New York Today: Past Presidential Visits


Article from NY Times

President Trump will visit the city tomorrow in his first trip back since moving to the White House.

Mr. Trump is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull of Australia aboard the Intrepid for a reception and dinner to mark the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Coral Sea, in which the United States and Australia fought Japan.

Presidents often find themselves in our city, but their reasons and objectives have shifted throughout modern history, said Timothy Naftali, a presidential historian at New York University.

Here are a few:

Homecomings. During the 19th and 20th centuries, presidential visits were often hometown trips, Professor Naftali said, since several politicians — Martin Van Buren, Millard Fillmore, Chester A. Arthur, Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin Delano Roosevelt — sprang to the White House from their New York power bases.

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Global attention. As the homecoming trips waned, the creation of the United Nations, which was formed in 1945 and moved into its Manhattan headquarters a few years later, attracted presidential attention. “The U.N. ensured that presidents would come to the city,” Professor Naftali said.

Scenes of despair. During the 1970s and ’80s, presidents didn’t come to New York to celebrate the city’s values and successes: “It was used as a backdrop of despair, of the America that had lost its way.”

President Jimmy Carter made what he called “a very sobering trip” to Charlotte Street and the South Bronx in 1977, inspecting the borough’s burned-out and abandoned buildings as residents shouted “Give us money!” and “We want jobs!” He pledged federal aid to rehabilitate the area.

Revitalization and hope. With the Wall Street boom of the ’80s, presidential trips tended to highlight the rebuilding of America.

In 1986, President Reagan visited Governors Island to “unveil” a renovated Statue of Liberty with a laser light show, a swearing-in ceremony for new citizens and a dazzling fireworks display.

“New York was a tale of two cities for Reagan,” Professor Naftali said. “The New York of failed government that he ran on, and the New York of his administration, with a glistening Statue of Liberty and a thriving economy.”

Two decades after Jimmy Carter’s visit, President Bill Clinton stopped by Charlotte Street to praise the area as a model of urban renewal.

And in 2001, President George W. Bush visited ground zero after the Sept. 11 attacks, bullhorn in hand, to thank the rescue workers and let New Yorkers know that the nation mourned with them.

Homecoming (again). On Thursday, Mr. Trump’s trip will be a throwback to a more hometown type of presidential visit, Professor Naftali said.

It’s reminiscent of a time when a president knew the city’s political leaders and “had a more granular vision of the city,” he added.

Even so, having a president with hometown ties has always meant one drawback for New Yorkers, Professor Naftali said: “traffic snarls.”

You can expect those later this week.

Here’s what else is happening: