Americaâ€™s First Black President in Harlem
A Difficult Decision
By: Stanley Fich, Ali McMillen
This happened at: 55 West 125th Street, Harlem, New York City
CNN July 31st, 2001: â€œProclaiming Harlem as his home Monday, former President Bill Clinton said he wants to help revitalize the largely African-American district and use his new office there as a base for a global initiative to fight AIDS and poverty.â€
In July of 2001, Ex President Bill Clinton moved his office to 125th Street in Harlem, New York City. A man who is often referred to as Americaâ€™s First black president by many, including myself, Bill was received by most with open arms, due to his policy on African American relations, and his great support for them during his 8 year presidency. A symbol of legal power in the heart of Harlem, many people surrounding the property of 55 west 125th Street felt a great sense of pride to have such a loved president working in their backyard on the day of the inauguration. Although the ceremony was mostly a celebration, there were members of the Harlem community who protested the event, with great reason. Although Billâ€™s intentions may have been great, being quoted by CNN as to saying "Now I feel like I'm home," and stating his agenda; â€œWhat I'm going to do here is to try to help promote economic opportunity in our back yard, in our country and around the world," he does bring a dark-side to this otherwise wonderful occasion. The Gentrification of Harlem.
The Independent, a New York Paper, pointed out the following. â€œThe booming American economy and the enormous demand for Manhattan property has already caused Harlem and other New York areas previously the preserve of blacks and Hispanics to soar. Rents have nearly doubled in Harlem since 2000, when Mr. Clinton left the White House to support his wife, Hillary, and her career as the junior senator for New York. A one-bedroom flat which used to rent six years ago for $800 a month now costs $1,400, according to Valerie Orridge, president of the Savoy Park Tenants Association.â€
As mentioned above, New York City in general is becoming more expensive, as our productivity increases, so does our rent prices. It may turn out that the things that Bill moved to Harlem to protect may be pushed away by hiked real estate prices. Sources make a not that all the prices of real estate within 30 blocks of Billâ€™s office has increased in value, pushing African Americans out and Upper Class families rich enough to live next to Bill in. As weâ€™ve seen in the complex history of New York â€˜s Grid and the direct correlation between increasing prices and prestige with the displacement of the lower class, it appears Bill Clinton may Represent a new age of African American migration up the island, with the increase in New Yorkâ€™s flashiness.
Although Bill may represent the pinnacle of American legal power to the residents of Harlem, who are mostly African American and Latino, his presence is known as phantom-like. Bernard Williams, a 126th Street parking lot owner is quoted in the Columbia News Service Online magazine saying â€œI've never seen him, but I know when he's there; It's like God: when the burning bush is on the mountain, you know he's there."
Sylvia Woods, 77, the owner of Sylvia's Soul Food, pointed out however that â€œHe's not in Harlem to visit. He's in Harlem to work."
This ghostly phenomenon may make it so that the residents of Harlem feel that legal power, the essence of Democracy, is just another thing that theyâ€™re close to but canâ€™t quite reach. The increase in property taxes and real estate show just one another twist in the history of the New York Working class. It leaves us to question whether we should have welcomed Bill, or if we should have joined the few who fought to say no.