In last year’s presidential election, Donald Trump lost New York City, resoundingly. According to final election results, he received 461,174 votes across the five boroughs, or 18.4 percent, compared with 1,969,920 ballots cast for Hillary Clinton. In Jamaica, Queens where Trump was born, and Jamaica Estates where he grew up, a little less than a quarter of residents voted for him. In Manhattan, where he rose to fame and prominence by virtue of his vaunted real estate deals, the percentage was even lower: 58,935 for him, and 515,481 for Clinton. Not a single precinct in the city’s glamour borough, home to the tower that bears his name, went for Trump. The demographics of the New York neighborhoods that went red mirror those of the states in the wider U.S. that did so: the southern half of Staten Island, the Rockaways, Borough Park, Whitestone, and Howard Beach.
Regardless of party affiliation or political leaning however, most would agree that the 2016 presidential election was brutal. Even here, in the poster city for “coastal elites” and progressive policies, hundreds of thousands of people voted for and/or endorsed Trump. On November 9, 2016, the city that came together remarkably after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 threatened to fracture like the rest of the country seemed to be doing – and that was before Trump’s travel ban and other controversies and scandals further polarized the populace. At this point, roughly a year into the Trump presidency, the mood and rhetoric in the country seems as divisive as at any time since the Civil War. New York is not immune to this – and neither are the microcosms represented by our co-op and condo communities. So, how is this tension playing out in that setting?
Bagel With a Schmear...and Hold the Politics.
In terms of the inner workings of a multifamily residential building, the most prudent recourse is probably to stay off politics completely. Love him or hate him, Trump’s policies have little to do with, say, setting the annual budget, or determining which vendor you’ll hire to fix the roof. With Trump being the polarizing figure he is, most professionals are taking extra precautions to avoid the subject altogether.
“Any time I go into an annual meeting – or any meeting – the number one thing I’m thinking is don’t be political,” says attorney Adam Leitman Bailey of Adam Leitman Bailey P.C., in Manhattan. “We represent 250 co-ops and condos; you will never hear me make a political statement, unless it’s to promote real estate. It’s not just about pleasing our clients and keeping them. It’s that we need to get along with every politician in New York. By taking sides, we may hurt our ability to help our condos and co-ops get things that they want.”
When Trump’s name does come up in conversation, Leitman Bailey has a unique way of changing the narrative: he brings up the time he sued Trump...and won. “If a person says, ‘Donald Trump is a monster,’ I have to deflate that. And I have the greatest way of doing that. The way I deflate it is, I say, ‘There’s only one person in America who’s ever beaten Donald Trump before the election, in any case, and that’s me.’ So I impress the anti-Donald Trump people right there. And even the pro-Trump people think that’s pretty cool that I was the one to do it. So that’s usually my way to get off of Trump as a topic.” While his pivot can only work for him, having a go-to response ready to deflate the subject is a prudent strategy.