A few folks in the crowd at Fernando Ferrer’s mid-afternoon West Side walkabout with Barack Obama were surprised at how short the Illinois senator is. “He’s little. He’s wonderful,” whispered one woman at the corner of 22nd and 8th. “I thought he was taller,” said a guy on 23rd Street. But however vertically challenged the good senator might be, Ferrer’s campaign certainly hasn’t been short on star power: President Clinton, Sens. Clinton and Schumer, John Kerry, John Edwards, Eliot Spitzer, Bill Thompson, Al Sharpton, Charlie Rangel, and on and on. It’s odd that analysts have given so much weight to the photo-op defections of Democratic councilmembers and borough presidents to Bloomberg relative to the photo-op appearances of so many national and local luminaries on Ferrer’s behalf.
The fact is, neither Bloomberg’s Democratic friends nor Ferrer’s high-profile supporters mattered much to Sherry Barrett, Bernadine Walsh, and Angel Cordero, who gathered on the corner of Fulton and Flatbush at noon Monday to see the Democrat and Rev. Al. Obama would say later on that he backed Ferrer because of Freddy’s “inclusive vision.” Why were Barrett, Walsh, and Cordero backing him, or not?
Barrett’s a registered Republican from Brownsville, but she’s also a single parent and says she was intrigued by Ferrer’s story of being raised, after his parents’ divorce, by a single mom. “I was kind of curious, what was he going to do for us?” Barrett says; she thinks Ferrer never answered the question. Meanwhile, “I see that Bloomberg is really, really helping.” The $400 property tax rebate, she says, came in handy when her parents, who own the house she lives in, moved back to Jamaica and found themselves struggling. Ferrer “has good values,” she notes. But, she adds, “Working families don’t necessarily want food stamps.” Out in Brownsville, she says, she’s seeing the new development that has frightened some residents on once-neglected neighborhoods with rising rents and new, rich neighbors. But Barrett views it as a positive. “There’s a Lucille Roberts there now,” she says. “A Lucille Roberts!”
Standing five feet away, Walsh and Cordero were grasping Ferrer literature. The couple lives in Bay Ridge, where “everyone in the street that I talk to, they hope (Freddy) wins,” said Walsh. “I think he can do a lot for this city. He helps poor people.” Cordero adds that it’s time for a Spanish-speaking mayor. Bloomberg isn’t doing a bad job, but he’s just doing his job. The city needs more, Cordero says. And he predicts Bloomberg’s second term will be worse than the first, just like Dubya’s. The couple is American dream material: Both came here as immigrants, and they have three sons; one’s an engineer in Puerto Rico, another a government employee there, while the oldest is a U.S. Navy pilot. Cordero wore a felt cap with an American flag and an eagle on his cap. “I love this city,” Walsh says, with emotion. “I love it.” Then Ferrer and Sharpton arrived.