An Emerging Staten Island Narrative

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Rose Woodhouse

Elizabeth Picciuto was born and reared on Long Island, and, as was the custom for the time and place, got a PhD in philosophy. She freelances, mainly about disability, but once in a while about yeti. Mother to three children, one of whom is disabled, two of whom have brown eyes, three of whom are reasonable cute, you do not want to get her started talking about gardening.

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133 Responses

  1. Avatar TXG1112 says:

    “then that could make a difference. Perhaps not a huge difference, but this is a close race. And any difference might matter. ”

    The race isn’t even close in NY and it won’t matter even a little bit. As you noted Staten Island is historically GOP territory and it’s less than 6% of the population of NYC. NY state polls show Obama with a roughly 60% – 30% advantage over Romney. Don’t believe the horse race nonsense you see in the media.Report

  2. Avatar James Hanley says:

    It’s good to see Staten Island starting to get some attention, poor devils. But I doubt their legitimate frustrations can affect the presidential race much. Polls show Obama leading by almost 30 points in New York. Applying FoxMathTM, that means he has a 15-20 point lead. Since Staten Island probably already included a sizable proportion of likely Romney voters, there can’t possibly be enough would-have-been Obama voters who will switch to make up that kind of ground.Report

  3. Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

    I agree. I’ll update the original post so my point is clearer.Report

  4. Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name says:

    “There’s a sense of the white working class being ignored by the president who looks after minorities and rich elites.”

    So they’ll go with the rich elite guy who’s made no pretense about despising them unless it was convenient. As long as it’s not that minority guy. And they’d rather no one got disaster relief, just because they THINK they’re not getting their “fair share”.

    No wonder they’re a joke to the rest of New York.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Jeff No-Last-Name says:

      Jeff, you come across as being an exceptionally bitter guy.Report

      • Avatar Jeff No-Last-Name in reply to James Hanley says:

        Yes, I am bitter.

        Every year, the GOP seems to get worse and worse, and yet these racists (yes, DD, many of them are racists — get over it), homophobes, sexists and generally ROTTEN thugs keep getting elected, or defeated by narrow margins. Russell and his husband (for such he is, in all but formality) have to fight to achieve equality. Romney wants to fund disaster relief with magic pixie dust, even after Hurricane Sandy, and this lying sack o’ s*** is still at 50%.

        No Republican has EVER apologized for the behavior of the GOP during the Bush years — what they did to Murta, to Tammy Ducksworth, to the Dixie Chicks was shameful, but that’s all past us now; like it never happened.

        In my personal life, I’m anything but bitter. There’s still a chance I might go see Tom’s band play. But when it comes to politics, you bet I’m bitter.Report

  5. Avatar joey jo jo says:

    Your conclusion re: national trouble for Obama doesn’t relate well to your premises. It comes off as a fantasy. But I’m sure that the effort is appreciated.Report

  6. Avatar NewDealer says:

    I agree that Staten Island is suffering a lot of damage but I think you contradicted yourself a bit.

    I don’t see how this is going to be bad for Obama if Staten Island is already and always has been the Republican bastion of New York City. They weren’t going to vote for Obama if Hurricane Sandy did not happen and there are certainly not enough people on Staten Island to switch New York’s electoral college votes to the Republicans.

    However, I still think Hurricane Sandy is a wild card in terms of Tuesday’s elections. People generally seem to be giving the President high marks. However, I still think there is a strong chance of Sandy causing difficulties at the polls.

    Otherwise, I think your sociological analysis of Staten Island is very spot on. I think they largely do align themselves with working class whites or non-college educated middle class whites. But there are some very wealth sections on Staten Island like Todt Hill and some professionals are slowly starting to make the move out to Staten Island because you can get a detached house and still be in the city.Report

    • Avatar Rose Woodhouse in reply to NewDealer says:

      Again, I don’t think this will affect Obama at all in New York. He would not have won Staten Island anyhow, and he will win NY.

      If this gets national play, it could make a difference.Report

      • Avatar NewDealer in reply to Rose Woodhouse says:

        Maybe but it would need to get a lot of play in the next two or three days.

        Right now there are a lot of factors and Sandy was an epic disaster. This election is going to be super-close either way and it is nerve-wracking a bit.Report

      • Avatar Chris in reply to Rose Woodhouse says:

        If this gets national play, it could make a difference.

        This appears to be the part everyone responding to is failing to notice.

        That said, there doesn’t seem to be any lack of rescuers or rescue resources in Staten Island, just a lack of attention from the major media outlets, and insensitivity on the part of Bloomberg, who doesn’t seem to be particularly popular anywhere but New York anyway. In addition to the fact that a lack of media attention is not the sort of story that gets voters riled up for or against a candidate, it’s also precisely the reason why it’s not likely to cause any ripples outside of, well, Staten Island: most people won’t hear about it.

        I do think it’s pretty shitty that they talk about how many deaths there were in “New York City,” and then show pictures of flooded out areas of Lower Manhattan when such a large portion of the deaths were on Staten Island.Report

        • Avatar Rose Woodhouse in reply to Chris says:

          That said, there doesn’t seem to be any lack of rescuers or rescue resources in Staten Island, just a lack of attention from the major media outlets, and insensitivity on the part of Bloomberg, who doesn’t seem to be particularly popular anywhere but New York anyway.

          I strongly suspect this is really what’s going on in SI. But that’s not what Staten Islanders think, and that’s not what the news stories are saying. They are reporting that SIers are upset about the lack of resources and the marathon.Report

          • Avatar Morat20 in reply to Rose Woodhouse says:

            I can understand why Staten Island residents would consider their problems really, really, really critical important problems. (You know, being their’s).

            What I don’t get is why the rest of the nation would (1) Care more about Staten Island than, say, any other part of New York. Or New Jersey and (2) Why Staten Island would be chosen as representative of the post-Sandy phase over, you know, anyone else.

            For a story to go “national” — Staten Island would either have to be seen as representative of the whole, or there would have to be some special quality (or screwup or whatever) about Staten Island and the post-Sandy stuff to elevate it above everything else.

            And I guess that’s sorta what’s missing here. Why should I, in Texas, view Staten Island’s problems as bigger than, oh Brooklyns? Or half of New Jersey?

            I’m just not getting that. And since we’re talking “going national”, aren’t I the news audience you’re aiming for? People who don’t live in New York City? If Bloomberg and Christie are on my TV talking about how well everything’s going, then some guy from Staten Island is complaining he’s not getting enough attention, why should I listen to that guy over the mayor? Or Governor?Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Rose Woodhouse says:

        I don’t know, Rose, I think the cement’s already firming on this election.

        And the news quote doesn’t really do what you seem to think it does. For folk interested in real estate markets, this is news, and to the extant that that it displaces news about Staten Island, it reflects media choices, not relief efforts.Report

        • Avatar Rose Woodhouse in reply to zic says:

          For what it’s worth, again, I am happy that everyone seems to think I am wrong.Report

        • Avatar Rose Woodhouse in reply to zic says:

          As I said above in response to Chris, I do wonder if this is a mistaken conclusion drawn by SIers from the lack of media coverage. They see rescues elsewhere and stuff of less immediate importance discussed, but not what they are going through.

          I agree the real estate stuff is news. It’s the kind of news that doesn’t read well to certain people.Report

      • Avatar George Turner in reply to Rose Woodhouse says:

        If Bush was President, the press and the Democrats would be going at the Staten Island story full tilt.

        “They’re still pulling bodies out of the water and the Republicans want to have a marathon?!!!”

        “People are still without power, days later, and the Republicans moved in three huge diesel generators to run press tents for a footrace?!”

        “They’re closing the only route for relief supplies so rich Republicans in silk shorts can go jogging?!”

        Believe me, it would be non-stop, and very, very angry. Or suppose Mitt happened to be mayor right now, instead of a former governor. The ad blitz Obama would run would be overwhelming.Report

  7. Avatar Staten Island Strong says:

    I do think SI has not gotten what it needs, however I blame Bloomberg for that mostly who could direct Red Cross, FEMA, etc. there. Bloomberg is in office because of Staten Islanders constantly voting against their own interests. Look where it has gotten us. It is pretty amazing how Staten Islanders have come together to help each other out though, without the help of the mayor this island put back in office.Report

  8. Avatar Jaybird says:

    If there haven’t been reports about people in Staten Island resorting to cannibalism, things aren’t as bad as were reported in New Orleans.Report

  9. Avatar Morat20 says:

    I’m sorry, I can’t really accept “Part of New York Unhappy” is gonna really affect the election.

    If nothing else, Americans have a sense of proportion. Sandy ate the East Coast.

    “Staten Island upset they’re not getting helped fast enough as entire East Coast struggles to deal with Sandy” isn’t gonna catch eyes, because Staten Island is tiny and the East Coast is large.

    To your average American not directly involved — me! I haven’t been to New York in a decade and live in Texas — this entire complaint feels like one guy saying “Hey! Why isn’t my power back on? My neighbor’s power is back on. Half the neighborhood’s power is back on. Why are you discrimating against me? Huh?”.

    You look around his neighbrood, see houses damaged by flood and wind, see some lights on and not others and you don’t think “Hey, this guy is gonna really change things around here. He’s gonna tell those Power Guys what’s what”. You think “What a whiny jerk”.

    That’s why this story isn’t gonna “go national” or affect the election. Because no one is gonna consider Staten Island a special snowflake, but just another small area in a devestated region.Report

  10. Avatar John Howard Griffin says:

    This is an interesting idea, Rose.

    My first thought is:

    But the people who might get upset enough to vote against Obama because of this are 1) most likely not going to vote for Obama anyway, and 2) not really going to care about Staten Islanders because they’re Coastal Elites from New York just like all those other New York heathen.

    Maybe I’m wrong, but the right has been using New York as a boogeyman for a long time and I don’t see that changing so suddenly. Not that there won’t be some who try to push this concept. I’d guess that in the eyes of most people, Christie is the same as Staten Islanders, and he’s already endorsed Obama’s response.Report

  11. Good post, Rose. I do wonder how much of this quite justified ire from Staten Island is going to be directed more at Bloomberg than Obama. From New Jersey, it seems like Obama’s visit here did a fair amount of good for the state; Bloomberg, by contrast, lamely refused Obama’s visit on the grounds that it was “too dangerous” for the President in Manhattan (but somehow not “too dangerous” to run a marathon through all five boroughs just a few days later). Bloomberg’s focus, from the limited information I’ve had, has also been – as usual – heavily biased towards Manhattan. That Bloomberg is also taking the time to send in commentary pieces about his Presidential endorsement while all of this is going just adds to the unconscionability.Report

  12. Avatar Damon says:

    “With Obama or Romney in power, your interests are ignored by elites who mock you and your values, and who are all too happy to give your hard-earned money to minorities and elites.”

    I fixed this for you so it covers both parties. 🙂Report

  13. Avatar HyperIon says:

    I saw on C-SPAN this morning that the Staten Island guy who was complaining so loudly yesterday is now thanking the Red Cross for showing up with food, etc. So his “issues” appear to have been resolved.Report

    • Avatar Lyle in reply to HyperIon says:

      That was the Brough president, who later in the day said the governor called and set up a conference call with the president to see what was needed. He sounded satisfied on the CNN interview.Report

  14. Avatar Kolohe says:

    I don’t think there’s enough time now for perception to change regardless of the facts on the ground or ‘the truth’. The initial take in the National Zeitgeist is that Obama has handled the situation well (70% approval) (as has Christie, but I don’t have a number) and that’s good enough to avoid any down vote next week and will probably get him a few up votes. (enough that the chances of a Romney pop vote victory with an Obama electoral college victory are probably an order of magnitude than Silver’s latest chance of that happening – i.e 0.2% vice 2%)Report

  15. Avatar John Wilson says:

    Great post, Rose. Thank you for writing what we are feeling.Report

  16. Avatar wardsmith says:

    I for one will be SO happy when we don’t have to hear anymore about Bronco Bama and Mitt Romney

    Regardless of who wins, Bronco is his name from here on.Report

  17. Avatar George Turner says:

    I just saw someone mention that the race has been officially cancelled. I haven’t checked for confirmation, though.Report

  18. Avatar Carol says:

    As we watched this horrendous drama on S.I. play out my husband commented ‘they vote Republican. that’s why they’re not getting the help.’ I checked it out and he was right. Dems are mean, vicious people – I’m almost tempted to say ‘may the earth open up and swallow NYC whole.’ But I won’t.Report

  19. Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

    Updated the OP again to suggest that canceling the race means this story is less likely to be a big deal.Report

  20. Avatar Rose Woodhouse says:

    Actually, watching Anderson Cooper on CNN. The entire show is about the devastation on SI and lack of response.

    The borough president was on and praising Obama and Cuomo for coming through.Report

  21. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Rose,

    I would say that today, on the NY-based news stations, SI was getting a lot of coverage, with some attention paid to the feelings of abandonment.

    Regarding well perceptions, I think SI lacks the elite, super concentrated wealth of Manhattan. There is no 5th Avenue or CPW in SI.Report

  22. Avatar zic says:

    How many of these people were supposed to evacuate? When I look at the maps, it seems most of the perimeter of the island was on mandatory evacuation.

    Did they? Or did they decide to stay, to tough it out?

    Was the flooding and storm surge beyond then the mandatory evacuation area?

    Does anyone know?

    Because I keep thinking of Vermont last year during Irene; where nobody expected what happened; and where people were stranded in remote areas, the bridges and roads washed out, for many, many days.

    But this, it was expected. One of the best storm forecasting successes on record.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:

      It’s not just the deaths. People have returned to their homes to find them in shambles or shifted hundreds of yards into marshlands. Destruction just as bad as the Jersey Shore and LI and worse than most of Manhattan. But, as is so often the case, SI remains the red-headed stepchild of NYC’s buroughs.

      Rose would know better, but I think the mindset is self-fulfilling at this point. The rest of NY (and even NJ) shit on SI. SI flips the bird back. Rinse and repeat.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to Kazzy says:

        Thank you, Kazzy.

        My husband used to work on Mt. Washington, in NH, where people die nearly every year. They hike it in a tee-shirt and without water; they ski in avalanche conditions. And he’d have to risk his life to go out and rescue them. I have a hard time forgiving stupidity like this when it puts other people’s lives in danger.

        So thank you. You helped.Report

    • Avatar zic in reply to zic says:

      Here’s some of the answer:
      http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/daughter-survives-mother-dies-article-1.1195317

      Despite repeated warnings to evacuate the Zone A district, many residents chose to stay and guard their homes, unwilling to believe the storm would be as ferocious or deadly as officials warned. It was a decision they all now regret.

      I’m very sorry so many lost loved ones, so many had lost personal property. Very sorry. But the decision to stay was theirs, and that decision carries the weight of putting other lives in danger to undertake rescue. And unlike NOLA, there was clear communication, clear instruction to get the fuck out of this storms way. I am very sorry, these things are horrible. But some of this, at least, was also unnecessary; so I’m also struggling with some deep-seated anger here. If you opted to stay, don’t you bear some responsibility for what happened?Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to zic says:

        Zic,

        There is no doubt that folks who ignored evacuation orders subsidized their risks on others. Some folks had seemingly good reason not to evacuate: an inability to; a mistrust of government that made it hard to accept their orders; a misjudgement if the risk of leaving versus the risk if staying. Christie, in his usual blustery way, rightfully called out folks who didn’t adhere to evacuation orders. If more lives are lost by rescuerers helping people who wouldn’t need help if they had evacuated, the tragedy is heighted and those non-evacuees are at least party responsible.

        But disasters are just that… Disasters. Expecting sound, thoughtful reasoning is hard. Expecting it from people who have rarely gotten such thought directed towards them or at least perceived as such (including residents of SI, AC, NOLA… Notice a trend? All marginalized groups) is harder still. I personally wouldn’t put non-evacuees in the same boat as hikers voluntarily going into hostile areas ill-prepared, but that’s just me. I think the circumstances differ two greatly. But I understand your frustration, especially if it is your loved one putting his/her life on the line. I can empathize with this as the son of a firefighter and husband of a Naval nurse.Report

  23. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    I did my best to scan through the comments here but if I missed a similar point to the one I am about to make, apologies in advance…

    Everyone seems to be very critical of Rose because she seems to imply that the unhappiness in Staten Island could affect the election. I don’t know if that is a bridge too far and I don’t know NY state culture very well but is there no solidarity in the Empire State? is there no bleed over of that dissatisfaction from Si into other areas?

    Also, let’s not forget that there are places that are going to have a lot less turnout. A blogger I follow who also writes for the Atlantic said this today:

    “The NJ update — no power until late next week, major gas shortages, drop in temp. Bloomberg is an ass for keeping the Marathon. There’s no way that they can hold elections in NJ next week.”

    Beyond NY and NJ you also have to think about other places that just barely missed getting hit hard. Virginia, Maryland, Deleware. Then you have other places around the country that have experienced natural disasters in recent years and they are going to be angered on behalf of the people in SI. On top of all of this, there is a nor’easter scheduled to hit the east coast around election day.

    I’m not predicting Obama loses this election. What I am predicting is that we just don’t know what will happen. People wavig Rose’s concerns aside aren’t looking at the big picture IMO.Report

    • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

      is there no solidarity in the Empire State?

      That’s actually an interesting question. I don’t know NY well, but my general understanding is that it’s one of those states with a big downstate/upstate divide. Which doesn’t mean there’s no solidarity, but considerably less than I would expect from, for example, Kentucky. I imagine there’s some East v. West in Kentucky, just as there’s some North v. South in my native Indiana, but probably at a pretty low level (correct me if I’m wrong, Mike, I’m no Kentucky expert, either). Indiana’s genius is to have it’s capital and large city smack in the middle of a not too big state, with easy access to it from everywhere, but in some states the divide is very very contentious.

      In Illinois, there are downstaters who’d just about throw a party if Chicago got swallowed up by Lake Michigan, and Chicagoans hardly give a thought to anything south of I=80. Oregon and Washington each have a pretty serious East-West divide that maps pretty closely to a conservative-liberal divide, to the extent there’s persistent low level talk about forming a state out of their East of the Cascade regions. And in California the North-South divide is serious enough that they’ve actually formed commissions to make proposals for dividing the state (although none has ever come close to passage, I believe).

      So when you ask if there’s no solidarity in New York state, it’s possibly not just a rhetorical question. But it’d take someone with more knowledge of the state than I have to answer it with certainty.Report

      • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to James Hanley says:

        James, the dynamic in KY is more simple. It’s Louisville vs. Everyone Else. They see us as Yankee heathens and basketball traitors. We see them as backward hillbillies that have an unnatural love of UK. Funny that they still don’t mind spending on our tax dollars though…

        I’d say if there were any legs to the Staten Island thing it would be coming from other folks around the country that sympathize more than the people in NY that maybe understand the dynamics better. Like I said, I’m not making any predictions other than, “this might prove interesting.”Report

        • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          Mike,

          See my post below. If this makes a difference, it is elsewhere… NOT in NY.Report

        • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

          Mike,

          Ah, so KY does have its own such problem. Me learn new thing. That good.

          Seriously, every state should have followed Indiana’s model. Our only problem is “the region” (Chicagoland area). But even that’s a pretty moderate divide.

          From my perspective the only thing really wrong with Indiana is that we’re unfortunate enough to be home to Notre Dame.Report

          • Avatar Mike Dwyer in reply to James Hanley says:

            KY’s capital is pretty close to being centrally located. Everyone just resents Louisville because the lion’s share of the money is here and we don’t root for UK.

            As for dissing Notre Dame, you wound me sir. I love my Cards but I bleed blue and gold. Ignoring the squeaker with Pitt, this season has been a blast.Report

            • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Mike Dwyer says:

              My loathing of Notre Dame is so deep that scientists have failed to successfully measure it even with a bathysphere.

              (I can’t believe that the Pitt snapper muffed it. Poor kid probably won’t sleep tonight.)Report

      • Avatar Kolohe in reply to James Hanley says:

        well, we got world-wide solidarity with NYC & the Empire State on 9/11, so we have an existence proof.Report

      • Avatar Kazzy in reply to James Hanley says:

        I think Rose’s point, and as I understand the local culture (grew up just outside NYC in NJ), is that SI doesn’t engender the type of solidarity that other areas of NY might. James is right that is a big upstate/city divide. But even within that, there are lots of mini-divides. NYC looks down on Long Island. Manhattan looks down on the outer boroughs. And everyone looks down on SI. SI likely won’t engender much support; they’re not seen as sophisticated urbanites by Manhattanites but they are seen as city-dwellers by the Upstaters. But, as Rose argues, folks elsewhere in the country, who don’t know that might watch the TV and say, “Hey… those Staten Islanders look like me… there neighborhood looks like mine. Why is the government shitting on them? Would they shit on me?” Folks who are inclined to think the government is hostile to the white working man could see the situation in SI as confirming this narrative. Will that happen? I dunno. But had the city diverted resources from helping victims to running a marathon (which, thankfully, they wised up and didn’t) that started in SI, it could easily have turned out that way, especially if folks took that football and ran with it, exploiting the tragedy for political ends.

        Rose might be wrong in just how impactful this turns out to be but her demonstration of the unique circumstances at play is, from my vantage point, spot on.Report

      • Avatar zic in reply to James Hanley says:

        This is part of the optics of geography. At home, the divisions define. Step further from home, and they bind.

        In Key West, I once watched to men, both from Boston, one from Southie, the other from Hyde Park, meet. At home, they’d have been ready to rumble; and they admitted as much. But here, far from home and alone, they were neighbors, nearly brothers. Joined by the solidarity of their geography.

        So when you’re at home, the proximity separates tribe. And when you’re far away, it combines them.Report

  24. I am going to express a rare disagreement with my co-blogger.

    I don’t think this gains traction for several reasons:

    1) The overwhelming number of people outside of New York have no idea where or even what Staten Island is. They don’t really get the whole “five boroughs” thing, and whatever notion they have of New York City is pretty much encapsulated in Manhattan. In order for them to grasp a disparity of post-Sandy resources, they’d need to become much more savvy about what comprises the City, and the differences in population within the City. I don’t see that happening, certainly not in the time remaining.

    2) The Chris Christie thing has defined the Obama-response narrative. I think people have made their impression, cemented by the effusive praise of a fiery Romney surrogate. I don’t think there is enough time for a change in narrative to overcome the cognitive inertia that has already taken hold.

    3) I imagine the novelty of the Sandy story has already faded, and most of America’s interest in the story has begun to wane. People are innately self-interested, and there’s little stake in following the story very closely now that the drama of the storm itself has passed. So I suspect that people just aren’t paying attention enough for the story to have any further impact on the election.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy in reply to Russell Saunders says:

      I think you might be right that the impact won’t be as Rose speculated, but I don’t think folks need to know all the ins-and-outs of NY life for it to have. All they need to see is blue collar white folks complaining about the government ignoring them to have their worst fears confirmed. All they need to see is old white ladies standing next to destroyed suburban homes juxtaposed against brown city folk getting food rations to stir that pot up. It’s not JUST the realities, but the narrative that is being stirred up (which isn’t wholly inaccurate, mind you).Report

  25. Avatar BlaiseP says:

    Staten Island and its relationship with the Verrazano Bridge is hard to describe unless you’ve known people who live on SI. I knew a nun who taught at St. John Villa on SI, Sr. Maura Hyland, arguably the best giver of small Christmas presents who ever lived. She explained a good deal of it to me.

    They really are different people, Staten Islanders. They’ve tried to keep it that way, too.

    At the Verrazano, the start point of the NY City Marathon, the city had lots of port-a-potties, stores of bottled water and generators set up for the race. CNN said they were secured behind a high fence and could have been used by the residents of SI. It’s easy for me to see why those people would be upset by these facts.Report

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