By Olivia Scheck and Amy Zimmer
INWOOD — Texas Gov. Rick Perry visited Inwood Monday to meet with Latino leaders at a neighborhood restaurant.
Fernando Mateo, head of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers, which represents livery cab drivers, and others met privately with Perry around 3:30 p.m. on Monday at Papasito Mexican Grill and Agave Bar at 223 Dyckman St., where they raised $50,000 for the candidate, Mateo said.
It was the presidential hopeful's second visit to New York City in two weeks.
"They reached out to me directly," Mateo said of the Perry campaign on his way into the restaurant. "This is about small business owners. This is the least friendly city in the country for small businesses."
Mateo is a longtime supporter of former Mayor Rudy Guiliani, who is friends with Perry, Politico.com noted.
"I'm not afraid of [Perry]," Mateo said. "I'm afraid of a guy who wants to tax me because I'm earning $250,000. How am I supposed to save the money to become a millionaire?"
After the meeting, Mateo said, "For the first time in my lifetime we've had a presidential candidate come outside of Wall Street, outside of the Yale Club, outside of the Harvard Club and into Main Street America."
As Mateo answered questions from reporters, a local resident, who had been out buying groceries chimed in.
"A lot of people in this community are on food stamps. They're on Medicaid," social worker/life coach Donna Deming, 43, said, "And Perry wants to take away that safety net. How do you reconcile those two things?"
"I think you're misinformed," Mateo replied, inviting Deming to address her questions to Perry via email.
The owner of Papasito, Wendy Hernandez, cleared out tables inside the restaurant for the anticipated 120 guests expected to munch on appetizers while sipping sangria.
"This is a great opportunity for our business, the community and Latin Americans," Hernandez said. She explained that although he was busy opening another outpost on West 104th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, "We couldn't pass up this opportunity."
Hernandez said he was a Perry supporter even though he usually didn't vote for Republicans.
"We were expecting something else with this president, and we didn't get it," he said of President Barack Obama. "It's time for a change."
But other residents weren't as supportive of Perry's visit.
"It's just flabbergasting," Inwood resident Mark Schultz, 36, a playwright, said of the visit. "It makes me feel dirty. [Perry's campaign keeps] talking about how he created all these jobs but they're all minimum wage. You need to have three or four Rick Perry jobs to make a living."
The governor did not speak to reporters at the event. Perry's campaign did not return calls for comment.
John Rawlins, 42, a Hamilton Heights resident who owns an interior design business in Inwood called it "baffling."
"I can't imagine how he would end up coming here," he said.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Rangel showed up at the event, but told reporters on his way out, "I got out before they asked for money."
Politico also said that Perry's two-day trip to New York would include three high-end fundraisers. One that was to be hosted by Jewish leaders who had backed Mike Huckabee was canceled, but another on Tuesday is expected to be attended by members of the Orthodox Jewish community.