Financial District workers can't bear to watch President Obama take Wall Street to task

New York Daily News

April 23, 2010

Wall Street worker Steven Cohen didn't waste his time listening to Obama's speech to the financial industry Thursday.

He knew exactly what message the President was going to deliver, and thinks it's all wrong.

"Why would I watch his speech?" the 54-year-old real estate professional said.

"The man is hurting the job creation engine that makes New York City run.

"I have better things to do with my time."

Reactions to Obama's call for greater transparency, stronger consumer protections and limits on the kind of risks banking institutions can take had many who make their living in the Financial District reeling.

"I'm not listening. I've heard enough of him," said David Sulyma, a former Wall Street worker who deliberately ignored the President's speech playing on TV in the background of a Pearl St. lunch spot.

"It's just the same thing over and over again.

"Obviously there are bad people in every industry but he shouldn't be going after Wall Street as a whole so aggressively."

Many bar owners in the Financial District chose not to show the broadcast at all, fearful it would drive away patrons; so some, like Monica Davies, had to come up with creative ways to hear the 25-minute address.

"We've seen what happens when Wall Street is left in charge of regulating Wall Street, and it almost tanked our economy. I almost lost my job," the 26-year-old bank loan manager said, a hand-held radio at her side.

"I liked the President's speech, but I don't think he went far enough.

"I wanted him to really clamp down on these guys.

"Enough of Mr. Nice Guy - it's time to bring out the hammer."

Main Street reflected that sentiment.

In Altamont, a working class village 20 miles west of Albany, people had little sympathy for the financial world's fat cats.

"The system has been faulty for a long, long time," said Anne Best, 52, as she tended to a garden in the village square.

"The major corporations and smaller ones have to learn to empower people, not cutting them off at the knees just to make a profit."

Like many small towns, Altamont has suffered from the economic meltdown - it's unemployment rate has shot up 3% to 7.2%.

"The CEOs are making millions of dollars while we are all hurting," said George Kendall, 75, a lunch customer at the Home Front, where walls are decorated with World War II memorabilia.

Some Other New Yorkers cautiously lauded Obama's hard-line approach but were fearful of the effect it could have on their investments.

"I care about what he says and I understand what he's saying about the regulations," one worker noted, but said it's getting money makers angry, "and they make me money, so I have to support them."

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