It’s election day, and New Yorkers throughout the city are gearing up for (or blowing off) their trip to the polls.
“I’m voting not so much for Bloomberg as against Thompson,” said Melinda Hernandez, who with her husband Miguel owns Munchy’s Coffee Shop on 5th Avenue and 53rd street. “I think it’s a tough city, and you need someone tough.”
Hernandez has a Latinos for Bloomberg poster in her window, and believes the mayor has managed the city well. Even so, she said Bloomberg hasn’t been the best for mom and pop stores. “We get nickle and dimed like you would not believe,” said Hernandez. It’s not just the shops. “I think it’s difficult everywhere,” Hernandez added. “It’s going to take a long time to recover.”
Like the rest of the city, Sunset Park residents have watched the ups and downs of the Bloomberg v. Thompson race, and had their two cents. Some residents felt that the billionaire mayor was out of touch with their problems, others that the former city comptroller hadn’t clearly defined his campaign self.
These perceptions drove people’s opinions as much as issues or the candidates. Bets went to Bloomberg on the theory that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Fingers crossed fingers for Thompson in the hopes that things would start looking up.
“We’re gonna try Thompson because we need change” said Paul Gedaron, manager at the Mini Max on Fifth Avenue. “We have to try.” The windows of the Mini-Max boast Caribbeans for Bill Thompson signs. The Mini Max has a long-standing relationship with Bill Thompson’s sister, Gail, supplies the Amerex outerwear that hangs on the store’s back wall.
Gedaron trusts Thompson. He has seen the family do an honest business, he said. Though Gedaron has his chips on Thompson, “mostly people say Bloomberg is gonna win–because he has money.”
Polls over the past several weeks put Bloomberg ahead by as much as 18 percent, though recent reports indicate the gap has narrowed. Both campaigns have stepped up the mudslinging, some of it false. Bloomberg’s overturning of term limits and his personal pocketbook have come up, as has Thompson’s record as comptroller and his recent comment that Bloomberg’s debate performance deserved a D-. Yesterday, it was all about the economy.
The nearly $100 million that Bloomberg has sunk into his campaign surfaced continually when I spoke to voters in Sunset Park. The neighborhood has been hit hard in the recession, and zeros, without any numbers in front, loom large for local residents.
“Weekends, before, there was a lot more,” said Welhittston Sandes, a barber at Classic Cut on the corner of 44th Street. Thompson had just stopped in as he made the rounds to shake hands with the neighborhood.
“We’ve already seen what he can do,” continued Sandes. “Let’s see a new one.”
Thompson hit Tony’s Barber Shop one block down on his way back to the campaign office across from Sunset Park. Tony Garofalo shook hands, but wouldn’t budge on his vote for Bloomberg. “I think he’s doing a good job,” Garofalo said. “Why should I take a chance with somebody else? And I like him personally.”
A block down, Jose Sanchez lingered on the corner of 45th Street, discussing the upcoming race.
“He’ll win in popular votes,” said Jose Sanchez of Bill Thompson, nudging his head toward the candidate proceeding down Fifth Avenue, “but Bloomberg is going to win by trampa, fraud. He already has the trampa set.” Sanchez paused, arms crossed. “Put that in the paper,” he said.