When it comes to politics, Staten Island is the Yin to the Yang of the rest of New York City.
And this election Staten Island went even redder than it has before. In 2012, Barack Obama won against Romney in Staten Island by a very slim, 49.9 to 49.1 percent. On Nov. 8, 57 percent of the borough voted Trump – the same proportion of votes the Republican President Elect got in the state of Kansas. The entirety of New York City voted 79 percent in favor of Hillary Clinton.
“There are a lot of people who are very happy today. They are the vocal majority. Then there’s the silent minority – they’re not acting like how they are in Manhattan,” where thousands are marching in protest, points out longtime Staten Island resident Lenny Laviscount.
The nature of Trump enthusiasm on Staten Island is something of a microcosm for what drove his election in the rest of the nation: A sense of being forgotten.
“They feel like Staten Island is treated like the red-headed stepchild of the city,” Laviscount said.
Trump made several camaign stops in Staten Island, providing some acknowledgement to the people who felt left out.
“A lot of people have been here for a very long time, and they have always been Republican and always will be. But there are also NYPD, FDNY and sanitation people that feel like they are getting the short end of the stick,” said Laviscount, in particular, in regards new contracts. “They are going to vote against whatever they are told they should vote for, because they want something different from the promise that they don’t get.”
Vermont senator Bernie Sanders encapsulated the Trump enthusiasm that's echoed in Staten Island.
“Donald Trump tapped into the anger of a declining middle class that is sick and tired of establishment economics, establishment politics and the establishment media,” Sanders said.
Laviscount said crucial infrastructure measures, like making sure busses are available at the Staten Island Ferry, are frequently overlooked.
“Can you imagine what it’s like for someone who gets off the ferry at 1 a.m. and there’s no bus to the other side of the island? They have to have someone drive them home or take a car service, because there’s no bus.”
Staten Island has gotten particularly fed up with road projects that drag on for a decade or more, such as construction of the Gowanus Expressway and the Goethels Bridge, and they find Trump’s commitment to infrastructure particularly appealing.
Trump “looks at cities sort of the way a developer would,” Staten Island Republican Councilman Joseph C. Borelli, told The New York Times.
In another sense, Staten Islanders are concerned about an influx of people who seek refuge from the rising prices of the other boroughs because it’s still possible to buy an affordable home there. In the meantime, their jobs are at risk and their communities are diluted because of newcomers who don’t share in the same cultural interests. They identify with Trump’s sentiment to protect borders
There is also the perception among Staten Island voters that it’s only Democrats in office in New York who are being prosecuted, not Republicans, and the belief that Clinton might be part of the New York cronies is a certain turn off.
“The Democrats are making deals for themselves,” said another Staten Island resident who asked not to be named. “But the Republicans are not. They don’t want a deal making Democrat with their hand in the kiln,” he said.