Elian, family moving to Washington

Family expected to leave Shore for another home

May 25, 2000|By Jean Marbella | Jean Marbella,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - Elian Gonzalez is trading one plush borrowed home for another as he and his family prepare to move, perhaps soon, from their country-squire quarters on Maryland's Eastern Shore to an upscale enclave here.

The 6-year-old Cuban boy, who survived a raft trip from Cuba to become the subject of an international tug of war, reportedly will be moving to Cleveland Park, a choice Northwest Washington neighborhood that is home to many of the capital's professional elite.

Elian - with his family and visiting Cuban classmates - apparently will be leaving the Wye River estate that has been his home since shortly after federal agents snatched him on April 22 from the Miami relatives fighting to keep him in the United States. Elian and his entourage are reportedly leaving the beautiful but remote estate on the grounds of the Aspen Institute on the Shore so that they can be closer to city diversions.

Their new home is a tidy yellow clapboard house owned by the Youth for Understanding International Exchange, on rolling grounds with a view of the National Cathedral. A single police car and occasional camera crews sat outside the home yesterday afternoon, surely just a fraction of the disruption that the neighborhood will experience once the famous child arrives.

While some Cleveland Park residents are worried about the media and security entourage that has followed the boy on his American journey, it is not their style to be too impressed.

"I live next door to the secretary of the Air Force, and we have Marian Wright Edelman and Judith Viorst down the street," said resident Laine Kaufman, referring, respectively, to the child advocate and the writer. "And of course we have Gregory Craig."

That would be the attorney who represented President Clinton in his impeachment hearings and now is working for Elian's father, Juan Miguel Gonzalez.

Most interviewed said Elian and his family would love it here.

"It's a real community. People walk around. They sit on their front porches," said Kaufman, who was taking her two little boys and a playmate for frozen treats.

"It's a neighborhood of children and dogs," said Pam Korbel, walking one of the latter. "It's very friendly. If something happens, you have a meal on your doorstep. It's a village.

"My son had his first cigarette under that magnolia tree," she said, pointing toward the Youth for Understanding grounds, "and four neighbors called to tell me, before he even got home."

The Gonzalez family's new home is a renovated farmhouse on a former private estate. The property was purchased in 1978 by Youth for Understanding, which sponsors student exchange programs..

While the neighborhood itself is quiet, nearby is the bustle of Wisconsin Avenue.

It's quite a switch from the spare landscape of the Shore, where Elian has been home-schooled with four visiting classmates by their teacher from their hometown of Cardenas, Cuba, and where he was taught to ride a bike by one of the U.S. marshals at the home.

The reason for the move is unclear. Some news reports indicate that Cuban diplomats were weary of having to get permission from the State Department to travel 25 miles outside Washington to visit the family. Other accounts had the group feeling isolated at Wye River.

Elian, his family and friends are awaiting a decision by the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on a suit filed by the Miami branch of the Gonzalez family. Those relatives are seeking to force the Immigration and Naturalization Service to give Elian an asylum hearing that could permit the boy to remain here

Elian was taken in by his Miami relatives after being rescued off the Florida coast on Thanksgiving Day, a survivor of a capsizing that killed his mother and 10 other Cubans. Elian's father wants to take him back to Cuba.

Wire services contributed to this article.

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