Gridlock alert: President Biden, 3 former presidents visiting New York

WABC logo
Friday, March 29, 2024
Biden fundraiser with former presidents raise $25 million
President Biden was joined by former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton for a fundraising event in Midtown on Thursday.

MIDTOWN, Manhattan (WABC) -- The simultaneous visits of President Joe Biden and three former presidents to New York City prompted gridlock and protests in Midtown on Thursday.

Crowds lined Sixth Avenue in anticipation for Biden's sold-out campaign fundraiser at Radio City Musical Hall, which drew a star-studded roster including former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

The Thursday night event brought together more than three decades of Democratic leadership.

It also attracted protests outside the venue, leading to several arrests.

Officials tightened security and closed streets for the event, which caused heavy traffic throughout the area.

The official NYPD closures included 49th, 50th and 51st streets which were closed to traffic between Fifth and Sixth avenues. Pedestrian traffic was limited in the area too.

For some who just work in the neighborhood it makes things a little more difficult.

"Just a little bit. Just getting Ubers and taxis home, but not too bad," said New Yorker Liam Murphy. "And I've worked here for like two or three years, and this happens every once in a while, like when the U.N. comes in and everything. So not too bad."

Separately, former President Trump visited Manhattan on Thursday, before attending the wake for fallen NYPD Officer Jonathan Diller in Massapequa Park.

Trump has kept a low profile in recent weeks, partially because of courtroom appearances for various legal cases, the bills for which he's paying with funds from donors. Steven Cheung, a Trump campaign spokesperson, dismissed the import of Biden's Thursday fundraiser.

"Crooked Joe is so mentally deficient that he needs to trot out some retreads like Clinton and Obama," he said.

However Biden's fundraiser has already raised a whopping $25 million -- setting a new record for the most-ever haul for a single political event, his campaign said.

The eye-popping amount was a major show of Democratic support for Biden at a time of persistently low poll numbers. The president will test the power of the campaign cash as he faces off with presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who has already proven with his 2016 win over Democrat Hillary Clinton that he didn't need to raise the most money to seize the presidency.

Leon Panetta, who served in top positions under Clinton and Obama, described the fundraiser as an important moment for Biden's campaign.

"What it does, first and foremost, is to broaden and reinforce the support of all Democrats," he said. "I can't think of two people who would be better at putting together that kind of message."

Obama's attendance on Thursday is a reminder of his role in boosting Biden's reelection. A joint fundraiser with Biden and Obama raised nearly $3 million in December. And people who served in the former president's administration are also raising money for Biden, scheduling their own event on April 11.

The hourslong event has different tiers of access depending on donors' generosity. The centerpiece is an onstage conversation with the three presidents, moderated by late-night talk show host Stephen Colbert. There's also a lineup of musical performers - Queen Latifah, Lizzo, Ben Platt, Cynthia Erivo and Lea Michele - that will be hosted by actress Mindy Kaling. Thousands were expected, and tickets were as low as $225.

More money gets donors more intimate time with the presidents. A photo with all three is $100,000. A donation of $250,000 earns donors access to one reception, and $500,000 gets them into an even more exclusive gathering.

"But the party doesn't stop there," according to the campaign. First Lady Jill Biden and DJ D-Nice are hosting an after-party at Radio City Music Hall with 500 guests.

The last time President Biden and these three former presidents were all in New York City was on the 20th anniversary of September 11 in 2021. They all visited for memorial ceremonies.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


* Get Eyewitness News Delivered

* Follow us on YouTube

* More local news

* Send us a news tip

* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts

Submit a tip or story idea to Eyewitness News

Have a breaking news tip or an idea for a story we should cover? Send it to Eyewitness News using the form below. If attaching a video or photo, terms of use apply.