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The Uncivil Servant: The Other Other New York

November 9, 2013
by Mitchell Abidor bdb-jewish-adThe theme of Bill de Blasio’s wildly successful mayoral campaign was “A Tale of Two Cities,” the New York of the wealthy and the New York of the rest, whose differences were accentuated during Michael Bloomberg’s twelve years in office. But a look at the electoral map reveals that alongside the two New Yorks of wealth and poverty, there are a further two New Yorks that are at loggerheads: white ethnic New Yorkers and the rest of the city against blacks, Latinos and better-educated whites. Despite de Blasio’s nearly fifty-point win, huge swathes of the city appear in shades of red, having gone for Lhota to a degree almost as strong as the city as a whole supported the victor. Almost every neighborhood that voted for Lhota can be assigned a dominant white ethnic group. The election results are a virtual caricature of our electorate, with the presumably conservative Irish and Italian voting exactly as one would assume they would. In fact, you can work in either direction when looking at the map: pick an ethnic neighborhood and you can immediately know if you’ve found it on the map by its color. Or pick a color and then place the ethnic group. Staten Island — horrifically conservative, if not reactionary — except for small corners went for Lhota, and there’s no surprise there. In neighborhoods like Todt Hill, Huguenot, and Tottenville, the pro-Lhota margin was fifty points. But that’s Staten Island, which voted to secede from New York, so commenting on their politics proves nothing. Then there’s Brooklyn. With the exception of the northern fringe of Coney Island, where the housing projects are, the entire western tranche of the borough, the part of the borough that no one thinks of when they talk about how cool Brooklyn is, was Lhota-land: for example, the Russians of Brighton Beach in one area gave Lhota 70 percent more votes than they gave de Blasio. And lest anyone include Jews willy-nilly among the most liberal people: that might be the case for assimilated, educated Jews, but the religious Jews of Midwood and Marine Park, the latter joined by the local Irish and Italian garbagemen, in many districts gave Lhota a 50-point margin. In fact, you can tell exactly where whites in general and Jews in particular cease to be of any importance, for when you cross Eastern Parkway and leave the Lubavitchers behind, the vote steps through the looking glass, from a 60-point lead for Lhota on the Jewish side, to an 89-point lead for de Blasio on the West Indian side of the street! Italian Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst predictably went for Lhota, and the de Blasio blitz along the southern shore of Brooklyn and Queens comes to an unsurprising and abrupt end at predominantly Italian Howard Beach. Queens is similar to Brooklyn. Despite the attempted hipification of Forest Hills, the large number of former residents of defunct Soviet Republics turned the area west of Queens Boulevard into a Lhota district, and what we see in Rockaway is absolutely astounding: the western end of the peninsula, which was largely destroyed during Hurricane Sandy and is famously inhabited by white cops and firemen, gave Lhota 70 more points than de Blasio. But in Far Rockaway to the east, with its projects and black populace, there are districts that gave de Blasio a win of over 85 points! Districts where Lhota didn’t even receive votes in double digits, or any at all, are sprinkled all around the hipster heaven of Williamsburg, and in that same neighborhood, home to the Satmar Chassidim, it can be seen that the rabbis ordered the faithful to vote for de Blasio (one can only wonder what the quid pro quo was to get the frum to vote for a leftist married to a black ex-lesbian) since even the ultra-Orthodox sections of the neighborhood voted overwhelmingly for the winner. In Manhattan we have the clearest picture of the fears of the bourgeoisie: the Upper East Side, one of the handful of wealthiest zip codes and districts in the country, voted for Lhota; across the park, the equally expensive but notoriously Jewish leftist Upper West Side supported the Democrat. Everything you need to know about the two neighborhoods, the different geists that move them, was revealed last Tuesday. The fear of a small tax increase to cover pre-K for poor blacks was enough to throw the silk stocking district into a tizzy. So white, ethnic New York is, in a sense, the city’s Mississippi, moved by and concerned with issues foreign to the rest of the city. And the election proved that white ethnic New York, which for so long gave the city its flavor and decided elections, is no longer on its own a dominant voice. The times have passed it by. And though the Bloomberg years saw them paying ever-rising property taxes on their row- or aluminum-sided houses while -- in one of the most stark inequities of these years --people in new luxury high-rises were given tax abatements for fifteen or twenty years, the idea of voting for a man who just might put an end to abuses like that would never occur to them. Their fear of a new and different New York, one that will not give the police carte blanche and will aim for equity and equality, led them to go against the tide. But whatever its faults, this other New York, too must be addressed by de Blasio if he is to have any success. Mitchell Abidor, a contributing writer to Jewish Currents, is the translator and editor of the forthcoming anthology of writings by Victor Serge, Anarchists Never Surrender, as well as the first English translation of Jean Jaurès’ Socialist History of the French Revolution, which will be published by Pluto Press in 2015.