Obama’s New York Days Recalled in Plenty


Plenty magazine has a long article about Barack Obama’s environmentalist history, including his stint at NYPIRG, when the future Presidential candidate made $200 a week and worked out of a sketchy trailer at City College. Colleagues recall him as driven but diffused: “I don’t think he really saw the effect he was having, so he got antsy,” says one. Eventually Obama “drove his beat-up blue Honda Civic” to Chicago and thence to glory.

As the Times previously reported, when Obama first came to the city, like many of us he “passed his first night in an alley near 109th Street and Amsterdam Avenue” and “bathed at a hydrant alongside a homeless man.” Later he worked briefly for New York’s Business International Corporation (now part of The Economist Intelligence Unit), a company which former employees remember as like “high school with ashtrays.” It was only when he got to NYPRIG, as Ben Smith of Politico previously noted, that he really began to impress people, performing with what one colleague called “an assurance you just don’t see in your average recent college graduate.”