Thursday, August 17, 2017

Presidential Legacies

The city as seen from the Bruckner. 6:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Thursday, August 17, 2017.  Sunny and warm yesterday in New York with temps in the 80s and humidity reaching higher.  I went down to Michael’s for lunch. The President was in town and at his residence a block away (and around the corner). This Presidential visit like all Presidential visits since Bill Clinton seemingly requires closing down areas of the city within proximity to his presence.  This is very inconvenient for the hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers on their workday within blocks of his presence. All Fifth Avenue between 57th and 54th were closed to pedestrians from noon till almost three o’clock, apparently viewing all of us as potential disrupters or assassins in the eyes of the Secret Service. This is the bag we’re in.

Whatever we want to think of this current President, versus others, the same “security” situation occurred many times before. They do this on Presidential visits to the UN. They close down New York. When I left Michael’s at 2 to go to another appointment, I walked down the block of West 55th Street to Fifth Avenue where I was told I couldn’t cross the avenue or move on the sidewalk north or south. I had to turn around, go over to Sixth Avenue and walk three blocks south to 53rd Street where I could cross. This inconvenience was not great for me but no doubt it was for others with narrower time frames. I walked from Sixth along 53rd to Park Avenue, where I could catch a cab to take me to my appointment.

Many years ago I was having lunch at a restaurant called San Pietro on 54th between Madison and Fifth. Clinton was in town (he was President). They had closed off 54th from Seventh Avenue eastward. After lunch I had an appointment at the River House on 52nd and the East River. I decided to walk since there was no traffic whatsoever on 54th street. I figured I might see the President ride by in his car and I’d catch a glance of him. I got all the way to Second Avenue and 54th and no one was allowed to cross the avenue because the Presidential entourage was expected. So I (and many others) stood there for about fifteen minutes, waiting for the party to pass. Finally the cavalcade of Presidential security began: 30 motorcycle policemen passed. Then about 30 police cars passed, and the about 20 black SUVs followed. And after this parade had passed and was already out of sight on the roadway, around the corner came the President in his limousine.

He waved to all of us waiting for his car (and waiting to cross the street to our destinations).  His was a lone car, nothing ahead of him in sight, and nothing behind. It occurred to me at that moment that if anyone were inclined to do something rash to him, his security would already be blocks, maybe miles away and unable to “protect” him. Fortunately, of course, nobody did — everyone was waiting to be able to cross the avenue to get to their destinations — it was a workday.

I do wish Mr. Trump would not visit his apartment while he’s in the White House, not because I don’t think he might like to sit down in his own office (where he’s comfortable and at home) but because it requires shutting down a good part of the city in the middle of business days when hundreds of thousands may be unable to do their jobs and get there on time.

To change the subject to another Presidency’s legacy. The night before last I had dinner at Antonucci, the Italian restaurant on 81st between Lex and Third (Madonna lives at the Lex end of the block) with Tobie Roosevelt. Tobie is a New York girl who grew up here and in Bedford. Her second and last husband Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr. was the great husband of her life, and after his death she has been involved in  several Roosevelt historical activities including the Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island.
Tobie Roosevelt and DPC at Antonucci Cafe.
Zita Davisson's portrait of Tobie Roosevelt wearing a dress designed by Tobie.
We met, as we often do, for dinner just to talk about whatever is going on in our lives. Tobie was anxious to talk about the Four Freedoms Park and especially its 5th annual Sunset Garden Party which was held last mid-June. They honored Tom Brokaw and “his incredible commitment and extraordinary leadership in the defense of free speech and expression.”

The theme of this year’s event was Freedom of Speech & Expression — which was the first human right named in President Roosevelt’s pivotal 1941 State of the Union Address. Mr. Brokaw, who was Master of Ceremonies at the evening — held at the Park — has spent his entire career defending and promoting the role of a free press in our democracy. He was presented with the Medal of Freedom.
Tom Brokaw, Tobie Roosevelt, and William vanden Heuvel
Tobie Roosevelt, Kathy Hochul, Tom Brokaw, William vanden Heuvel, and Barbara Shattuck Kohn
The Park is the first memorial dedicated to the president in his home state of New York. It is located on the southern tip of Roosevelt Island and was the last work of Louis I. Kahn, one of the iconic architects of the American 20th Century.

The Four Freedoms Park Conservancy is a not-for-profit responsible for maintaining and operating FDR Four Freedoms Park under a cooperative agreement with the New York State Parks Department. The objective in this memorial was to advance President Roosevelt’s legacy which inspires, educates, and engages the public in the ideals of the Four Freedoms from Mr. Roosevelt’s speech to Congress. They are: Freedom of Speech and Expression; Freedom of worship, Freedom from want, and Freedom from Fear.
The Manhattan skyline from the Park.
Guests included Ambassador William vanden Heuvel, Katrina vanden Heuvel, James Wolfensohn, Matilda Cuomo, and FDR Four Freedom’s Park’s fourth annual Sunset Garden Party honorees Irene Sankoff and David Hein, creators of the hit musical, Come From Away.

It’s a beautiful park, and an excellent memorial to our late President. More than 400 turned up for the evening outdoors in the middle of the East River for Mr. Brokaw’s speech and a reception afterwards. They raised more than $325,000 for the Park’s work. A good time was had by all.
Catherine Hermann, Richard Hermann, and Caren Ray-Arnone
Mona Albert, Lynn Goldstein, Matilda Cuomo, Susan Rosenthal, and Lisa Werkstell
Nina and Ted Liebman
Janet C. Ross and Katrina vanden Heuvel
David Banker and Martha McLanahan
Jane Swanson, David Stone, and Deborah Julian
Warren Hoge, Olivia Hoge, and Nick Ludington
Steven Post, Katrina vanden Heuvel, William vanden Heuvel, and Melissa Post
Bill Dean and Robert Pennoyer
James and Elaine Wolfensohn with Lisa and Don Callahan
Melissa Hirsch, Scott Hirsch, and Holliss Hirsch
Jill Spalding
Alexander von Perfall, William vanden Heuvel, Ashley von Perfall, Robert Semple, and Rose Harvey
Tobie Roosevelt, David Hein, and Irene Sankoff
Hank Butler, Barbara Georgescu, Peter Georgescu, Sedona Georgescu, and Leah Dagen
Robert Semple, Kathy Hochul, Rose Harvey, and Randall Fleischer
Tom Brokaw and Gina Pollara
Gene Kohn, Laurie Kohn Parkinson, Eugene Kohn, Barbara Shattuck Kohn, Steven Kohn, and Harry Kohn
Madeline Grimes, Megan Wood, Eleanor Bell Fox, and Niki Brierre

Photographs by Patrick McMulllan (Four Freedoms)

Contact DPC here.