Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Obamas’ Guide to NYC: Why the First Family Should Probably Move to Brooklyn

Photo: Shutterstock, AFP/Getty Images
When Barack Obama leaves office on January 20, 2017, he’ll need a new place to live. And like the race to succeed him as president, as absurd as it sounds this far out, there’s already a front-runner: According to Politico, Obama just can’t stop talking about moving back to New York City, where he lived as a young dreamer in the early ‘80s. “I just desperately want to take a walk through Central Park again, and just remember what that feels like,” the president reminisced at a fund-rasier in 2012.
But his life after the White House won’t be all philosophizing in grimy apartments like the first time around. As an ex-president with an active wife, high-school-age daughter, two dogs, and vague plans to start something like the Clinton Global Initiative, Obama will need to find a new niche in a much different city than the one he knew as a poor Columbia student. The options are plentiful, but we’ve got some ideas.
Let’s just go ahead and assume price — and co-op boards — won’t be an issue.
Obama’s old place was on East 94th in Yorkville, and as he remembered in Dreams From My Father, it wasn’t pretty:
It was an uninviting block, treeless and barren, lined with soot-colored walk-ups that cast heavy shadows for the rest of the day. The apartment was small, with slanting floors and irregular heat and a buzzer downstairs that didn’t work, so that visitors had to call ahead from a pay phone at the corner gas station, where a black Doberman the size of a wolf paced through the night in vigilant patrol, its jaws clamped around an empty beer bottle.
Sure, he could move back — there are luxury high-rises around now — but the Upper East Side is Michael Bloomberg’s kingdom. You’ve got to give him his space.
15 CPW.Photo: Jb Reed/Bloomberg via Getty Images
As a junior in college, Obama tried the west side, in a two-bedroom at 109th Street. A bit south of there could be an option: Massive buildings like 15 Central Park West, home of Lloyd Blankfein, Sting, and many more bold-face names, promise privacy, space for chauffeurs, and of course the park. But even for a president, the Upper West Side seems a bit stuffy. And it could get awkward with the bankers.
They have these in the suburbs, too.Photo: SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images
Sparking Obama’s rekindled affair with the idea of the city, aides say, was his trip earlier this year to the Gap in midtown, of all places. “What he cherishes and misses is the serendipity — you don’t know who you’re going to bump into or what they’re going to say,” said presidential confidante Valerie Jarrett.
He won’t really get that in midtown. But, duly noted: He likes stores and serendipity! (Also good food, having eaten at hip spots like Blue Hill and ABC Kitchen, Harlem’s Red Rooster and Sylvias, and the decidedly less cool Junior’s in Brooklyn.)
Bill shows around Barack.Photo: MANDEL NGAN/2013 AFP
Using this knowledge, we plugged some assumed facts about what the Obamas will need into New York’s Nate Silver–helmed Livability Calculator — safety, diversity, green space all ranked high; bars and transit low — and the results favor lower Manhattan:
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