Seeking to calm a city he asserted was troubled by the election of Donald Trump, Mayor Bill de Blasio met with a small group of reporters, including a Hamodia reporter, representing the city’s various ethnic groups.
The Wednesday afternoon meeting in City Hall’s Blue Room, under towering photos of former mayors and powdered wig-clad colonial gentlemen, was meant to get the mayor’s message out to local communities who obtain their news from ethnic media as he prepares for his first reelection campaign. The approximately 30 reporters there reflected the sights and sounds of New York City’s diverse population — Hispanic, Chinese, Haitian, Indian and, of course, Jewish. While the topic of the gathering was officially “New York City’s mission during the Trump presidency,” it was clear that not everyone had jumped on the bandwagon.
“Many Chinese voted for Trump because of security…” one reporter began her question. Another noted that Orthodox Jewish neighborhoods, which had strongly supported de Blasio in his election three years ago, by and large voted Republican this time, despite the ideological chasm between the two.
Most of the questions, however, dealt with the fears of immigrant communities whose members had signed up for the city’s IDNYC program, which allows illegals to have some measure of documentation while assuring them of anonymity. Trump said during the campaign that he intends to round up all illegal immigrants and deport them back to their countries of origin, although he has tempered that in the days since his victory.
De Blasio, a Democrat up for reelection next November, promised that anyone who signed up for the program need not worry that the federal government will get a hold of the names and addresses on the list.
“It will remain in city hands and will not fall into the hands of other levels of government,” he said, adding that details would be coming “in the days ahead.” A statement issued just as the meeting was over declared that “the IDNYC program will be transitioning to a policy that does not involve the retention of cardholders’ personal background documents.”
He also vowed that the federal government can never force him to round up illegal immigrants. “It is crucial that people know that so many of the issues that affect them are made at the local level,” he said.
Another concern mentioned by several reporters was the rise in hate crimes.
The mayor was asked why he chose to appear at a news conference Monday with Aml Elsokary, a Muslim NYPD officer who had been slurred, when anti-Semitic crimes had risen at even higher levels than anti-Muslim hate crimes.
De Blasio said that the appearance was meant to highlight all bias crimes in the city.
“It was meant to show that we will stand by any community under attack,” he said. “There has clearly been a rise in hate crimes generated by the rhetoric of this past election. This is real.”
In response to a question by Hamodia’s reporter, the mayor paused to recall his relationship with the outlet that bills itself the newspaper of Torah Jewry.
“I am very familiar with Hamodia,” said de Blasio, who had been in frequent contact with the paper during his days as a city councilman representing a slice of Boro Park. “It is a very respected and well-read newspaper.”
De Blasio said he is not concerned Trump will retaliate against him by withholding federal dollars from the city.
“This is an individual we do not yet understand, which explains why there’s not yet a single response to [the election],” he said. “Wait until he proposes his budget and legislation starts coming through.”
He added that he has no plans to attend the inauguration, which takes place in Washington in 43 days.
De Blasio addressed the phenomenon of cross voters, such as members of the Orthodox community who supported him in the 2014 elections but now voted for Trump, a Republican.
“I understand that the vast majority of people who voted for Trump had anger at the status quo. … I’m also angry at the status quo,” he said. “My counterargument is that they chose wrongly. But there is real economic frustration out there, valid economic frustration out there.”
He again noted that Democrat Hillary Clinton was ahead by 2.6 million votes as of Wednesday in the popular vote count.
“It’s not like the soul of America changed, or the values of America changed,” he said.