Sanders, Trump and Clinton tout New York ties
New York — Three presidential candidates call themselves New Yorkers. Bernie Sanders is from Brooklyn, Donald Trump is from Queens, and Hillary Clinton owns a home in Westchester and represented New York in the U.S. Senate. Despite these bonafides, the three contenders have been falling all over themselves to prove how much they love New York as the state’s April 19 presidential primary nears. Sanders ate a hot dog on Coney Island, Trump visited the 9/11 museum and donated $100,000 to it, and Clinton rode the subway — though she had to swipe her MetroCard five times to get it to work.
There’s a lot more to these candidates’ New York stories than campaign stops and photo ops. A look at some places connected to these three very different New Yorkers.
Bernie Sanders’ New York
Sanders likes to say his family lived in a 3 1/2-room apartment in a “tenement.” If that evokes an image of a crumbling hovel, you might be surprised to learn that Sanders grew up in what appears today to be a perfectly tidy, though modest, six-story beige brick building on East 26th Street in Brooklyn’s Midwood neighborhood. Down the block, well-kept single-family homes sport neatly trimmed hedges and flowering trees.
Sanders graduated from nearby James Madison High School. On a recent Friday, Ahmed Khater, 18, a senior, said students were buzzing at the news that Sanders was planning a rally in front of his old building that day. “The word’s out there,” said Khater, who proudly noted that if Sanders wins the White House, the school will have an alumnus in each branch of government: Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer.
Sanders also has campaign offices a few miles away in the Gowanus section of Brooklyn, in a nondescript building on Eighth Street with a couple of “Bernie 2016” signs on a rusting fence. Gowanus is named for the Gowanus Canal, an infamous toxic waste site whose cleanup has become something of a cause celebre among the hipsters living nearby in what was once an industrial, working-class area. Ironworks, warehouses and humble row houses still line Gowanus, but it’s also turned trendy with a Whole Foods, upscale restaurants and tech businesses.
Donald Trump’s New York
Donald Trump grew up in a stately, 4,000-square-foot home with four white columns in Jamaica Estates, Queens. His father, Fred, was a major developer of middle-class housing, with offices on Avenue Z in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. In his book “The Art of the Deal,” Donald recalled how thrilling it was for him, as a young man working for his dad, to move into his own Manhattan apartment after spending all that time in the city’s less glamorous outer boroughs.
“You have to understand: I was a kid from Queens who worked in Brooklyn, and suddenly I had an apartment on the Upper East Side,” he wrote. “I became a city guy instead of a kid from the boroughs.”
And while Donald Trump’s name adorns many of his hotels and skyscrapers, both in New York City and elsewhere, the Trump Village West apartment complex in Brooklyn’s Coney Island was built by Fred. The solid, brown-brick buildings were originally government-subsidized affordable housing for moderate-income families; today, they’re private co-op apartments but still a far cry from Donald’s luxury towers. You can hear the rumble of elevated subway trains nearby, and the beach and boardwalk a few blocks away are a bit gritty, as oceanfront neighborhoods go.
A world away on Manhattan’s Fifth Avenue sits Donald Trump’s most famous building, Trump Tower. His name not only adorns a gold sign over the entrance but also many of its venues: Trump Bar, Trump Grill, Trump Cafe, Trump’s Ice Cream Parlor and the Trump Store. Jewelry designed by his daughter Ivanka is displayed on the ground floor next to a Gucci store, and the lobby is a temple of marble, brass and glass, with an 80-foot waterfall softly murmuring.
Hillary Clinton’s New York
Clinton can’t compete with Trump or Sanders for native cred. She grew up in Illinois, lived in her husband’s home state of Arkansas and then moved into the White House. When rumors began circulating that she might run for the Senate from New York, critics asked how she could represent a state where she’d never lived. And so the Clintons bought a $1.7 million, five-bedroom home in 1999 in Chappaqua, a leafy, affluent suburb about 30 miles north of Manhattan. She then spent months traveling around on a “listening tour” getting to know her newly adopted home state.
Still, Clinton, with her Midwest accent and earnest demeanor, never seems quite at home in the five boroughs, despite her best efforts to act like a New Yorker. You don’t see Sanders or Trump taking the subway, but Clinton did, and suffered the indignity — as many commuters do — of having to swipe her MetroCard over and over to get it to work. Like Sanders, she has campaign offices in Brooklyn, but hers are in a downtown tower near the courts and government buildings, not in a trendy yet humble hood.