NEW YORK —
2016 is a year when peaceful rallies turned erratic, secret service swarmed a candidate, and hateful rhetoric bombarded the airwaves.
But in a city poised to host the nation’s two major party candidates on election day — winner take all — a logistical nightmare is no stranger. New Yorkers have prepared for the worst and dealt with the worst. The city’s police department and mayor claim they are vigilant and ready.
But in midtown Manhattan, on the eve of America’s most consequential decision, a joyous spirit masks fear and uncertainty — ice-skating couples, holiday vendors, the quintessential recordings of Frank Sinatra.
New Yorkers, living in a mostly liberal enclave in a divided country, are mixed in optimism, overtly cautious, and ready to vote.
“It’s definitely nerve-wracking,” said Robin Pacheco, during an ice-skating break at Bryant Park. “I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s scary.”
Alongside Pacheco, across the rink’s ledge, Marcos Sosa said he is prepared to vote, but needed one final night to study the candidates.
“I’m a last-second kind of guy,” said Sosa, smiling, “I just want to make sure I am casting the right vote.”
Pacheco, who is finishing a degree in liberal arts, says one top priority is seeing that her younger siblings can afford school. “I want to see a change not for myself, but for the future generations,” she said.
“It’s definitely nerve-wracking,” said Robin Pacheco, left, in anticipation of final election day results. “I don’t even know how to describe it. It’s scary," Nov. 7, 2016. (R. Taylor/VOA)
Like Pacheco, Shujaat Kemma, an Indian-American small business owner, originally from Kashmir, considers the election experience “stressful.”
In an earnest attempt not to name the candidate he prefers, he revealed his colors.
“If the other person gets the job that is not right for the job, if he becomes president, then it’s going to be really bad,” Kemma said. “I hope I am wrong.”
Kemma refers to himself as neither a Democrat or Republican. Social issues such as abortion keep him on the fence. But on the topic of trustworthiness, his mind is made up. Hillary Clinton’s ongoing email controversy is in fact no concern to him.
Small business owner Shujaat Kemma, left, is cautiously optimistic of his candidate’s chances. “I do have a good feeling of who is going to be the president, and that is actually helping me,” Kemma said, Nov. 7, 2016. (R. Taylor/VOA)
Disillusioned, but still voting
Across the park, a security guard who would not reveal his name expressed disdain for both Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.
“Out of the 247 [sic] million people in the United States, the only qualified people to run is Hillary? Out of all the qualified women?” said the guard, who felt that neither candidate understands the needs of everyday Americans like his daughter, a teacher. “Nowhere does it say that you have to be a lawyer or a billionaire to run for president.”
Still, while conflicted, he plans to cast a ballot.
“I have two losers. And I have to choose between salt and vinegar.”
Crowds gather outside perimeter of NYPD security news briefing on election preparations, Nov. 7, 2016. (R. Taylor/VOA)
Mayor says: ‘Vote’
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who dedicated his morning to addressing security measures, spent the entire afternoon at university campuses city-wide in a last-ditch get-out-the-vote effort.
Outside Baruch College, a jubilant crowd of students swarmed the stage as the mayor approached.
Thespian member Nicholas Leung, after testing the microphone, lifted his fist and exclaimed, “It is officially a few hours until tomorrow … where everyone is going to go out and...?”
“Vote!” the crowd responded.
“What was that?”
Once it was Mayor de Blasio’s turn to speak, he spoke candidly of an election year unlike most in America’s history.
“Some of the things we have seen and heard this year are troubling. And off-putting. And discouraging,” de Blasio said. “But I’m here to remind you that we are better than that … when democracy is strained, it’s all the more reason to be involved.”
"All the TV advertising in the world won’t motivate people to go the way you can,” said NYC mayor Bill de Blasio, in a final “get out the vote” effort at Baruch college, Nov. 7, 2016. (R. Taylor/VOA)
Before leaving the stage, De Blasio made one final plea to Baruch’s student body: find those who are unsure of voting, and convince them.
“Tell them it matters. Tell them it’s personal,” said the mayor. “Help us create the country we deserve.”