Harlem Welcomes Clinton to New Office

August 1, 2001, 12:00 AM EDT

Welcome party for President Bill Clinton Plaza in front of Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building Monday, 07.30.01, 11 AM to 3 PM
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At a ceremony to inaugurate Bill Clinton's new office, the former president received an enormous down-home welcome from his new uptown neighbors. The event--which was planned and produced by Civic Entertainment Group--exemplified Harlem style on an immense scale, as gospel and jazz singers, trucks loaded with soul food and a few thousand local resident all filled the plaza in front of the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. State Office Building.

Because of the large expected crowd, the New York Police Department was present in force--watching atop nearby buildings, providing intensive crowd control and surrounding the V.I.P. tent. The NYPD closed the entire block of 125th Street between Lenox (Sixth) and Adam Clayton Powell (Seventh) avenues for the event, where the throngs included not only local residents and school children, but also Black Panthers protesting what they said was the gentrification of the neighborhood.

Logistical concerns kept the event centralized on a single vast stage. Civic Entertainment Group brought in BML to install the stage, which was decked with sunny floral designs by Daily Blossom. The speakers and musicians who performed at the three-hour event were audible throughout the block via a massive audio system provided by E.S.P. New York and powered by mobile energy source Showpower.

Once the ceremony started--about 45 minutes late--it included a dynamic string of musical performances and political rhetoric hosted by actress Cicely Tyson. The event featured a variety of well-known local performers including Jazzmobile, the Boys Choir of Harlem and Opus 118, a violin ensemble composed of Harlem public school students. A local gospel choir and a Dominican dance group also roused the crowd.

Speakers included Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel, who spearheaded the event, and New York Secretary of State Randy Daniels, who on behalf of Governor George Pataki declared July 30 William Jefferson Clinton Day in Harlem. The stage and the private V.I.P. tent area were packed with local politicians, including Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields and former Mayor David Dinkins, and representatives of the event's sponsors--JP Morgan Chase, Verizon and the Upper Manhattan Empowerment Zone. The V.I.P. area was catered by Citarella and Jimmy's Uptown (representing the soul food constituency). Nearby Wimps Southern Style Bakery also provided a cake--emblazoned with photos of the former president--big enough to feed 1,000.

--Samantha Melamed

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