A phalanx of helicopters, including Marine One, descended on Brooklyn’s Prospect Park Friday afternoon, kicking up a massive cloud of dust and debris, including leaves, grass, sand and at least one gray t-shirt over the landscape designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, who also designed Central Park and the U.S. Capitol Grounds. Blue police tape and an army of NYPD officers kept back the usual crop of runners training for the New York City Marathon; the nearby Green-Wood Cemetery has opened its gates to runners while the park is closed.
It was President Barack Obama’s 33rd trip as president to New York City Friday, according to CBS Radio Correspondent Mark Knoller, but just his first to the hipster borough, his former home. For Obama it was a homecoming. “I know Brooklyn in general is blowing up right now,” Obama said when he took the stage at a high school there, noting he used to live across the street from Prospect Park.
Obama had arrived to visit the Pathways in Technology Early College High School in Crown Heights, a school surrounded by bearded Hasidic Jews and equally bearded hipsters, which he praised during his State of the Union address for its six-year program which gives students high school and associates degrees.
It’s a far cry from the usual crop of tony apartments and fancy restaurants the president has serially hit up for campaign cash.
Indeed, Barack Obama has rediscovered Brooklyn. The sports-fan-in-chief noted that the Brooklyn Nets, who play a few miles away, have acquired Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, adding it shows “old people can still play.”
Eighty-two percent of Kings County voters—604,443—cast their ballots for the president and Vice President Joe Biden last November, exactly 918 more votes than he received there in 2008. Thousands lined the streets taking photos as Obama’s motorcade passed through.
After the event, Obama and New York mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, the city’s public advocate and a former council-member from Brooklyn, made an unannounced stop at local cheesecake institution Junior’s, posing for photos with staff in front of walls filled with framed photos of New York celebrities.
“Howya doin’?” the president asked one table after the next, almost affecting a Brooklyn accent.
In his remarks at the school, Obama called for additional investment in education and called for Congress to take a smarter approach to budgeting. “The question can’t be how much more we can cut,” Obama said. “It’s got to be how many more schools like P-TECH we can create.”
“I just sat in on a class called Real World Math, which got me thinking whether it’s too late to send Congress here,” he quipped.
But Obama’s return to Brooklyn was short-lived. After the school visit, Obama will board his helicopter again for the familiar embrace of Manhattan, where he will attend two fundraisers.