapists” across the border.

One fan, Justine Cardo, told the Guardian that before the billionaire ran, she thought his bid might be a joke. But then “after listening to him and hearing his point of view, I haven’t had any doubt.”

There’s no way to tell if Trump, who boasted of either spending four or “probably five summers” on Staten Island as a youth, was entirely sincere about the love he proclaimed for the borough on Sunday. But it was clear that a lot of Staten Island loved him back.