Historic presidential election grips Mott Haven

As the prospect of a historic upset in Tuesday’s presidential election became increasingly apparent, optimism turned to despair for many voters in Mott Haven and Melrose who went to the polls anticipating victory for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Bubacar Sinera. Photo: Christina Dabney
A local construction worker, Bubacar Sinera, with his daughter, said of the surprise election of Donald Trump: “He’s our President now. That’s it.” Photo: Christina Dabney

As the prospect of a historic upset in Tuesday’s presidential election became increasingly apparent, optimism turned to despair for many voters in Mott Haven and Melrose who went to the polls anticipating Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton would win.

An evening pollsters confidently projected would end in the election of the country’s first woman president, instead was won by renegade real estate mogul Donald Trump, her Republican opponent, in an ideological staredown that showed the divisions between densely populated cities like New York City that overwhelmingly supported Clinton, and towns and rural areas around the country that rejected her.

Despite Clinton’s frigid reception on the national stage, the South Bronx voted overwhelmingly for the former first lady and secretary of state. In the 84th Assembly District, which includes Mott Haven, she pulled in 93.4 percent of the total votes cast, with 27,728, to Trump’s 1,440. Results were similarly lopsided in the 79th Assembly District, which includes Melrose, where Clinton received 30,897 of 32,710 votes cast, or 94.4 percent of the total. In the borough as a whole, Clinton—running on the Democratic, Working Families and Women’s Equality tickets—stomped the Queens-born developer 318,403 to 34,425.

Residents were enthusiastic about casting their ballots on Tuesday. After voting, voters said that the process had gone smoothly, there were no long lines or ballot box foul-ups, and that poll workers were helpful. Some wore “I Voted” stickers as they left polling stations. Others took selfies in front of the buildings where they had voted.

One Port Morris resident, Ashley Jordan, 22, said she was no fan of Clinton’s but felt her hand was forced on Tuesday.

“If Trump wasn’t the opposing candidate, I probably wouldn’t have voted, but Trump can’t be allowed to win,” said Jordan. “Trump is trying to get people to get into a ’50s state-of-mind and be afraid of race and religion.  He’s trying to get people off of welfare just to put an extra dollar in his pockets, and wealthy people like him.  And you can see in (Port Morris), that welfare is important: a lot of people depend on it.  There’s at least three homeless shelters in this neighborhood alone.  A lot of people would have to move out.”

Freddie Coleman, 66, said things have been looking up locally in recent years, and he doesn’t want to see progress disrupted.

“Taxes, healthcare and affordable housing are the important issues in this neighborhood,” said Coleman, who has lived in Port Morris since the ’60s. They’re putting a lot of money into renovating St. Mary’s Park and developing the waterfront.  That’s going to bring a lot of jobs and be good for the community.”

“It was sad to see Obama leave,” he said. “I think they [Congress] prevented him from doing more because they didn’t want the people to see that the best president” wasn’t white.

Larry Johnson, 35, a bus driver, said he thought negative reporting about Clinton, such as the issue concerning leaked emails, was overblown.

“Anyone could make a human mistake,” said Johnson. “If they looked into everybody’s emails, I’m sure there would be a lot less people in office.”

Another voter, Rahman Idriss, 40, said his vote for Clinton was not a ringing endorsement of the Democratic candidate.

“I picked the less of two evils, and that is Hillary,” said Idriss. “Whoever wins is not going to really affect Mott Haven. I think that the programs are most important. A lot of these kids out here have nothing to do. They’re always outside. They need to have Playstation networks for free. I cannot take a chance on Trump.”

A tenant at Melrose Houses, Bridget Hall-Payne, said her vote for Clinton was unenthusiastic.

“This election was tough for me,” she said. “I wasn’t totally happy with either candidate. Mr. Donald Trump doesn’t have enough experience that I feel he can run this country. This is not a monopoly board game. The rich people who sleep well at night…really don’t understand the pain that people go through out here.” Trump, she said, “speaks a lot of hatred, prejudice and sexism.”

Then on Wednesday, many voters, like former Department of Education worker, Dorothy M. Holmes, 89, were chagrined over the results.

Patterson Houses resident Dorothy M. Holmes. Photo: Malik Edwards
Patterson Houses resident Dorothy M. Holmes. Photo: Malik Edwards

“I feel like he is not the better of two evils,” said Holmes, a resident of Patterson Houses. “After the majority of people elected Trump, I was horrified, disgusted, and angry. I am thinking slavery, the depression of 1927, and our current day depression. He has money and how dare people vote him in office. He is a piece of garbage. He is going to destroy the Social Security program. I am not going to get the resources I currently receive.”

Barbara Gibbs, 61, said she is worried about a new leader without political experience.

“I don’t think that we should have someone who has never been in politics run a country. We’re in big, big, big trouble and we have to get ready for the unexpected,” said Gibbs. “Everything will be different now. I think Trump will take a lot from the poor and minority people. He’s not respectful of women, he’s not even respectful of his wife. I’m worried for the little girls growing up with Donald Trump as president.”

“We’re in big troubles,” said Louise Davis, 65. “He’s not for the people, he’s for himself and he’s not gonna give us the best. I’m on a fixed income, and I’m afraid he could lower it.”

Ari Ignacio, 40, said he was perplexed by the choice some fellow Latinos made to cast their votes for Trump.

“I’m upset,” said Ignacio. “It was unexpected, I was so confident that Hillary Clinton was going to win. Trump is kind of crazy, I don’t like how sarcastic he is and sometimes he sounds like he doesn’t care about the people, he only cares about himself. A lot of Latinos voted for him and I don’t understand why.”

But among the scores of disappointed voters, there were a few, such as lifelong Mott Haven resident Anna Delance, 62, who didn’t share the negative opinions of their new President. Delance said she had expected a Trump victory and was surprised the vote was as close as it was.

“A part of me felt he was going to be the next president,” she said. “He sticks to whatever he says he is going to do. I feel he may be prejudiced, but to be honest, he probably offers better jobs.”

Delance added she feels safer with Trump.

“With respect to Hillary, I believe she has experience, but she did not appear strong,” she said. “I do not think she would confront terrorism aggressively; she appeared weak on that issue. Trump is stern and I believe that is the reason most people voted for him. Living in this city, one cannot help but think of terrorism. Every day you walk through crowds, and often wonder where the next explosion will occur.”

Locally, Democratic incumbents swept back into office virtually unchallenged. Rep. Jose E. Serrano was reelected as the South Bronx’s representative in Washington. City Councilman Rafael Salamanca, running unopposed, garnered nearly 100 percent of the vote to reclaim the 17th City Council district he first won last February in a special election. State Senators Ruben Diaz Sr., Jeff Klein and Jose M. Serrano all pulled in 90 or more percent of the vote to cruise back into office, and Assembly members Michael Blake of the 79th District, Carmen Arroyo of the 84th and Marcos Crespo of the 85th also tallied easy victories.

In an email to The Herald, Rep. Serrano expressed his anxiety over the new administration.

“Our nation lost an important opportunity to make a historic choice and to build on President Obama’s accomplishments,” said Serrano. “The ramifications of this election will be felt in a number of areas that impact Bronxites- from the Supreme Court to our immigration system to federal funding for programs that Bronxites use every day.” Serrano added that he hopes the new President “will choose to govern differently from the way he has campaigned- the division and rancor that he sowed on the campaign trail was unprecedented and it has hurt many people who live in my district,” and emphasized that he is “prepared to fight against any effort to marginalize or harm the communities, neighborhoods, and people that I am proud to represent in Congress.”

Reporters who contributed to this story: Miamichelle Abad, Stefan Anderson, Clara Charles, Kimberly Chin, Christina Dabney, Malik Edwards, Lori Freshwater, Imad Khan, Kendra Manns, Manolo Morales, Rahima Nasa, Alana Pipe, Sean Shoemaker, Pauliina Siniauer, Tom Walsh.

The story was updated on Nov. 10 to add comments by Rep. Jose E. Serrano. 

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