Sunday, 29 Jan 2023

The other New York: how Republicans made shocking gains in the empire state

The other New York: how Republicans made shocking gains in the empire state

The other New York: how Republicans made shocking gains in the empire state

When political pundits predicted a national "red wave" in the midterm elections, they never imagined that one of the few areas it would actually surface would be southern Brooklyn, New York.

They weren't imagining Sunset Park, a working-class area where nearly three in four residents are people of color: a tight-knit Mexican community on its west side and a fast-growing Chinese community to the east, with plenty of mouth-watering taquerias and hand-pulled noodle joints. At the park, when it's nice out, Latin dance music intermingles with old Mandarin pop songs until the sun goes down.

Or Bensonhurst, further south, where old-school pizza joints have been replaced by boba shops and Asian vegetable stalls, drawing shoppers with pushcarts under a clattering overhead train.

But it was in immigrant enclaves like these that Republicans overperformed by as many as 30 points compared with four years ago, building on steady rightward trends in nearby Russian and Orthodox Jewish communities. Altogether, the GOP racked up enough votes to flip three state assembly seats in southern Brooklyn and push candidate Lee Zeldin within six points of the governor's mansion, the best performance for a Republican in 28 years, stunning the state's political elites.

Among those surprised was Joe Borelli, a 40-year-old rightwing city councilman and longtime Trump ally from Staten Island. "It was hard for me, even as a student of politics, to compute that we could flip some of these districts," Borelli told me. "It was shocking to me how far we've actually gone in engaging some of those voters."

Statewide polls found midterm elections voters ranked crime as the most urgent issue, and southern Brooklyn has been no exception. Crime statistics paint a more complicated picture. Like in the rest of the country, homicide rates in New York have ticked up since the pandemic. They also remain at historic lows for the city - on par today with the homicide rates in American suburbs.

But media coverage of New York's crime has swelled dramatically. In July, a Bloomberg report found local tabloids like the New York Post mentioned violent crime six times more often after the election of the city's cop-turned-mayor Eric Adams, a Democrat who has also made violent crime a focus of his speeches.

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