On a sunny Wednesday lunch break at 40 Wall Street, New Yorkers step outside for a smoke or to grab something to eat, while tourists walk by gawking and snapping photographs of the 72-story skyscraper above them.
It’s hard to make it through the day without hearing his name. Criticized for his recent comments on immigration, women and his behavior at the Republican debate, Donald Trump has sparked an international conversation. And to passersby, The Trump Building stands for something more now than it has in the past.
Shelby Cohen, a 25-year-old native of Tampa, Fla., spent Wednesday afternoon touring the Financial District in Lower Manhattan. As she passed by The Trump Building, she said she thinks of Trump’s campaign as more of a “media stunt” than as a political movement.
“He’s a tool of distraction for the mass media,” she said. “It’s not allowing us to focus on other candidates.”
But others, such as Audrey Bailey, 31 of Houston, and Matthew Brennan, 46, of Staten Island, plan to vote for Trump.
“He’s a straight shooter,” said Brennan, a construction worker. “He’ll protect the borders – I trust that. Look, I’m all for ‘live and let live,’ but the immigrants, they come in here and get welfare, and then somebody like me, when I get hurt, I get no money from the government and I’ve been paying taxes all my life.”
In an interview Tuesday with Bill O’Reilly, Trump said, “When people are illegally in the country, they have to go… Our country is going to hell. We have to start a process, Bill, where we take back our country.”
Comments like this one spark both outrage and support across the borders.
Camila Perez, a 21-year-old Colombian living in New York City, said she feels offended by the comments Trump has made about immigrants.
“When your heart’s full of good stuff, you don’t say things like that,” said Perez.
Yvonne Sanchez, 25, of Manhattan, said she would not vote for Trump.
“I didn’t like the fact that he said immigrants don’t do anything…that all they do is scrub toilets,” said Sanchez. “They do more than that. They do the jobs that most Americans wouldn’t do.”
Immigration has always generated heated discussions, and Trump’s contentious comments have ignited an even louder dialogue.
On Tuesday, in a conversation about undocumented immigrants, Trump told O’Reilly, “Now the good ones, and there are plenty of good ones… we can expedite it where they come back in but they come back legally. Bill, we have a country. You need borders and you need law.”
Despite controversy, Trump continues to lead in numbers, jumping 11 points this week in a CNN poll.
“I’m so surprised he’s doing well. I don’t understand, especially because of how bad his remarks were at the debate,” said Maroj Krishan, 23, of Manhattan. “Personally, I believe he’s going to get the nomination.”