Op-Ed

Trump and Sharpton: Once Friends in New York, Now Foes

Weather: Sunny, with a high in the low 90s. The heat index will make it feel hotter.

Alternate-side parking: In effect until Aug. 11.

From New York’s seemingly ungovernable 1970s to its opulent early 2000s, Donald Trump and Al Sharpton thrived in the city, both as convenient frenemies and useful foils.

The two men had similar wants: money, power and respect. As mayors and governors rotated in and out, Mr. Trump and Mr. Sharpton endured. They became staples in the newspapers and on television, notably because of their say-almost-anything personas.

[How Trump and Sharpton became the ultimate New York frenemies.]

Now Mr. Trump is in Washington and Mr. Sharpton is a host on MSNBC, and their feuding is in the national spotlight (and, of course, on Twitter).

What is happening with President Trump and Mr. Sharpton?

President Trump is facing criticism over his taunts directed at four minority congresswomen, telling them to “go back” to their “totally broken” countries.

The president later attacked Elijah E. Cummings, a black congressman who represents part of Baltimore, saying that Mr. Cummings’s district is a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” where “no human being would want to live.”

As my colleague Peter Baker put it recently, “When it comes to race, Mr. Trump plays with fire like no other president in a century,” yet “Mr. Trump ritually denies any racial animus or motivations.”

Then Mr. Trump turned his focus to Mr. Sharpton, a civil-rights leader, claiming he “hates whites” and police officers. The president appeared to be responding to a Twitter post that showed Mr. Sharpton heading to Baltimore.

Were they ever really friends?

It’s complicated.

They are both New York characters whose early careers were dismissed as unserious and tawdry. But having similar interests (money, power, fame) and enemies (muckraking journalists, elite power brokers) brought them together at times.

They had friends in common, like Don King, the entertainment promoter, and Roger Stone, the Republican operative and self-described dirty trickster.

Mr. Trump cut the opening ribbon at Mr. Sharpton’s annual National Action Network conference in 2002 and returned to the event in 2006. Mr. Sharpton has flown on Mr. Trump’s helicopter.

Where are they from, and what does that mean?

Mr. Trump was born in Queens. Mr. Sharpton spent his early years in Brooklyn and Queens. They now have residences in Manhattan.

This geography is important, according to Mr. Sharpton.

“Only a New Yorker understands: An outer borough person has a different psychology than an inner-Manhattan power circle kind of guy,” Mr. Sharpton said about Mr. Trump on a Buzzfeed podcast in 2017.

Mr. Sharpton discussed appearing on MSNBC after Mr. Trump’s election. “I said, ‘You have to be a New Yorker to understand Donald Trump, and you have to understand this whole thing of the outer borough chip on his shoulder,” he told Buzzfeed.

After that television appearance, Mr. Sharpton said, Mr. Trump called him. “Al, I saw you this morning on ‘Morning Joe.’ You understand me,” Mr. Sharpton recalled the president saying.

As for Mr. Trump, he appeared on Fox in 2014, according to National Review, and said he knew Mr. Sharpton “very well, and I’ve always gotten along with him, to be honest with you.” Mr. Trump went on to say that “there are those who say [Sharpton] likes Trump a lot” and that “Al’s a con man.”

What’s next?

Mr. Sharpton will be in Detroit to cover the Democratic presidential debates.

The candidates, and Mr. Sharpton, are likely to discuss Mr. Trump for quite some time.

[Want more news from New York and around the region? Check out our full coverage.]

The Mini Crossword: Here is today’s puzzle.

A 30-year-old cyclist was killed when she swerved to avoid a car door and was hit by a truck in Sunset Park. She was the 18th cyclist killed in the city this year. [Streetsblog]

Here are the worst intersections for cyclists, according to data on injuries and deaths. [Curbed]

Fancy doughnuts: Get them at the Dunkin’ in the Port Authority Bus Terminal. [Eater]

“Friends” debuted 25 years ago. To celebrate, there will be a pop-up on Mercer Street. [amNew York]

Enjoy live music from emerging artists and some light bites at Sunset Songs at the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn. 6 p.m. [Free with R.S.V.P.]

Learn about the history of underground spaces in a talk with the author Will Hunt at the Brooklyn Historical Society. 6:30 p.m. [$10]

Explore David Flores’s “Nueva Bronx,” an exhibit documenting families in the borough’s Railroad Park and Morrisania neighborhood, at the Arsenal in Central Park. 9 a.m.-5 p.m. [Free]

— Melissa Guerrero

Events are subject to change, so double-check before heading out. For more events, see the going-out guides from The Times’s culture pages.

The Times’s Jacob Meschke writes:

It was a long, stop-start journey to the near-perfectly* cooled subway fleet we have today.

(*Emphasis on the “near-perfectly.” Who among us hasn’t sweated it out in a hot car?)

Fifty-two years ago this month, Mayor John Lindsay and a few thousand of the city’s millions enjoyed a late afternoon on an air-conditioned ride. In the following months, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority pilot program of six chilled F train cars became a hit.

One passenger, a lanky 14-year-old, memorized the schedules and spent up to six hours in the cars every day for a week, The Times reported in 1967. Another passenger mistook the bottle-shaped thermometers inside the cars for bombs and reported them to transit officials.

As it goes with subway improvements, the transition to cool cars wasn’t easy or smooth. The goal of chilling trains was attempted as far back as 1910, when the first car with an electric fan departed what was then called the Brooklyn Bridge subway station.

“The breeze was almost refreshing,” The Times wrote.

The M.T.A. again tried to cool cars in 1933 and 1952. In 1955, the M.T.A. chairman, Charles L. Patterson, rode during a semi-successful test of an air-conditioned car, but seven years and $300,000 later, he ended the experiment.

But after the 1967 F train pilot, air-conditioned cars became common enough that savvy riders learned to play “subway roulette,” watching carefully for exterior features that signaled a climate-controlled car.

In 1973, officials pledged to spend $35 million a year to air-condition every bus and subway car by 1980. But once air-conditioning became the default, problems arose. By 1981, because of aging equipment and inadequate facilities, just a third of subway cars were cooled, instead of the M.T.A.’s goal of over 90 percent.

By 2002, the success rate was near 97 percent, though that hasn’t stopped New Yorkers — including former Mayor Michael Bloomberg — from getting stuck in a stifling car or two.

In 2019, commuters can report hot cars via the M.T.A.’s website, though the Twitter user @1trainstruggle1 called the process “enraging,” saying, “I recently got on the same hot car twice in one week.”

It’s Tuesday — stay cool.

Dear Diary:

I was headed downtown on the No. 6 during the morning rush. The car was as packed and quiet as usual. As the train pulled out of one of the stations, the silence was broken.

“Does anyone here know how to tie a tie?”

Eager to know who had sent out this S.O.S., I turned to see a tall young man in his early 20s leaning against one of the doors.

It didn’t take but a few seconds for him to get a response.

“I do,” a woman standing next to him said.

The young man pointed to the tie hanging loosely around his neck. She took it off, deftly put it around her neck and set about tying it.

When she was done, she put it back around the young man’s neck and tightened it under the collar of his shirt. The doors opened, and he stepped onto the platform and off on his way to whatever it was that required a properly tied tie.

— Deborah Mintcheff

New York Today is published weekdays around 6 a.m. Sign up here to get it by email. You can also find it at nytoday.com.

We’re experimenting with the format of New York Today. What would you like to see more (or less) of? Post a comment or email us: nytoday@nytimes.com.




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