New Canaan’s biggest Trump supporter paints roof in honor of candidate
Published 12:00 am, Thursday, November 3, 2016
NEW CANAAN — Santo Silvestro is not a shy man.
The New Canaan resident, who grew up in a low-income neighborhood of Norwalk, is proud of his candor and boisterousness. He’s parlayed those traits, coupled with a tireless work ethic, into considerable personal success, the results of which can be seen in the many Cross Street businesses he owns.
Last Friday, from the lobby of New Canaan Auto Body, surrounded by a small group of employees and his son, Anthony, Silvestro loudly led a discussion about another man known for his supposed frankness and business acumen — the man whose last name Silvestro painted in large, block-red letters on the aluminum roof of the adjacent Vegetable Barn and Deli: Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump.
“It’s going to be a landslide,” Silvestro said confidently, of Tuesday’s presidential election, a red “Make America Great Again” hat atop his head. “Donald Trump has done something that has never been done in this country. All the odds were against him and he rose to the top. That’s got to say something.”
It was a statement that met with nods of approval, comments on the fallibility of pre-election polls that project his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, ahead, and questions as to the validity of the former first lady’s candidacy. One of Silvestro’s employees interjected about the FBI’s disclosure that they would reopen the investigation into Clinton’s private server, “It’s over, she’s going to jail.”
In June 2015, Silvestro first made clear his political leanings when he painted the letters T-R-U-M-P on the roof of his deli. In early October, Silvestro repainted the letters boldly in red, a symbol of his unwavering support for Trump, a timely gesture of solidarity, given the apprehension on the part of many Republicans after a recording surfaced of Trump released Oct. 7 speaking in a derogatory way about women.
Perhaps as much as Clinton, Republicans including Paul Ryan, John McCain and Colin Powell, who pulled their support from their party’s nominee in the wake of the recording, are the object of Silvestro’s ire.
“I respect the Democratic Party for one reason: They fall in line. I’m disgusted with the Republican Party. I’m going to change to Independent after this election,” Silvestro said. “None of the Republican babies are supporting Donald Trump. We need a businessman in the White House. I don’t care how grotesque it might be.”
He added that, win or lose, Trump’s name would remain on the roof because to remove it would make him a hypocrite.
Trump’s identity as a businessman, as opposed to a politician, is the primary reason Silvestro is supporting the candidate. It’s a trait, in Silvestro’s eyes, that outweighs some of Trump’s more negative qualities he doesn’t think are particularly relevant in a presidential race, like his stance on women.
“Obviously, women are upset with Donald Trump. But men are men, and locker room talk is locker room talk. We’re human beings, we all make mistakes. I use foul language sometimes,” he said. Silvestro said Trump, like Clinton, who he also supported, is a pig. But like Clinton in the past, he feels Trump will be good for the American economy, which he feels is losing out to overseas competition, is hurting businesses by overtaxing and has foundered under politicians like President Barack Obama, who he said hasn’t created jobs.
“He is not a politician. If you’re not doing your job, he’s going to fire your ass. He’s going to make deals, that’s what he’s good at. All people — not just the white, uneducated working guy is going to vote for Trump. I think everybody is sick and tired of politicians.”
Of little concern to Silvestro are Trump’s obscured tax records, an example of which leaked by the New York Times indicated that Trump may not have paid income tax for up to 18 years.
“America created that tax system. I use the tax system; so do you. I’m in business, so I write off whatever I can write off. He did the same thing. He didn’t create it, but he’s using the American tax system to his advantage. He’s not doing anything illegally,” Silvestro said.
And though Silvestro, concerned above all with the bottom line, said he has received mostly positive feedback, at least some customers have kept their distance since the roof was painted, according to his son.
“We had a limousine customer (at Hoyt Livery, another of Silvestro’s Cross Street businesses) who happened to be of Mexican descent. He stopped renting because he said Santo was a racist for painting Trump on his roof. Santo is the least racist person. The only color Santo sees is green, because all he cares about is making money,” Anthony said.
Other business owners on the street mostly refrained from commenting on their neighbor’s, and in some cases, landlord’s roof. Some, like Lisa DeLuca, Donna Sikora and Crystalina Concepcion, of Lisa’s Classic Cuts, said they were fine with Silvestro’s bold expression of his political views.
“We’ve got to pick the lesser of two evils for president now,” said DeLuca, who will be voting for Trump. The building in which her salon is located is owned by Silvestro.
One South Salem, N.Y., man, who was stopped outside of New Canaan Shoe Repair on Tuesday to take an iPhone photo of the roof to share with friends, was more critical.
“I’ll never go in there again,” William Klein, 41, said of the deli, before speaking more broadly on the danger he feels Trump poses to the country. “It’s crazy to me how you could hire someone to run your country who has driven so many companies into bankruptcy. This is a horrible thing for our country. Trump is inciting hatred.”
Silvestro is, of course, aware that he’s making a controversial statement, and that to publicly support Trump as he continues to do can cause a passionate response. But he remains unabashedly drawn to the businessman Trump.
“Donald Trump is afraid of nothing and no one. You hit him, he’s going to hit you back. I’m the same way,” Silvestro said.