Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Gracie Mansion Blues

Shortly before taking office, Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced that he and his family would move from Park Slope, Brooklyn to the official mayoral residence of Gracie Mansion, nestled in Carl Schurz Park on the Upper East Side. This has re-ignited a mini-debate as to whether or not mayors should actually live in the official residence -- is it a tax-payer funded luxury crash pad or a proper home befitting the CEO of the nation's biggest city?

This is one of those issues where both sides of the debate are right and wrong.

During his decade-plus time in office, Mayor Bloomberg made a big deal about not living in Gracie Mansion -- he thought if mayors lived there it would cost taxpayers too much and reduce the usability of the house for official functions. But others have said that the mayor should have a home, that the mayor needs to place to live and have his and his family's everyday needs catered to while he runs a city bigger than most states and many countries.

Of course, we are now living in troubled economic, cash-strapped times. Other cities have mayoral residences and their citizens are balking at paying the bill when budgets for vital city services are being cut. Some mayors of other cities are making a big show of not moving into the mansions which begs the question: has the time of official mayoral residences now passed?

P.S. What's interesting is that NYC mayors didn't have an official residence until 1942 when Robert Moses convinced Mayor LaGuardia to move into Gracie Mansion. This fascinating story provides the history of how the official mayoral residence came to be (it was a rare instance of Robert Moses actually engaging in an act of preservation). 

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