HARLEM — Former President Bill Clinton and Mayor Bill de Blasio teamed up Tuesday to help Harlem restaurateurs and event promoters announce Harlem EatUp!, a three-day food and culture event set to launch in May 2015.
“This festival is about food, but it’s also about the culture of Harlem,” Clinton told the crowd gathered at the Red Rooster Harlem on Lenox Avenue. “This is a way of lifting this whole neighborhood in a way that I think will have permanent benefits, economically, for the people who live here, and be very good for the way we feel about ourselves, and the way other people see [Harlem].”
“We felt there was a perfect balance between the new and the old, and doing something together that’s very inclusive,” he said.
Organizers hoped to keep prices low, and were looking to partner with media companies and other corporate sponsors.
Samuelsson said program details for Harlem EatUp! were still under development. Visitors will likely be treated to special access at restaurants, music venues and Harlem cultural institutions like the Apollo Theater.
But ahead of the actual festival, organizers said they were looking to generate buzz through “pop-up events” such as “tune-in events” of music and food at local Harlem venues, which could happen as soon as October.
The former president will serve as the honorary chairman for Harlem EatUp!. Clinton noted that he helped create the first Harlem economic empowerment zone in 1993, which he said helped drive unemployment down during his time in office.
“When I moved out [of the White House], I wanted to see what was going on and be part of it. It’s been a lot of fun,” Clinton said. He opened an office in the neighborhood in 2001.
De Blasio said his former boss “broke the mold” when he decided to move his post-presidential office to Harlem “to be where the people are.”
“He also knew, at a point when Harlem was coming out of a lot of challenges and starting on a path to greater strength, that his presence would be part of that growth and development,” de Blasio said.