By Bill Parry
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton visited the Jackson Diner in Jackson Heights Monday to discuss diversity and discrimination with residents and elected officials.
After walking through the oldest Indian restaurant in the neighborhood, shaking hands and posing for photos, Clinton hammered Republican frontrunner Donald Trump for “potentially undermining the safety of our people” with his dangerous and divisive language towards Muslims.
“People around the world, as well as our country, are hearing this and they’re wondering what’s happening in America?” she said. “When you run for president, the entire world hears you.”
Clinton also took Trump to task for his degrading comments about women and minorities. The former secretary of state sat alongside U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights), who spoke of the diverse crowd representing Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Indonesia and Nepal.
“Folks here know what it’s like to be discriminated against,” he said. Clinton then remarked that the borough is the most diverse county in the world, but that Queens native Trump does not seem to respect diversity.
“I have been speaking out against Trump and I will continue to speak out against him,” Clinton said, turning her attention to Democratic rival Bernie Sanders, her opponent in Tuesday’s New York primary.
“Under the bright lights and scrutiny here in New York, Sen. Sanders has had trouble answering questions” on how he would deal with the banks and how he would approach foreign policy. She later said she has the best policies to keep “Wall Street from wrecking Main Street” again.
Asked about her focus on both Trump and Sanders, Clinton said, “I think I can walk and chew gum at the same time.”
Borough President Melinda Katz, City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) and state Assemblyman Michael DenDekker (D-East Elmhurst) were among the Queens officials who met with the candidate.
“It was wonderful to have our future president in the district, carefully listening to the issues that matter to the community,” state Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) said after the meeting. “Hillary Clinton was very attentive to what our constituents told her. She was preoccupied with issues affecting small businesses, immigrants, the Dream Act, which she expressed support for.”
Katz said if Clinton wanted to showcase diversity, she came to the right neighborhood. There are 167 languages spoken in Jackson Heights.
“The community welcomed her with open arms,” Katz said. “She’s been here before as a candidate for the Senate and as first lady, so in a sense it’s as if she came home.”
Crowley hosted Clinton at the Jackson Diner during her Senate campaign in 1999.
“Secretary Clinton is someone who will bring our nation together, not divide us—and in many ways Jackson Heights, one of the most culturally diverse neighborhoods in the country, was a fitting stop for her to make,” Crowley said. “It was a wonderful opportunity for members from our South Asian communities and leaders from various faiths to hear Secretary Clinton’s vision for our country and how she will protect our homeland and our interests abroad without compromising the very values we hold dear.
“She’s someone who understands that our nation stands for religious freedom and inclusion, and that we are at our strongest when we come together.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr