After spending 90 minutes outside the Parkchester station of the 6 train Tuesday night, Fernando Ferrer grabbed the megaphone and told the crowd, “We’re closing the campaign at this stop and I’m going to prepare my victory speech!” Few in the crowd expected that was true. But even if it didn’t feel exactly like a victory celebration three hours later in the ballroom at the Waldorf-Astoria, Ferrer’s election night crowd didn’t have that somber feel of the losing locker room, either. Maybe it was because people had grown to accept defeat as inevitable, or because they simply weren’t that passionate about Ferrer, or because of the free booze and food. Or maybe it was what people at Ferrer’s rallies said all day: They were intensely proud—as Democrats, and in many cases as Latinos and specifically Puerto Ricans—of how well Ferrer did against the spread.
Especially at 10:30 p.m., when the totals on the big screen in the ballroom had the race ending 56-41. Later it looked more like 59-39, a margin of victory that appears to be the largest ever for a Republican in the city. Still, compared to the gaps of 28 to 38 points that recent polls had predicted, this was a close one. Said Kenny Agosta, a fixture at Ferrer rallies, “People thought we were going to be vanquished.” Relatively speaking, they weren’t. Dignity, class, and grace were the adjectives for the second-place finisher. Freddy got credit for fighting against an incumbent with no resource constraints, and still managing to force the mayor to increase his attention to affordable housing and other needs.
“There will be plenty of time for post mortems,” Virginia Fields said even before the polls closed. And she was right. Mark Green told reporters that Ferrer “never had a chance” because of the mayor’s “tidal wave of money.” Speakers did their best to soothe Democratic egos: Denny Farrell said the party is “grooming the best and it’s grooming its own,” Anthony Weiner noted from the stage that the party of FDR had won in Virginia, New Jersey, and the vast majority of city races besides the mayoralty. But speaking to reporters, he praised Ferrer, then repeated his critique that the Democrats need to come up with more ideas. Money, Weiner said, wasn’t the whole story on Tuesday.
Freddy’s story, he reminded people when the time came to end the night, began “on a tough corner in the South Bronx.” His granny had toiled at the Waldorf-Astoria, and now he was the big guy on stage. “From that corner to this podium and this room, what a wonderful journey,” he said. He silenced the obligatory boos when he mentioned his call to the mayor, saying, “I told him that this is his chance, because there are two New Yorks.” Then Ferrer thanked almost everyone in the room by name, called the city his life’s blessing, and said farewell. He seemed to have one last thing to say when the strains of “New York, New York” overpowered him. Freddy smiled, waved, and left.