Rep. Lee Zeldin was showered with jeers by a gaggle of galled Greenwich Village protesters on Friday, as the Republican nominee for governor boldly barreled into the liberal Manhattan neighborhood to stump about crime.
Zeldin, of Long Island, met the rude welcome on a visit to Pier 45 on the Hudson River, one day after a reported rape there. Zeldin pointed to the heinous crime to support his argument that new leadership is needed to make New York safer.
But locals, who held up a black-and-white sign that said, “EXPLOITING FEAR,” made clear they did not want Zeldin in Greenwich Village.
“Go back to Long Island!” yelled one demonstrator.
“You’re in the wrong neighborhood, Lee!” exclaimed another. “You’ve made a wrong turn.”
Some passersby, walking along the sparkling river on a stunning fall day, joined the group of about a half-dozen protesters in vocalizing their disapproval of Zeldin.
One suggested the lawmaker’s support of former President Donald Trump threatened democracy. Zeldin voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
The conservative congressman, undeterred, spoke over the demonstrators for about 20 minutes, delivering the message he has drilled during the surprisingly competitive governor’s race: that the state’s criminal justice system must be toughened.
“The people who are here today want to make life as hard as possible for these men and women in law enforcement,” Zeldin said. “The people who are here are the people who called for the implementation of cashless bail.”
He charged that Gov. Hochul, a Democrat, wants to dismiss crime as an issue. But she has frequently touted gun control measures she has signed, and her work with Mayor Adams, a Democrat, to scale-up law enforcement efforts on the subway.
“Unfortunately, Kathy Hochul doesn’t want to be here talking about these issues,” Zeldin said. “She wants to send her supporters to make sure we aren’t talking about fighting crime. They want to drown out the conversation.”
But protesters said they were simply there to call out Zeldin.
Livvie Mann, 74, said she felt Zeldin was displaying an “utter lack of compassion” for the victim of the alleged rape.
“It’s not like it’s about anybody in New York City or New York State,” Mann, of Greenwich Village, said after Zeldin’s news conference. “It’s about him, Trump, MAGA — promoting that agenda.”
Another vocal protester, Jamie Bauer, 63, said that Zeldin was trying to “exploit” the incident and that she was “disgusted” by the news conference.
“The rape is about her,” said Bauer, of Greenwich Village. “It shouldn’t be about him. And he’s making it all about him and his campaign.”
Authorities said a jogger was raped and robbed at Pier 45 around 6 a.m. on Thursday. A suspect, Carl Phanor, 29, was taken into custody, and had 18 prior arrests, according to the police.
The local state senator, Brad Hoylman, said he supported the protesters who shouted down Zeldin.
“It’s appalling to have a press conference at the scene of such a painful and harrowing crime,” said Hoylman, a Greenwich Village Democrat. “I’m glad that he was greeted by my constituents.”
Mann and Bauer work with the group Rise and Resist, which formed after the election of Trump and says it aims to disrupt threats to democracy and equality.
Asked as he left the event if he had expected demonstrators in Greenwich Village, one of the most liberal neighborhoods in America, Zeldin said: “There was more of us than them.”
A wall of mostly male supporters stood behind Zeldin as he addressed reporters during the news conference.
Lydia Getachew, a passing jogger who paused to observe the scrum, said she still felt like she was getting to know Hochul, but that she had voted for the governor on Thursday.
She said she did not think Zeldin would improve the crime rate, and expressed concern about his anti-abortion positions.
“I’m not a big Zeldin fan,” said Getachew, 31, of Greenwich Village. “Mostly because I’m all for women’s rights.”