Thursday, March 17, 2011

An Era is Over: First Black President Leaves Harlem

Oh, those were such heady days. America's first black president triumphantly settling into post-presidential among his people. He and he alone would help rejuvenate a long-neglected piece of upper Manhattan. Adoring masses would flock there, businesses would boom.

Well, those days are over. Bill Clinton is leaving them behind, off to more posh, yet cheaper digs downtown, among those evil rich, setting up shop in the Financial District.

Where have you gone, Billy Jeff Blythe?
When Bill Clinton officially began his post-presidency in Harlem in 2001, he was greeted with open arms — thousands of them. At a plaza near his new office, at 55 West 125th Street, a crowd of 2,000 residents and civic leaders gathered on a hot July afternoon to celebrate the arrival of a neighbor whose presence, two blocks from the landmark Apollo Theater, seemed to put a presidential stamp of approval on the neighborhood’s revival.

In his speech there in 2001, Mr. Clinton said, “Harlem always struck me as a place that was human and alive, where there was a rhythm to life and a song in the heart, where no matter how bad it was, people held up their heads and went on, and where, when things got good, people were grateful and cared about their neighbors.”

Nearly 10 years later, Mr. Clinton is leaving Harlem. Or, at least part of him is.

The William J. Clinton Foundation is moving most of its offices from Harlem to 77 Water Street in the financial district, in Lower Manhattan. But Mr. Clinton will keep a toehold in Harlem: his office as a former president will remain on the top floor of 55 West 125th Street.

The nonprofit foundation will occupy space on the 18th floor of 77 Water Street. The move will give the foundation more space — 25,227 square feet downtown versus 18,000 square feet uptown — and will help it cut costs. The foundation’s rent will be cheaper than the $40 a square foot it pays in the Harlem building, though it is unclear what the exact new rent will be, since the deal is not yet official, said a person familiar with both office locations who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the details.
Knowing Slick, there's some financial chicanery involved. Be assured a nickel isn't coming out of his pocket.

As to the Harlem residents, those buoyant days of 2001 are long forgotten.
It remained unclear how Mr. Clinton would divide his time between the two offices. On 125th Street near his office, Harlem residents interviewed on Wednesday said Mr. Clinton had been a positive force in the neighborhood, although not a regularly visible one. Abuk Auk, 35, who works at a hair salon near 55 West 125th Street, said she saw Mr. Clinton walking into the building once years ago.

“We were so happy,” Ms. Auk said of Mr. Clinton’s arrival in Harlem in 2001. “We thought it was going to change everything for us.” She pointed across 125th Street at a row of shuttered storefronts and added: “You see those shops that are closed? It’s too bad he couldn’t do more to help small business here.”
Obviously his former senator wife didn't do much for business either.

1 comment:

rich b said...

Did ol' Billy Jeff ever actually occupy his offices or was it just a publicity stunt? And I can just see his milky white ass strolling down the street late at night without secret service protection - yeah right. He wouldn't have lasted one block.