Voices from New York City: 'Save us, Lee Zeldin!'
Greetings from New York City where this week a madman with a gun hijacked an MTA bus; a group of women brutally beat and robbed a 15-year-old girl in the subway; and a transgender murderer who raped, tortured, and killed a 12-year-old girl was released from prison. So a pretty average week in Fun City.
Lee Zeldin, the surging Republican candidate for governor, just released an ad stating, "Vote like your life depends on it; it just might." The ad captures the zeitgeist. New York feels as if it may collapse into oblivion, remembered only as a cautionary tale, and people are furious.
Lee Zeldin in the New York gubernatorial debate last week (YouTube screen grab).
I spoke to a variety of New Yorkers about why they're voting for Zeldin, and their answers were seared with pain. Listen to this chorus of despair and disgust arising from the garbage-strewn streets of the city. Here is what they had to say, edited for publication.
Photo by author at a Zeldin rally.
Kate: "I was recently the victim of a violent hate crime in the park where I've gone for 16 years. I never felt unsafe there before. Now we limit where our family goes and what we do. We don't go out at night because it's everywhere. I'm anxious, but I'm angry. Why should I have to live under these circumstances? Why should my kids have to?"
Julie: "I'm an Upper East Side mom. All the moms are talking about how we want to give our kids independence, but at what cost? There was a man lying in front of my kids' school with his pants down, and my kids had to walk past him. I'm teaching them to cross the street when they see a crazy person, but who wants to live like that?"
Ilana: "I feel like we're living on the edge. The homeless are so visible. I walk outside, and it's like I'm surrounded by zombies in a sci-fi movie. New York didn't used to feel this way. When I get back to my apartment at the end of the day, I say a prayer of gratitude that I made it home because it's not guaranteed. It's so disturbing."
The sheer cruelty of the lockdown continues to reverberate in New Yorkers' lives, with its destruction of livelihoods, shattering of community, and sadistic torture of children. Governor Kathy Hochul was elevated to power when Andrew Cuomo resigned in disgrace, and she immediately distinguished herself with an icy indifference to New Yorkers' well-being.
Daniel: "I'm a registered Democrat, but the policies around COVID here in Brooklyn have been a nightmare. I had three kids stuck at home for a year and a half, and then the vaccine mandates came and caused a lot of division in the school community. If you refused it, you were shunned. The lockdown was horrible. It devastated the economy. I know so many people who lost their jobs or had their small businesses destroyed. Many of them left New York. Now Governor Hochul is saying she'd do it all over again, and she's threatening to do more."
Emmanuel: "Before COVID, I had worked my way up into a position where I felt blessed. I had two jobs, one with the city and one teaching at a college. I felt that I was serving the community with my skills. When the lockdown and mandate happened, all that hard work went down the drain. I lost both jobs because I won't get the vaccine, and I took a huge professional and financial hit. People at work couldn't understand what I was doing. I think they conflated community with conformity. Now a judge has said the [vaccine] mandate was unconstitutional for city workers, and they should be rehired with back pay, but the city is refusing to do it. I want to be vindicated, but there's no accountability."
Maggie: "My husband was in a New York City nursing home when Governor Cuomo signed an order on March 25, 2020, forcing nursing homes to take in COVID patients. The home was completely unprepared to deal with it: they had no masks, gloves, gowns, or tests and no way to separate contagious patients. Immediately, patients and staff began dying. Over 15,000 nursing home residents died in New York State because of this order. Miraculously, my husband survived COVID, but the nursing home was locked down, and nobody could visit him. He held on for ten months, completely isolated, with no family allowed to enter, and he died alone. Lee Zeldin has said that he will investigate the nursing home deaths. Maybe the families can finally find justice for what happened to our loved ones. What my husband suffered was inhuman."
Angie: "Basically, they tortured the kids with masks for two years. Even when they let adults go back to normal and take off their masks, they forced the kids to wear them, because they wanted to push them all to get the vaccine. But when the kids did get vaccinated, they still made them wear masks! Finally, they let the five-year-olds take off their masks, but the toddlers still had to wear them, even when they were all in the same school. It made absolutely no sense. What kind of science justifies that? Now all the moms are terrified because Hochul just gave a speech saying that because of the RSV virus, kids should mask up again. She actually said there are cute masks and kids are used to them already. Maybe it's because she doesn't have kids, she doesn't understand how horrible masks are for children."
Kobe: "Democratic policies are destroying the black community. We have out-of-control borders and immigrants are getting all the help. There's massive unemployment in the black community; meanwhile, they're building a big shelter for immigrants on Randall's Island [in New York City]. Plus they turned Times Square into a Gun-Free Zone. We need the Second Amendment, because we're getting to the point of kill or be killed."
On November 8, it's go time in New York. Kathy Hochul is a cut-rate Marie Antoinette, who will go down in infamy for her acid reply to Zeldin when he criticized her for letting violent criminals roam free: "I don't know why that's so important to you." Lee Zeldin is a former Army paratrooper in Iraq, a four-term congressman, and a man with steady nerves who kept his cool a few days ago when two teenagers were shot directly outside his home. If New York can still be saved, Lee Zeldin is the man to do it. A lot of New Yorkers are praying for Lee Zeldin because we love our home and don't want to lose it.