It’s the calm before the storm at W’s, early evening on a Saturday night, the eve of St. Patrick’s Day. Across the city, droves of drunken co-eds and 20-somethings booze their way from one pub to the next, part of what is now ostensibly a two-day drinking holiday, with no semblance of Irish heritage being honored outside of green attire. But W’s keeps it old-school—corned beef and cabbage on the menu, taps of beer flowing, and scores of locals slowly migrating to the neighborhood haunt for conversation and “Irish” cheer.
In other words, it’s not a great night to talk politics in Tottenville.
When asked what his thoughts were on the mayoral election, a gentleman at the bar responds gruffly, that “he doesn’t pay much attention” to what’s going on in city politics. Sure, he doesn’t like Bloomberg, sure he votes, but ask him about any of the candidates and he shrugs his shoulders. “I’m just not really interested in it,” he says.
Situated in front of the tap, a man named Chuck sips on a finger of whisky with a friend from New Jersey. Wearing a 49ers hat and denim jacket with an earring in his left ear, Chuck is approachable and genial about the conversation topic, if not overly opinionated. He sticks to the creed of W’s patrons in his dislike for everything Bloomberg—despite voting for him—taking issue with his crusade against cigarettes and generally high taxes under his administration.
“I’m a smoker, so I don’t like the cigarette tax,” Chuck said. “I tend to go down that line: save our taxes.”
A fan of former mayors Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani, Chuck is thus far unimpressed with the slate of candidates to replace Bloomberg. “I don’t dislike [Christine] Quinn, but I wouldn’t vote for her. I don’t know anything about Lhota, the guy from the MTA.”
“I want somebody who’s just gonna get the job done, who’s assertive and doesn’t want to look pretty for the cameras,” Chuck concludes, looking increasingly disinterested in the discussion and eager for another round with his pal.
Two retired New York City police officer, Kevin and Anthony, stand at the end of the bar by the entrance. At first wary of talking to a reporter from a publication that they had never heard of, they let their guard down after some persuasion and step outside of the bar. As they each light their cigarettes, it is clear within one minute of conversation that they keep close tabs on the citywide race. Kevin, is tall and broad-shouldered, a Yankees cap with a green logo covering his head and a relaxed smile fixed to his face, perhaps the cop you would ask for your one phone call while in a holding cell at the precinct; Anthony is shorter, with a stockier build and a straight-shooting disposition. Guessing at their age, neither of them appear far removed from their days in uniform, likely recently retired, and it’s easy to imagine them patrolling the streets of their district as both have a distinctly authoritative presence.
“I’m supporting Bill Thompson,” Kevin said, naming the former city comptroller and 2009 Democratic nominee. “He seems like a fair-minded guy who’s not gonna tell people not to drink a 32-ounce soda. [Bloomberg] is so out of touch with the working man. I’m more of a conservative libertarian and I just don’t think [Thompson] is gonna be overreaching.”
Again, Bloomberg’s flaws provide the backdrop for any conversation about the mayoral race, despite the mayor having one foot out the door, his third term winding down. The prevailing sentiment with these two on the next mayor is ‘Anybody But Bloomberg.’
Anthony was unsure of who he was supporting in the mayoral race, but was concerned with the escalating city property taxes, so much so that he is beginning to look across the Arthur Kill in Jersey for a new home. He also reflects on an issue that resonates with many middle-class New Yorkers: the rising gap between the wealthy and everybody else.
“It’s been eight years since I bought my house, and my taxes have tripled. It seems like they want us to go to Jersey,” he said. “In this city, you’re either very rich, or very poor.”
As ex-cops, public safety is a topic that both can attest to better than the average voter. On the controversial stop-and-frisk policing that has been a widely-used method under Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Anthony stands by the practice, noting the city’s relative safety compared with other major cities.
“[Stop-and-frisk is] not necessarily making a difference out here [in Tottenville], but it’s making a difference in the communities that need it,” Anthony said. “That’s why we’re not Chicago, Philadelphia, Camden, Trenton. It’s a tool you have to use to fight crime.”
Kevin bristles at the notion that stop-and-frisk disproportionately targets minority communities, sometimes unfairly so.
“That’s untrue, [stop-and-frisk] targets the areas where there’s crime. Whatever the socio-economic reason, police want to stop crime, so if it’s happening in those areas, it’s not racist, they’re going by the numbers.”
The conversation circles back to the other mayoral candidates. They both like former MTA chairman Joe Lhota, a Republican, but think that he has no chance of winning in a city where conservative voters are vastly outnumbered. Neither takes the candidacy of supermarket mogul John Catsimatidis, a Republican, seriously, if only for his membership in the Billionaire Boys Club with, yes, Michael Bloomberg.
“We don’t need another billionaire,” Anthony said, as Kevin nods in agreement.