By Mark McNulty and Cate Carrejo
Presidential Candidate and Senator Bernie Sanders made an unannounced visit to Michelangelo’s in Little Italy on Arthur Avenue and 189th Street on Monday, the eve of the New York State Presidential Primary.
According to city councilman Ritchie Torres’ Twitter page, he and Sanders were discussing affordable housing in the Bronx ahead of the New York presidential primary on Tuesday.
The brief lunch was one of the many stops Sanders made throughout the Bronx on Monday with the non-profit “Mothers on the Move,” according to two members of the organization who dined with Sanders.
The social justice community organization seeks to provide affordable housing for new mothers. The group is based in the neighborhoods of Hunt’s Point, Longwood, Morrisania, Crotona Park East and Port Morris, but the Senator must have known that Arthur Avenue in the Belmont District was the ideal place for lunch.
Rosie Coppola, FCRH ’16, was on her way home from class when she saw Sanders and his Secret Service escort pull up. “I just said ‘thank you for everything you’ve done’, and I actually started crying,” Coppola said.
Tipped off by posts on Twitter and Snapchat, at least 100 Fordham students swamped the 189th and Arthur intersection, waiting for the Senator to emerge from the restaurant.
Sanders won the Fordham campus with 29 percent of the overall vote in a presidential straw poll conducted by United Student Government earlier this semester, a win he likely hopes to emulate in the statewide election.
Linnea Wiley, FCRH ’17, was impressed with his candor. “He could have just walked to his car when he left, but he walked straight into the crowd. It didn’t seem like his team planned for the crowd, but he just ran with it.”
Julius Bowditch, FCRH ’17, commented on Sanders’ populist appeal. “I think there’s a change right now in the American youth, and they’re realizing what they want and what they need, and how our government isn’t really providing that for us.”
Sanders’ impromptu meet and greet swayed at least one voter ahead of Tuesday’s primary. “He’s really nice, he’s a very sociable guy. I was just walking down the street, not even a democrat, but I guess I have to vote for him now,” said Louis Florio, GSB ‘17.
Simon Kajtazi, owner of Michelangelo’s and five other Arthur Avenue businesses, said the Sanders campaign notified them two hours before their arrival. “It’s a good thing, too, or else there would have been a thousand people here,” Simon said.
Sanders is the second candidate to visit Arthur Avenue after Ohio Governor John Kasich ate at Mike’s Deli on April 7. In addition, Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton have both made appearances.
Sanders will compete against Hillary Clinton for New York’s 247 state delegates Tuesday, aiming to avoid a contested Democratic National Convention in July.
Contributed reporting by Amanda Maile.