President Clinton Tours New York’s South Bronx and Proclaims the Urban Neighborhood As a
President Clinton Tours New York’s South Bronx and Proclaims the Urban Neighborhood As a Model for Rest of NationBy TERENCE HUNT
NEW YORK (AP) _ Twenty years ago, the South Bronx was branded America’s worst slum. On Wednesday, President Clinton toured the same neighborhood _ now filled with well-kept homes _ and proclaimed it a model for the rest of the nation.
``Look at where the Bronx was when President Carter came here in despair,″ Clinton said. ``Look at where the Bronx was when President Reagan came here and compared it to London in the Blitz. And look at the Bronx today.″
After a morning visit to the rehabilitated South Bronx, Clinton dashed around town for a deli luncheon and a chaotic Christmas shopping spree that netted $400 in jewelry.
He also was the star attraction for two Democratic fund-raisers expected to raise more than $1.5 million. Clinton planned to use the occasion to promote his embattled nomination of Bill Lann Lee as the nation’s civil rights chief.
On a cold day of rain and snow, Clinton’s travels brought gridlock to downtown Manhattan as streets were cleared for his limousine. Thousands of people stood behind police barricades for a glimpse of the president.
Clinton visited the Charlotte Gardens neighborhood, where rubble-strewn streets and rat-infested ruins have been replaced by 89 single-family ranch houses with aluminum siding, well-kept lawns, some with backyard decks and barbecue grills.
He credited community leaders and government and private efforts for the startling recovery that began in the mid-1980s. He said tax incentives and urban policies he has championed have helped to promote continued urban improvement.
``The goal is to have everybody living in a place like this place,″ the president said in a speech at a neighborhood boys and girls club.
Saying an urban renaissance is under way across America, Clinton declared, ``If you can do it, everyone else can do it.″
Working-class families bought South Bronx homes in the 1980s at subsidized prices between $50,000 and $60,000. Today, most homes sell for about $180,000.
Paul Grogan, a leader of the campaign to draw private investment to the South Bronx, credited Republican Mayor Rudolph Giuliani with creating ``the perception and reality of public safety″ in New York.
Clinton, without mentioning the mayor, picked up on that theme. ``We can’t get investments into places that people don’t think are safe,″ the president said. ``You cannot get people to invest money if people don’t think it’s safe.″
Carter walked the same Charlotte Street neighborhood in 1977, then littered with broken bottles and trash, and promised to seek ways to clean it up. Reagan came in his 1980 presidential campaign and cited the neighborhood as a prime example of urban decay and the failure of Carter’s Democratic administration to find a solution.
Clinton also announced release of new grants for the area. He said $96 million was being released for New York City from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Also, he said the government has approved a process to provide $50 million low-interest loans to South Bronx businesses over the next five years.
There was a conspicuous absence of politicians _ both Democrat and Republican _ at Clinton’s tour. While politicians usually clamor to show up with the president, the city’s political establishment sent regrets, citing other commitments.
However, Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., openly boycotted Clinton’s appearance as too political and not aimed at solving real neighborhood problems.
Serrano is an archrival of Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, was Clinton’s guide for the tour. White House officials said Serrano felt snubbed because Ferrer got such a prominent role and heard about Clinton’s visit first.
``We didn’t do a very good job notifying (Serrano), which may have caused him some embarrassment,″ presidential spokesman Joe Lockhart said.