THE BRONX — Speculation that the Obamas will choose New York City as their post-presidency home is rampant, and before the rumors that they will settle in Park Slope or TriBeCa heat up too much, a group of real estate brokers is making a case for the First Family to head up to The Bronx.
Obama made a trip to Lehman College in The Bronx last month to help launch the My Brother's Keeper Alliance, a new nonprofit aimed at expanding opportunities for young men of color in the United States. Many brokers have noted that some of the borough's nearby neighborhoods would be a great fit for his family should they make the move to the Big Apple.
"It would show that families, no matter what ethnic background or social status, could actually come to The Bronx, take advantage of the great amenities that The Bronx has to offer, live with the great people of The Bronx," said Manny Pantiga, owner of the Bronx-based real estate firm the Pantiga Group.
Riverdale was the most common choice, with brokers citing its good schools, nice parks, easy access to Manhattan, and opportunities for privacy — all amenities that might appeal to a family that has spent so much time in the public spotlight.
"It does offer that anonymity that they’re looking for," said Chris Ventura, a commercial real estate broker with Lee and Associates who focuses on The Bronx. "They’ll keep a lower profile."
The neighborhood already has a presidential history. Teddy Roosevelt spent two summers in Wave Hill when he was 12 and 13, and John F. Kennedy lived in the neighborhood from 1927 to 1929 at 252nd Street and Independence Avenue.
Aramis Arjona, a real estate agent with Mirador Real Estate who focuses on The Bronx, acknowledged that the neighborhood's relative inaccessibility to public transportation could be a downside, but he did not think this would deter the Obamas very much.
"The only thing I would say that’s bad is maybe if you need to go to the subway," he said. "But they’re not going to be taking the subway."
Other agents suggested Country Club, given its great schools and close proximity to the water and Westchester County, and Fieldston, given its status as a historic district and the unique architecture of its houses.
"Someone who is looking for a home, that is a special area," said Sanjya Tidke, an associate real estate broker with Halstead Property. "I think that is ideal."
Taisha Rose-Pickett, a licensed real estate salesperson with Area New York, viewed Clason Point as a good fit too, describing it as a very private and calm neighborhood.
"I don’t think there’s any crazy activity in Clason Point," she said. "It’s just a lot of houses and condominiums back there."
Although many brokers focused mainly on the northern half of the borough when discussing options for the Obamas, Pantiga said he could also picture the family in a Mott Haven brownstone.
The First Family moving to the South Bronx would bring international attention to that section of the borough, according to Pantiga, and it would help the neighborhoods shed the stigma they got from the last time a president shined a spotlight on the area: Jimmy Carter’s tour of a devastated Charlotte Street in the 1970s.
It would help the Obamas become trendsetters and save money as well, he added.
“Near Alexander Avenue and 137th, there are some fantastic, I mean some of the most charming brownstones in the entire city at a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the cost that they would be anywhere else,” he said.
He described a move by the Obamas to the South Bronx as comparable to when Bill Clinton came to Harlem in the early 2000s to set up the office of the William J. Clinton Foundation, which many took as a sign that the revitalization of the neighborhood was legitimate. Pantiga described that renewal as an "explosion."
"The Clintons went to Harlem. The Obamas should come to The Bronx," Pantiga said. "They went to Harlem ahead of the explosion, and I think the Obamas should come to The Bronx, eight years later, ahead of the explosion."