Some news, apparently, is fit to print, but not too boldly. Take, for example, the demure self-censorship on display Saturday in the New York Times’ eye-opening report, headlined “On Island, Largely Blue, an Exception: Trump Tower,” on the handful of New York City neighborhoods that voted for Mitt Romney over President Obama. Overall, the city voted Obama over Romney 81% to 18%.
The headline and the first five paragraphs were about the two isolated election precincts on the Upper East Side of Manhattan Island where Romney won half or more of the vote. It wasn’t until paragraph 7 to find out that the main news began to trickle out: that the “deepest single bloc of Republican support in all the five boroughs” was a four-square-block section of Gravesend, Brooklyn, “dotted with Sephardic temples and yeshivas.”
Finally, well into the jump, we learned that Romney “enjoyed strong support from a range of neighborhoods with large populations of Orthodox Jews.” Many precincts in Borough Park, Kew Gardens Hills and Sheepshead Bay (which is largely Russian, not Orthodox) voted 90% GOP. A note on the accompanying map gave you the money quote: “Mr. Obama’s worst precincts were in Orthodox Jewish areas like Ocean Parkway and Williamsburg in Brooklyn and Kew Gardens Hills in Queens.”
The map shows the city’s 5,286 precincts as a sea of blue and red dots, shaded darker or lighter to indicate higher or lower percentages of partisan leaning. The darkest red voted over 80% for Romney, while pale pink gave him 50% to 65%. In addition to the broad swathes of dark red running down Brooklyn from Hasidic Borough Park down Sephardic Ocean Park to Russian Brighton Beach, there are dark red clusters in mostly Italian-American Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, and mostly Irish-American (and storm-ravaged) Breezy Point, Queens.
Prime Minister Netanyahu is not the first public servant to run into trouble trying to end an occupation and remove Jews from their homes. Way back in 1962, Officers Gunther Toody and Francis Muldoon faced just that problem in their efforts to remove sweet old Mrs. Bronson (played brilliantly by the great Yiddish stage diva Molly Picon) from her apartment in one of the best loved subplots of the classic situation comedy “Car 54, Where Are You?”
The saga of Mrs. Bronson ran over four episodes from October 1961 to August 1962. In the first episode, titled “I Won’t Go,” Mrs. Bronson refuses to move out of her apartment in a tenement slated for demolition to make way for urban renewal. In the final episode, titled “Occupancy” (eerily foreshadowing today’s news) she has stealthily moved into the shell of her new high-rise apartment while the building is still under construction. In art as in life, the settler ends up running rings around the authorities and getting what she wants.
There’s some debate whether the Mrs. Bronson story is based on the construction of the Cross-Bronx Expressway, which caused furious debates during the 1950s and ended up destroying whole neighborhoods (many say it destroyed the Bronx) and dislocated some 60,000 people, perhaps half of them Jews (oddly enough, about equal to the number of Jews who would be forced to move from the West Bank in the event of a final-status peace agreement) — or, alternatively, whether it’s based on the building of Coop City. Given the timing and emotions, I lean toward the former interpretation.
Here’s the final episode, “Occupancy.” It runs through four separate clips, total 22 minutes. You owe it to yourself to watch. Besides being a laugh riot and a zany fun-house mirror on today’s news, it’s a wonderful bit of American Jewish culture. Watch for the scene where she has half the hierarchy of New York City sitting around her kitchen table eating honey cake and singing “Afn Pripetshek.”
Occupancy, Part 1:
Continue to Parts 2, 3 and 4: