A modern civil war in Atlanta is being led by a carpetbagger with deep roots in the Big Apple.
Bill White, 54, is fueling the growing movement by the wealthy, mostly-white suburb of Buckhead to secede from the city of Atlanta — even though he’s a born-and-bred Yankee from New York City who only moved down south three years ago.
Before he took on the role of secessionist, White was a New York businessman and former head of the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum, whose family launched the Upper East Side staple Beach Cafe in the late 1960s.
“We love New York, always have, always will,” White said of himself and husband Bryan Eure. “We miss all the friends and life we had there, but we don’t miss the politics or the policies ruining New York City.”
The Long Island native wears his affinity for NYC for all to see: a 1977 Yankees Championship ring, gifted to him by George Steinbrenner.
Like New York City, Atlanta has seen sharp increase in violent crime during the pandemic. Homicides, shootings and assaults are all up this year in the city, according to police data compiled by the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
Witnessing the increased lawlessness drove White to pursue the effort to make Buckhead, where the median listed home price is close to $600,00, its own city, with its own police and court system, he said.
“We had some guy come up our driveway and try to steal our car. My sister’s home was robbed and her neighbor’s home was robbed. Our friends have been carjacked. They have had their cars broken into,” White recalled.
Buckhead City would triple the number of cops in the area and pay them better than the Atlanta Police Department, which he believes is being undercut by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Buckhead courts, he claimed, would not be lenient with lawbreakers.
In May White became Chairman and CEO Buckhead City Committee. He was chosen, he says, by community activists keen to tap into his personal network and management skills. He raised more than $400,000 in his first fundraiser that month.
The process of de-annexing Buckhead from Atlanta has moved swiftly. A bill to allow a vote is currently moving through the state legislature. If signed by Gov. Kemp, a Republican who is known to be close to White, the legislation would head to a vote. The referendum however would controversially only be among members of the proposed new city, excluding residents of larger Atlanta. White said he’s been pleased by the internal polling so far.
“It’s pretty wild what we have done in the last 12 months. We are creating a city from scratch,” White told The Post, brimming with confidence.
The secession plan has proven extraordinarily divisive in Atlanta, where it has been roundly opposed by the city’s establishment Democrat leaders. The loss of Buckhead tax revenue would be a significant blow to the city’s economy, and accusations of racism have swirled.
“As we continue our efforts towards increasing public safety in Buckhead, and beyond, it is our sincere hope that Atlantans will remain united in working to address the challenges before us,” a spokesman for Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told The Post. “Any effort to segregate Atlanta along racial, economic and party lines is an affront to who we are as a city.”
Long before he became a political mover and shaker, the Fordham University and French Culinary Institute grad worked at the family restaurant at 70th Street and Second Avenue.
“I cleaned the toilet, I was a busboy, I was a dishwasher, I was a manager. I did it all,” White recalled.
He also did stints as a volunteer fireman and booze cruise captain. During his summer at Fordham, he delivered two babies in The Bronx while working as an emergency medical technician.
White avoided the military during the Gulf War, but wanted to find a way to help out — so he created a foundation to support the United Service Organization, which brought him to the attention of real estate baron and philanthropist Zachary Fisher. Fisher later installed him at the Intrepid, which White was widely credited with reinvigorating over the next 18 years. Today he runs Constellations Group, a business consulting firm.
Aretha Franklin performed at White’s 2011 wedding to husband Bryan Eure, a ceremony officiated by power lawyer David Boies.
Once a prominent Democratic donor who even held a $25,000-a-plate dinner for President Obama in 2014, White dramatically switched sides in 2016 after President Trump’s victory and went on to become a mega GOP fundraiser.
After his parents died, White decided to relocate to Atlanta with Eure, an insurance executive who has been with White for more than two decades. They sold a Chelsea loft as well as a place in the Hamptons.
“[He] is my husband of 21 years and that’s like 140 in the LGBT world,” White laughed.
His detractors in Atlanta have resurfaced a $1 million settlement between White and New York in 2010 over an alleged illegal fundraising scheme involving the state pension plan. White admitted no fault at the time and maintains his innocence today saying he regrets ever settling with then-Attorney General Andrew Cuomo.
“The resolution was purely monetary and Andrew Cuomo trying to a pound of flesh because I was supporting David Paterson,” White said.