During President Trump’s first 100 days, the national conversation turned on big ideas: whether it was right to bar refugees, whether Obamacare was worth keeping, and more. Over the past several weeks, City Limits has explored less recognized ways in which the Trump administration and its supporters might affect life in New York.
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“Donald comes from New York and he embodies New York values,” Ted Cruz said last year, trying to insult Donald Trump as a “socially liberal or pro-abortion or pro-gay marriage” New Yorker.
On Election Day, voters in New York City sure didn’t buy Trump’s “New York values.” He lost New York City 79.1 to 18.5 percent. Of the more than 3,000 counties across the country, the Bronx posted the fifth-highest anti-Trump vote, with 90.4 percent of Bronxites voting for Hillary Clinton or a third party. Manhattan finished just behind the Bronx, in sixth place with 90 percent of voters choosing against Donald Trump, who lives in that county but didn’t seem to profit from any hometown bump.
“He lost Manhattan 90 to 10. It doesn’t get any more skewed than that,” says Bruce Berg, a Fordham University professor of political science.
Since taking office, any hopes or dreams that Trump may have a soft spot in his heart for New York City are long gone.
“I think a lot of people were hoping, ‘Well, he’s not just going to just let New York die on the vine,’ but yeah he will. He saw the numbers. We didn’t vote for him so he will. He doesn’t care,” another Fordham professor, Christina Greer, told City Limits for a previous story in this series.
Since Trump’s 100th day in office more than two months ago, City Limits has published weekly stories on how his administration is impacting or will impact the lives of New Yorkers. While so much of the media’s attention is on Russia, there are less heralded but very significant ways the Trump White House is affecting the city. Trump wants to cut funding from the Environmental Protection Agency that would clean up a long-ignored radioactive block in Queens; low-level drug dealers will get harsher punishments under his attorney general’s new policies; our crumbling and neglected public housing stock is all but doomed if he gets the cuts he’s proposed; a state plan to let soon-to-be-released prisoners get Medicaid was halted as the Republican-led Congress tinkers with health care; plans to fix up the city’s largely unknown national park are threatened by cuts to various agencies; immigrant communities are living in fear of deportations—and local pols don’t have much power to do much about any of it.
The whole, however, is greater than the sum of its parts. New York City’s values have perhaps never been further from the national agenda being pushed by President Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress.
“This is an unprecedented distance,” says David Birdsell, a political science professor and dean at Baruch College. “Certainly if it has been further removed, it hasn’t been since the beginning of the 20th Century.”
New York City has little if any actual power in Congress right now. And based on the election results, the president has zero incentive to enact policies that help urban areas like New York City. And this may be just the beginning. Birdsell says if population trends continue, it will be a very serious problem for the urban agenda.
“By 2040, 70 percent of Americans are expected to live in the 15 largest states, which are also home to the overwhelming majority of the 30 largest cities in the country. By extension, 30 percent of Americans will live in the other 35 states. That means that the 70 percent of Americans get all of 30 Senators and 30 percent of Americans get 70 Senators,” Birdsell says.
“The drift of the population has been so starkly different from what any of the Founding Fathers could have imagined. This is a different kettle of fish.”
While it’s only been six months, the bad news keeps coming for a majority of New Yorkers. The newest Senate Affordable Care Act repeal bill would be devastating for New York — and could make more of an impact than other major policy issues at stake.
“Despite infrastructure issues, immigration issues, climate issues, anti-terror funding. If either the House or the Senate health care bills pass, that would dwarf the negative impact of all of those other policies combined,” says Berg. “This would kill the healthcare sector in New York City. City hospitals would close, city healthcare workers would be unemployed and the quality of healthcare in the city and the state overall would plummet.”
There are not a lot of options for New Yorkers, either.
“I think a lot of New Yorkers are despondent and think, ‘I want to do something, but I’m not sure what I can do.’ People are looking around as to what they can do,” says Berg.
There is no shortage of anti-Trump protests. Some have taken to reminding Trump about what New York City values are whenever he chimes in on something going on in his hometown. And sometimes those reminders come from unlikely places.
Last month, Trump — a law-and-order president who received endorsements and support from police unions across the country — tweeted congratulations to the daughter of an NYPD sergeant killed on 9/11 who was sworn in to the NYPD.
NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill replied to the president, “Thx for tweeting. Her dad’s a hero & she’ll do great things w/ #NYPD. Btw her 473 fellow recruits hail from 43 countries, speak 27 languages.”
But appealing to the president—summoning logic or sentiment to argue New York’s case, is unlikely to succeed. So some local elected officials have fought federal policy shifts in creative ways, like the city and state joining other cities and states to adhere to the Paris climate agreement despite the country pulling out.
“This really puts an imperative to think creatively about what levers you can pull to make things turn out differently,” says Birdsell. “If we’re talking about a recourse that finds its expression in compelling the president or compelling Congress to do something, the numbers and the mechanisms simply aren’t there.”