A Dyker Heights man not only incited a debate about illegal immigration at last week’s Republican debate, but he also thrust himself and his neighborhood into an international spotlight.
But that’s Ernie Nardi for you.
The 59-year-old Dyker resident proved that he’s not afraid to take an unpopular position on a controversial issue when his pre-recorded question kicked off last week’s Republican debate on CNN.
Nardi is a technician for the Madison Square Garden Network who has lived in Brooklyn his entire life. He feels that illegal immigration is changing the face of the city and believes that those here illegally are displacing legal citizens and contributing to our decline. He is angry that New York has become a safe-haven, and destination for illegal immigrants.
And get this: He’s a registered Democrat.
The question that began the debate featured Nardi in a YouTube video, his white-haired head covering 70 percent of the screen and a TV with rabbit ears in the background, criticizing former Mayor Giuliani for running a “sanctuary city” for immigrants during his time atop New York’s bureaucracy.
“This is Ernie Nardi from Dyker Heights in Brooklyn, New York,” he started, his accent unmistakable to anyone who has seen even one Scorsese movie. (You’ll find a link to his YouTube video at BrooklynPaper.com.)
“If you become president, will you continue to aid and abet … illegal aliens coming into this country?” he concluded, practically barking out the final words.
The question did put Giuliani on the defensive and allowed a rival, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, to attack with what political insiders might have called “The Nardi Gambit.” But after a few minutes of back-and-forth — Giuliani accused Romney of hiring illegal aliens at the governor’s mansion, Romney accused Giuliani of ignoring the central crime of undocumented workers, namely, that they’re here illegally — the nation moved on.
But not Nardi.
“Rudy Giuliani just lied to you,” he said in a response that was not, alas, part of the debate, but is still floating in the YouTube ether.
He’s still angry. Nardi says that he chose to speak up because of how Giuliani, as well as his predecessors, dealt with illegal immigration. He claims that there is a “total lack of media coverage and lack of enforcement from Bloomberg, Giuliani, Dinkins, and all the way back to Koch. People are sick and tired and the situation has been festering for many years. Illegals have no rights, they should be deported.
“I asked the question that I did because I was annoyed by reports about illegals in Bensonhurst and Bath Beach cat-calling women and urinating in public. They take over pockets of areas, ruin the neighborhood, and lower the quality of life.”
Nardi’s question has generated controversy all over the country — but mostly in the form of people e-mailing him to call him a bigot.
“You are wholly ignorant of the issues at stake,” wrote one anonymous poster, adding that Nardi is “a dinosaur nationalist that needs to keep his mouth shut and keep his hateful comments to himself.”
But Ernie Nardi doesn’t mind (if he did, he wouldn’t be Ernie Nardi). “I put Dyker Heights on the national radar and I’m glad my message is out,” he said.
Part of his message, by the way, is that he favors legal immigration — for anyone who has “a desire to assimilate” when he or she gets here.