Clinton In Queens:
A Presidential Presence
Borough Of Diversity and Diners
Montefinise, Noah Green and Josh
Sept. 26, 1993 wasn’t an ordinary Sunday morning for patrons and
employees of the Future Diner in Fresh Meadows.
Sure, the eggs were sizzling and the juice was
flowing as usual, but there was something special about this particular
hot and steamy Sunday.
The President of the United States was stopping
by for a visit.
Clinton received a Tribune plaque from Congressman Gary Ackerman
when he visited Fresh Meadows in 1993 – one of many Queens trips he
Michael Von Der Lieth
The streets near the Future Diner were lined
with eager Queens residents, waiting patiently in the rain to catch a
glimpse of the country’s leader, President Bill Clinton. They held
signs and cameras, excitedly searching the streets for the man of the
Once Clinton arrived, he made it worth the
wait. He waved and smiled as he walked into the diner, a spot he had
visited once before during his campaign in 1992.
Back then, Queens Congressman Tom Manton was
showing the up-and-coming Clinton around the borough. The Arkansas
governor drew a big crowd, but he was just a candidate.
As president, he attracted a crowd of hundreds,
including reporters who snapped photos, yelled questions and bathed the
diner in bright television lights. Secret service members were crawling
all over the place, and security was high.
But Clinton was as relaxed as ever. He chatted
with the wait staff, using their first names to discuss how much fun he
had last time he was there. He shook hands with patrons sitting at
tables, all of whom were chosen beforehand and many of whom had stories
to tell about health care nightmares they had experienced.
After talking at a podium for a short while,
Clinton relaxed on a Future Diner stool, sipping coffee while
Congressman Gary Ackerman, Borough President Claire Shulman and Mayor
David Dinkins stood nearby. Later, Ackerman presented the President with
a Tribune plaque.
After his coffee was gone, Clinton grabbed a
microphone and started talking about problems with health care in the
United States. He listened attentively as New York residents who had
sent he and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton letters about health care
told their tales of woe.
Mary Jayne Van Wyck of Long Island City and
Susan Berardo of Bayside were two of the people who spoke. Van Wyck
talked about how she was forced to stay at poverty level to qualify for
Medicare because insurance companies wouldn’t cover the liver
medication that she needed. Clinton said, “Why shouldn’t this woman
be allowed to work?”
Clinton’s connections to Queens didn’t end
with that famous visit, however.
In 1997, Clinton spoke at Shea Stadium to honor
the 50th anniversary of Brooklyn Dodgers’ second baseman Jackie
Robinson breaking the color barrier.
In 1998, he stopped by Forest Hills High School
to congratulate the staff and students for being named to the
country’s list of 124 Blue Ribbon Schools.
In 2000, more than 200 Queens seniors waited
outside of the Austin Street SelfHelp Center on Queens Boulevard in
Forest Hills for Clinton, who spoke on March 30 about prescription drugs
and social security. He shook hands with dozens of seniors, who shared
their horror stories about prescription drug prices and their worries
about social security.
Over his eight years as president, Clinton went
through Kennedy and LaGuardia Airports dozens of times, spoke at Allen
AME Cathedral, and met with countless Queens officials.
Clinton’s run as president ended in 2000, his connections to Queens
didn’t. His wife Hillary was elected in 2001 to be a New York State
Senator who represents all five boroughs, including Queens.