New Yorkers Take on the Second Presidential Debate

From lofts in Bushwick to bars in downtown Manhattan, New Yorkers tuned in Sunday night to watch the presidential candidates go at it again in their second televised debate. NYCity Lens reporters watched with them. 

Bushwick Berners take the debate with a grain of salt


Bushwick Berner loft debate watch party

Even though many of the supporters of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders wished it was their candidate up there on the screen instead of Hillary Clinton, they gathered Sunday night at the Bushwick Berner loft, where they once campaigned for him, to watch the second presidential debate.

With Sanders out of the race, laughter replaced cheers as the debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was projected on the wall.

“After the campaign, I continued the watch parties just to watch the shit show,” said Steve Panovich, who lives in the loft and organized the event. Panovich is one of the founders of the Bushwick Berners, a grassroots organization formed in August of 2015 that campaigned, fundraised and threw parties in support of Sanders.

Punk music blasted and a spoof “Bad Lip Reading” video of the first debate played as Sanders supporters filed in minutes before the show started.

“It’s gonna be a mess,” said 26-year-old Magenna Brink, another founder of the Bushwick Berners.

Potato chips, swigs of whiskey and puffs of marijuana were passed around the room, while everyone’s eyes remained glued to the screen. The viewers had their phones out within two minutes of the debate, rapidly scrolling through and posting on social media.

Trump’s comments were the brunt of the jokes and mimicry among the crowd. His retort, “Nobody has more respect for women than I do,” caused the whole room to burst into laughter.

Giggles switched to gasps after Trump said Sanders “signed on with the devil,” referring to the Vermont senator’s endorsement of Clinton. The noise turned to boos after Trump began to praise the late Antonin Scalia, a Supreme Court Justice known for his conservative stances on gay marriage, abortion and gun rights.

At the close of the debate, people put their coats on and got ready to continue the party at a nearby bar. Bret Lehne, who fundraised and canvassed for Sanders, said the debate didn’t meet his expectations.

“It wasn’t the explosive disaster that I thought it was gonna be,” said Lehne, who added that he will be voting for Hillary because she is the only choice left.  He said he has doubts about her trustworthiness, however.

“When [Trump] was talking about the emails, I agreed with everything he said, I just wished that Bernie Sanders was the one saying it,” Lehne said. “To have him saying things I agree with makes me feel sick.”

John Miles, 29, said he will be voting for third-party candidate Jill Stein of the Green Party since New York is likely to go Democratic anyway.

“I think the meme I’ve seen online is that Trump is everything that’s wrong with society and Hillary is everything that’s wrong with our politics,” Miles said.

Daniella Emanuel

Tuning out in Jackson Heights


The second debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump didn’t seem like a big thing in Jackson Heights, a predominantly Latin neighborhood in Queens, on Sunday night. At least in restaurants, that is. Most of the restaurants in the area had the NFL game on, except for  Taqueria Coatzingo, a Mexican restaurant whose clientele is mostly made up of Hispanics.

Here, the big screen in the restaurant’s center was tuned into Univsion, which broadcast the presidential debate with captions and voice translations in Spanish.

On Sunday, the restaurant was full of teens and young adults. For some of them, this will be the first time they vote in a presidential election. But, many of them are not very impressed with either candidate.

“Both of them say bullshit to get votes,” said Jamilet Romero, 20, Queens. And her friend, Angelica Ruano, 15, also from Queens added, “They are both equally as bad. Hillary could have done things but never really did anything. And Donald is just Donald, he’s just very immature.”

The debate started at 9 p.m. sharp and teens and adults turned around to see what was going on, at first. The interest, however, didn’t last long. While some paid close attention to the debate and discussed what was being said, others barely looked at the TVs.


The big screen projected a huge Donald Trump almost screaming over the restaurant tables where people munched on burritos and quesadillas.

“Having him surround me in this restaurant is overwhelming,” said Marisa Gold, 25, from Manhattan, when seeing Trump on all five screens around her. The room has mirrors all around that multiplied Trump’s image into what seemed like hundreds of Trumps.

 “This is pathetic. I never thought such a powerful country could get to this point,” said Lara Cambursano, 18, Manhattan, who was sitting with Gold. “He’s a clown, like a monkey with a knife in its hand.” 

The crowd tensed up when the candidates talked about Syrian refugees and the immigration of Muslims; probably because they were expecting Latinos to be the next topic. It didn’t happen, but the conversation in Taqueria Coatzingo turned to the topic anyways.

“All my family are immigrants, they hate him.They said they would move back to El Salvador if Donald Trump wins,” said Jamilet Romero, 20, Queens.  Soon everyone was talking about whether they’d go back to their countries if Trump is elected and whether Trump would be able to make good on his promise to deport undocumented people.

Jennifer Jarquin, 20, Queens, sitting at the same table as Romero, said Trump’s remarks about Mexican immigrants in particular were troubling.  “I’m Mexican, he offended my people. He was generalizing, we are not all who he says we are,” said Jarquin.

Victor Galindo, from Mexico, who came to New York ten years ago and works at a restaurant was dismissive. “He cannot deport 10 million people” he said. 

 Many felt that Trump’s remarks about Bill Clinton’s past with women seemed a rather desperate attack.   

“It is just an ineffective tactic to make her weak” said Laura Escobar from Colombia, who was having drinks with her colleagues from  work.  Saul Quezada from El Salvador asked,  “What does her husband have to do with all of this?”

The topic that the Latinos in the restaurant seemed to find the most relevant was the debate over Obamacare.
Trump criticized it, saying it was “very bad insurance” and that he wanted to replace it. Clinton responded that it extended insurance to millions of people who previously did not have the money to pay for coverage. Nearly 4.2 million Latinos have gained insurance coverage since Obamacare was established. 

“She is right,” said Alejandro Duarte from Ecuador, who works as a therapist.  “Although premiums have gone up, now I see a lot of people who did not have insurance before.” 

Most of the crowd seemed to prefer Clinton over Trump. “Hillary is humble and good,” said Quezada’s wife, Fermina Lora, also from El Salvador. “She is with us Latinos and wants to help us.”

They named Clinton the winner of the debate; they particularly didn’t like that Trump didn’t answer questions directly. (“He avoids giving straight answers because he is afraid of giving the right answer, because he doesn’t have it,” said Alexander Palacio from Ecuador.

Even though the room seemed to lean toward Clinton, it didn’t mean that all of them were that happy with her either. “Hillary doesn’t connect with our generation,” Jarquin continued. “Both are evil. But she’s just less of an evil.”    

— Maria Belen Smole and Fernanda Uriegas

A lifetime of elections, but never one quite like this


Lee Traub, 90, has seen quite a few elections in her lifetime…but never one quite like this.

Traub, who grew up in Long Island, remembers the first election that she lived through was that of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Although she was only six years old at the time, she recalls the excitement that surrounded Roosevelt’s election.

Since Roosevelt, Traub has seen her fair share of candidates stand at the podium and debate one another in hopes of becoming the nation’s next commander in chief. But this year, Traub says, is unlike any other.

“I have never seen an election like this in my lifetime,” she says. What makes this election so different, she believes, is the Republican presidential nominee, a New York real estate magnate with little experience in politics and a tendency to go after anyone who provokes him. Traub says that not even Barry Goldwater, the 1964 Republican candidate who has often been compared to Trump for his divisive character, was quite as aggressive as Trump.

For Traub, Trump seems downright dangerous. “I think he could start World War III,” she says after the second presidential debate concluded Sunday evening.

Traub says she has always voted for Democrats — she is a huge fan of the current president, Barack Obama. And she says she will vote for this year’s Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.

From the television room of her Upper East Side apartment, Traub watched the presidential debate attentively with her granddaughter, Abby, 25.  While Traub has many qualms with the Republican nominee, her biggest with his performance on Sunday focused on how he seemed to be tiptoeing around many of the questions. Following a question from moderator Martha Raddatz about the tape showing Trump making lewd comments about women, the candidate dismissed it all as “locker room talk,” and quickly switched to the topic of Bill Clinton’s relationships with women.

“He never answers the question directly,” noticed Traub.

Having lived in New York in the 1980s and 1990s — Traub’s late husband, Marvin, served as chairman and chief executive of Bloomingdale’s before starting a consulting firm — Traub says she knew about Donald Trump well before he went into politics. She says that then New Yorkers saw him as a businessman, first and foremost. But despite his best attempts to appeal to residents of his home city, Traub says most people she knows are not drawn to Trump. She and her friends regularly talk politics, and she says that none of them plan to vote for the Republican candidate, either.

“New Yorkers are more savvy than that,” Traub says.

As the debate continued, it became clear that Trump was not doing much to win Traub over. She thinks his attitude and demeanor made this debate particularly unpleasant to watch. Traub knows that some people have issues with Clinton, but she is not a Hilary hater.

“I think she’s very smart, very hardworking, and she has good values,” says Traub.

By the end of the debate, Traub was ready to turn in for bed and said she still felt flustered by Trump’s apparent lack of understanding of many of the complex issues he has been asked to speak about. She says that she wishes she could give him a quiz on foreign and domestic policy, to see what he really knows.

Despite her frustration with Trump, Traub remains hopeful that Clinton will prevail. Having lived through the historic election of Barack Obama, what does she think about having a woman in the White House this time around?

“I think it would be extraordinary,” she says.      

— Courtney Vinopal

At the bar:  Watching with eye rolls, groans and shrugs


The Village Pourhouse, a sports bar in lower Manhattan, buzzed with millenials  Sunday night as they prepared to listen to the second presidential debate. But before the opening question, one thing, and one thing only, seemed to be on their mind:  how Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was going to respond to the 2005 recording of him making lewd comments about kissing, groping and attempting to have sex with women.

“Oh my gosh, I was mortified. I felt sick. No other president would say anything like that,” said Liz Dolan, 24, reflecting the sentiment of most of those in the room.

Some of those in attendance, however, didn’t think Trump’s comments were that big of a deal.  Most of them were male.

“As a male we talk bigger than our game is,” said Michael Murray, 26. “It’s normal to say stuff like that.”

One woman in the crowd wasn’t surprised by Trump’s comments.

“I feel like this is standard conversation for powerful white males,” said Laura Decrescenzo, 21. “It’s not uncommon, we just don’t hear about it.”

After the tape went viral many Republicans withdrew their endorsements for Donald Trump, sending waves throughout the GOP community. Some at the Pourhouse could not quite figure out why this moment in particular stirred up the most controversy when Trump has had a history of making controversial statements during the campaign.

“I’m more surprised at the reaction, because he has said so many other messed up things,” said Naomi Snider, 30. “Any presidential candidate that endorses sexual assault should be disqualified.”

Once the debate began, however, the bar fell silent. Many of the viewers held the same pose throughout the 90 minutes: Hands glued to their mouth, seemingly in shock. There wasn’t one breakout moment of applause or cheering, but instead many moments of groans, sighs, and a lot of eye rolling.

Roommates Lauren Pashhow, 26, and Mandy Kuehn, 29, came out to have a couple of beers and watch the debate together. They are on different sides of the political fence.

“Of course this would come out of his mouth,” said Pashow. “What else could you expect after everything else he’s said.”

Kuehn defended Trump.  “Nobody’s perfect. He would shake up the White House and that what we need right now.”

But at the end of the day, their disagreement, Kuehn said, didn’t bother them.  “We are polar opposites, and have completely different views but we still get along. That’s the beauty of democracy.”

— Margie Merritt

At bar number two: football comes first

Amity Hall Uptown, a bar and restaurant located in Morningside Heights, typically draws a large crowd on Sundays for football. With large, flat screen TVs on every inch of wall space and an endless number of craft beers on tap, Amity is a football fan’s paradise   Not surprisingly, it was the Sunday Night Football game between the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers, not the second presidential debate, that was being aired on most of its TVs on Sunday night.

Giants fans like Nate Saslow said there was no question what he was going to be watching Sunday night. “Of course I’m going to watch the Giants game”, said Saslow, wearing a Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz jersey. “If the Giants weren’t playing, I would probably watch the debate. But football comes first.”

Saslow, along with four of his friends, have the Columbus Day holiday off so they decided to spend Sunday night out, watching football, and drinking beer. Although they came to watch the Giants, Saslow and his friends all said they would read up on the debate later.

“We watched the first debate, but it was terrible”, said Dana Goldsmith. “I really just don’t want to see Trump because we all know what he’s going to say.”

“One candidate was trying to be presidential and the other one wasn’t”, said Allison Frederick. “Hillary was much more poised and prepared.”

The group said that they would get the full recap and analysis of the debate in the New York Times on Monday and plan to watch the third debate next week, so long as it does not conflict with another Giants game.

However, the group left the bar unhappy at the end of the night. The Giants fell to the Packers 23-16 for their third straight loss of the season.

The manager at Amity Hall did put the debate on one TV at its back bar, but very few customers turned around to watch the subtitled contest between Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Some customers, such as Santiago and Erin Perez, came to Amity Hall on Sunday night hoping to watch the debate.

“We asked the manager if they were going to put the debate on and he said they would but that there would be no sound,” said Santiago, who found the first presidential debate to be distressing. “We’re probably going to head home and watch it since we want to hear what they say.”

According to the wait staff at Amity, the debate was aired on only one TV because their clientele, most of them sports fans, come to the bar to watch sports, not politics. Amity did air the first presidential debate and the vice presidential debate, but got very few customers.

The first debate occurred on a Monday, the same time when the NFL has its weekly Monday Night Football game on ESPN. This time, the debate went up against NBC’s Sunday Night Football, the most-watched show in primetime television over the last five years according to Nielsen ratings.

On Sunday night, it was the second showdown between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump that had more viewers than did Sunday Night Football. According to Nielsen, 66.5 viewers tuned into the second presidential debate while only 15 million viewers watched the Giants and Packers.

The first presidential debate also won the viewership battle against the NFL. According to Nielsen, 84 million viewers tuned in to watch Clinton and Trump debate while only 8 million viewers flipped on ESPN to watch the Atlanta Falcons play the New Orleans Saints.

— Patrick Vernon Ralph

At bar number 3: Anticipation and nerves

The New York Giants played their fifth NFL game of the season Sunday night, but, another titanic clash filled the half dozen large TV screens at Carraghers Pub & Restaurant in the Hells Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan.

About 100 people, mostly millennials, packed the English sports bar on West 39th Street to view the 90 minute town hall style presidential debate between the Republican nominee, Donald J. Trump and Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Anticipation – and even some nerves — were running high at the bar as the 9 p.m. kick off to the debate approached.

The pubs hostess, Danna Markulin, 36, of Cliffside, NJ, offered this prediction shortly before the two candidates took the stage. I fully expect Donald Trump to show his true colors,” she said, meaning she added “how very stupid he is.

One Trump supporter, Ariel Kohane, 45, of Manhattan, who was dressed from head to toe in Trump campaign merchandise had different expectations. I actually expect Trump to destroy Hillary just like he did in the first debate,he said.

Patrons watched with rapt attention as the debate questions were asked by the two journalist moderators, Anderson Cooper and Martha Raddatz.

Amid the autumnal decorations and English sports memorabilia that filled the bar, the crowd reacted at various times with mirth and disbelief. One of the most noticeable moments came when Trump said that “No one has more respect for women than me.”

When Trump alluded to his respect for women during the early stages of the debate, the pub crowd, sipping on pints of beer and eating traditional English fare, roared with laughter. Oh my God,one bar patron declared.

After the debate, those who turned out at Carraghers to take in the second of the three presidential debates, had varied and strong opinions about the performance of the candidates. A number of people said that they believed that Trump was better prepared this time around. Some felt the debate was better organized than the first one and that the moderators seemed to have more control during the 90-minute spectacle. 

But the main takeaways were the nasty, personal barbs that  the two candidates exchanged. The conclusion:  neither candidate is very  likable.

I was embarrassed. They werent answering the questions, but attacking each other, pointing fingers,said Stefanie Migolet, 26, of East Harlem, who was sitting at a table with about a dozen other viewers. They werent talking about the future.

Neena Kamra, 34, of Manhattan, who was also at the table, added:

Its insulting that those two are the candidates, especially Trump. One of them is going to be president and they make it about themselves.”

The debate ended on a surprisingly congenial note after a town hall participant, Karl Becker, asked the two nominees the final question: Can you name one positive thing you respect in one another?

Some bar patrons appeared pleasantly stunned by the query.   

— Suzanne Ybarra

Bar number four:  the view from the left

Behind the bar hung old-fashioned communist posters, featuring a muscular man holding a hoe and a gun in front of red mountains. Yellow stars stood out on the red-painted walls. Disco balls glittering with red lights dangled from the ceiling. Then, around 9 p.m., the voices of Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump cut through the casual greetings in the communist-themed bar, called the Eastern Bloc.

Eastern Bloc, a gay bar in  the East Village, held a presidential debate watch party Sunday night. Whoever came to watch the debate had to donate at least 20 dollars directly to the Hillary Victory Fund. Eastern Bloc also organized a watch party for the first Clinton-Trump debate, encouraging its guests to support the Democratic candidate.

“Last time, we raised $4,000 dollars,” said Darren Dryden, the bar’s owner. He also held watch parties in 2008 and 2012, supporting Barack Obama’s campaign. “I always support Hillary. I voted for her in 2008. But Obama did a good job.”

Matthew Tang, a registered Democrat who was at the watch party, said that he supported Clinton, even though she was not an ideal candidate for him. “I want a candidate like Obama in 2008. New, without much experience, but with passion and energy,” he said.

Tang said he would vote for the Democratic Party no matter who the candidate is. “I don’t even want to listen to [the Republicans’] policy, if they’re anti-LGBT, if they don’t respect me as a person.”

Like Tang, Dale Luker said he came to Eastern Bloc all the way from Jersey City because he wanted to be at a bar with same-minded people.

“Hillary won the debate,” said Luker. “Trump was clueless. He mentioned ‘disaster’ like 100 times.”

Almost every time Trump sniffed, the entire bar burst out laughing. When Trump referred to Bernie Sanders to criticize Clinton, the bar booed him for five seconds. A female voice cursed out loud, “fuck you,” immediately after Trump said to Clinton, “I’m a gentleman.”

Luker said he was not surprised at all that Trump had said such vulgar things about women in the videotape released last week.

“You will never in a million years hear Barack Obama say things like that,” Luker added.

“I know it was a candid conversation with a friend. But he’s a public figure,” said Stephen Best, a registered Democrat originally from New York now living in Sydney, Australia. “It makes me very uncomfortable.”

Like most people in the bar,  Best, who was in New York for four days, thought Hillary won the debate. But he said it was very close. “[Trump] attacked a lot. Republicans probably liked that,” he said.

Best said that his parents, registered Republicans, supported Trump. “They remember Bill Clinton’s scandal,” Best explained. “They have negative opinions about the Clintons.”

But Best is firmly in Clinton’s corner and praised her record as a senator. He said he found her career experience very inspirational. “I want to see a woman president,” said Best.    — Yuqing Zhu

A pretend debate disappoints


Dimly lit under red light bulbs and decorated with portraits of comedians, the Peoples Improv Theater was full of New Yorkers chatting around the bar in anticipation of the second presidential debate. They weren’t waiting to watch the live debate between Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and GOP hopeful Donald Trump, but an improvised version of it, performed by actors.

“I’m expecting Trump to tighten up his rebuttals and Hillary to go in cutting and slashing like she’s been doing,” Count Rickter said, a comedian and night operations hotel manager before the show started.

How that played out on the theater’s stage Sunday night didn’t quite turn out that way.

About 40 people gathered in the People Improv Theater at Manhattan on Sunday night to watch the second presidential debate. Six performers began onstage, two of them at red podiums plastered with the names of Clinton and Trump separated by a table for the moderators.  Each performer wore earphones connected to their smartphones so they could listen to the live debate and then they delivered their lines, repeating what they heard.

The idea for the improvisational debate first came to improv actor Erik Grivalsky as he watched the first presidential debate at a bar. As he read the closed captions out loud, he  thought it might be interesting to act the next debate out.  He and his colleague, Katie Escoto, then came up with the idea of an improv debate show, where actors and actresses would deliver word-for-word the statements made by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump simultaneously in real time during the actual debate, with their own interpretive twists.

 However, as the improvised debate waged from insult to insult and unforeseen technological difficulties consumed the performance, many audience members filtered out of the theater. The improvisers struggled to appease a crowd that wanted to watch the real debate or simply had lost interest.

By the end of the night, one performer had left the stage permanently and 14 of the original 42-member audience had stayed. The performers were meant to take turns in the roles of the candidates and moderators, but streaming at different speeds or sometimes not at all, led to long pauses and sighs of frustration.

“Were we supposed to improvise or just regurgitate?” Charlie Shulman, a performer asked after the show. The performers discussed how it was too difficult with the poor quality of streaming to repeat what the candidates were saying and at the same time add a comedic spin. It was the first time the performers had tried something like this. And it didn’t make it any easier when they realized that some of audience came expecting to actually hear the debate.

At the beginning of the show when it was clear it wasn’t going to be a typical screening, someone in the crowd shouted, “Are you going to be screening the debate?” A performer responded, “We hadn’t intended to.” And a different audience member added, “That would be nice though.” Shortly afterward, those audience members left.

Though it may have been difficult to hear during the debate, an audio recording of Trump released on Friday, recorded in 2005, was heard loud and clear across the nation. In the tape he is heard admitting to what amounts to sexual assault to a married woman.

What appears to be dooming evidence for some against the republican candidate, hasn’t deterred Mercedes Washington, a cab driver and comedian from Brooklyn. “Trump is hilarious and I think that’s charming,” she said. “And I totally think he should win.” Washington, one of the view who stayed to the end of the show, supported Trump’s friendly relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin. “Trump is a smart man because he’s trying to make peace and work with Russia,” she said.

Although he’s not a Trump supporter, Shulman said he was surprised with the republican candidate. “Trump started with more reserve than I thought he would. I didn’t think he said anything outrageous.” But he added that the republican candidate didn’t do well to defend his comments about women.

As for the performance aspect, Shulman was noticeably disappointed. He said it was difficult because the streaming didn’t work as expected and added that it could have worked better if they had rehearsed.

“Thanks for staying,” said Grivalsky, who played the moderator during the show, impersonating Anderson Cooper’s concluding words, which were also a pun for his and the other performers’ gratitude for those that stayed in the theater.

“The technology stuff is really a bomber,” said Grivalsky, “We’re really glad we tried it. It would be cool if we do it again in the next debate if we figure out how to do it better.”

— Hillary Marie Ojeda and Xioxian Liu 


Editor’s note:  Due to an editorial error that altered the meaning of a quote, a sentence was changed in the item above, titled,  “At the bar:  Watching with eye rolls, groans and shrugs.



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