Julia de Guzman, a 24-year-old writer, described herself as a "supporter" of Hillary Clinton, but the Brooklyn, New York, resident lightheartedly worried Friday about the frenzy the former secretary of state might cause when she opens her 2016 campaign headquarters in the neighborhood. "Is it going to be impossible to get a taxi?" de Guzman asked.
Clinton has reportedly signed a lease to occupy two full floors of 1 Pierrepont Plaza in Brooklyn Heights. The move signals the 67-year-old former U.S. senator and first lady's intent to run for president, giving her 15 days to officially declare a campaign, since she has begun conducting “campaign activities,” Politico reported Friday. The upscale, trendy enclave across from downtown Manhattan is a curious choice for Clinton, who lives just north of New York and whose husband has an office in the more diverse neighborhood of Harlem, in upper Manhattan. All the same, many Brooklyn residents seemed receptive to the idea of having a Clinton come to town.
“We love Hillary Clinton,” said Khamis El Seyed, 53, from behind the breakfast cart he runs directly outside what will become Clinton’s headquarters. “Most of the people are so excited, so happy.”
Near The Promenade
Pierrepont Plaza, the building Clinton's campaign will soon move into, stands out from the surrounding neighborhood. The tall, 19-story red-brick edifice opened in 1988, and its tenants include Morgan Stanley. A quick walk down Pierrepont Street leads to a promenade overlooking the waterfront, which offers a sweeping panoramic view of Manhattan. Helicopters buzz in and out of a landing pad directly across the river. The surrounding Brooklyn Heights neighborhood is picturesque, with trees lining slate sidewalks and quaint parks.
Mikayla Marquee, who is black, called the Brooklyn Heights area "a hub of the wealthy and the white." The 36-year-old, who is a Democrat, said the Brooklyn headquarters is good strategic move and "makes Clinton look cool."
The neighborhood's median household income is $95,369 and its median age is 35.2, Census Bureau data say. Its residents are 70.1 percent white, 16.7 percent black and and 12.4 percent Hispanic. The area has side streets with a smattering of small diners, bars and businesses, but also chains like Subway, Five Guys, Banana Republic and Starbucks.
“It’s great,” said Vicki Wittenstein, 60, who has lived in the neighborhood for about 25 years. “[The neighborhood is] very political. I think they enjoy being involved.” Wittenstein added that, financially speaking, the area makes sense, saying it's a "great area for fundraising."
Clinton lives in Chappaqua, New York, and before signing the Brooklyn lease, had her staff working out of their homes and coffeeshops, Politico reported. Clinton first moved to New York state in 1999 when she and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, bought the Chappaqua home for $1.7 million, allowing her to run for U.S. Senate in the state. Clinton was elected in 2000 after defeating longtime U.S. Rep. Rick Lazio, 55 percent to 43 percent.
Clinton has roots in places all over, not just New York. The Clintons are most strongly tied to Arkansas, where Bill Clinton served as governor and the family lived for 18 years. Hillary has also noted her family's ties to Pennsylvania, Illinois and the nation's capital.
Nonetheless, Brooklyn Heights should be relatively welcoming. The area is a staunch Democrat stronghold.
Peter Antioco, 70, is a lawyer who has lived his entire life in the area and said the neighborhood's vote was probably "99 percent" Democratic. The first presidential candidate he voted for, he said, was John F. Kennedy.
"It's a solid base for her," Antioco said. "[Clinton] will probably get a lot of volunteers."
Area businesses might be excited for an uptick as well. El Seyed, who runs his breakfast cart weekdays outside Pierrepont Plaza from 4 a.m. to 2 p.m., was certainly hopeful staffers would bring increased traffic and boost his sales.
But not everyone is thrilled with Clinton's new campaign headquarters.
"Oh, gosh, who needs another politician?" asked Charles Morris, an 82-year-old retiree and Democrat. He was critical of Clinton, calling her "Republican Light" and "calculated."
"I don't think there's an honest bone in her body," he said.
Others worried how Clinton's campaign operation would affect the neighborhood feel of the tony enclave. Bill Gorman, a 61-year-old teacher, who said he is "central" politically, said the neighborhood, "tends to buck anything that brings more people from outside."