Bill de Blasio has a bankrupt Scotsman and Robert Moses to thank for his new home.
Unlike the White House, Gracie Mansion wasn't meant to be living quarters for the city's chief executive. Built in 1799, the mansion was originally the country home of merchant Archibald Gracie, a native of Scotland who lived there with his family until he was forced to sell the house because of bad finances in 1823. The mansion had two other owners before the city acquired the house, which then went through several incarnations, including serving as the location for an ice cream stand in Carl Schurz Park and later the Museum of the City of New York.
After the museum moved out and into its current Fifth Avenue home, Parks Commissioner Robert Moses convinced Fiorello La Guardia to move into the mansion in 1942. Since then, every mayor has made it his home until Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who preferred living in his opulent townhouse and kept Gracie used as a ceremonial location for the city. Bloomberg drew a bit of a line in the sand for future mayors, saying he thought that Gracie was better served in its new function and that it shouldn't be a mayoral residence.
Enter Bill de Blasio, who seemed very comfortable wearing his "Brooklyn" sweatshirt when our Grace Rauh interviewed him yesterday. After much hemming and hawing, de Blasio has decided to take the plunge and move to the Upper East Side.
Gracie Mansion isn't about sweatshirt chic and that will probably take some adjusting for the de Blasio family, who embraced Park Slope. But it's time to move into the "Big Boy" house when you're elected mayor. Part of the power of the office are its bells and whistles and its trappings. Gracie Mansion will be a bit of a bubble for de Blasio, but the reality is, you're in a bubble wherever you live when you're the mayor.
Mansion living may fly in the face of de Blasio's personal politics and his tale of two New Yorks, but he'll be smart to embrace his new home. And after all, Brooklyn isn't going anywhere.