Bill de Blasio, who is very tall, opened his new home at 88th Street and East End Avenue to the public this Sunday, shaking hands and taking pictures with the citizens of the city of which he is the newly-inaugurated mayor.
Four thousand tickets were released for the open house; scalpers immediately took to Craigslist to hawk their holdings. Despite the cold, rain, and ice, New Yorkers were lined up to see their new mayor as early as ten a.m. (The doors wouldn't open until noon.) Volunteers passed out handwarmers called "Little Hotties."
Susan Krakenberg, formerly of Brooklyn Heights and currently of Midtown East, is happy to have de Blasio as her new mayor. I asked her what she would say to him if she had the chance.
"Please do everything in your power to save the libraries," she said. "We need librarians, not wedding planners."
Krakenberg sees de Blasio as a true reformer; her husband is more skeptical.
"Things won't change until there are riots in the streets," he said. "Food riots."
"You know," he said later, "if the city had more money, there'd be someone out here serving hot chocolate." He did not seem likely to start rioting about it.
Just was we approached the metal detector, several members of the press were ushered to the front of the line, cutting in front of an old woman with a walker.
This was the first time Gracie Mansion has ever been opened to the public for the mayor's inauguration. When President Andrew Jackson was inaugurated in 1829, the White House was opened to the public for the first time. All sorts of people showed up, from the "highest and most polished down to the most vulgar and gross in the nation," wrote Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story. "I never saw such a mixture. The reign of KING MOB seemed triumphant."
Once the booze came out—orange punch, apparently—the whole thing turned ugly and Andrew Jackson had to escape out the window. By all accounts, the White House was left in a bit of a state.
Unfortunately, there was no orange punch at Gracie Mansion on Sunday; mostly people just took pictures of the Christmas tree.
One gentleman, a professor, spoke excitedly of the parking space he had found on 87th and York. He slipped on the ice getting out of his car, he said, "But it's good until 8 a.m. tomorrow, so it was worth it." With any luck the rain would have melted the ice by the time he needed to move his car this morning.
Not long after taking office in 2002, Michael Bloomberg privately (and anonymously) put $7 million towards renovating Gracie Mansion. Even before the campaign to replace him had truly started, Bloomberg declared that it would be inappropriate for his successor to move into his empty lair.
"The mayor should not live there," he said. (Bloomberg of course had his own and better home; the first mayor to live in Gracie Mansion was Fiorello La Guardia, who moved in with much alleged reluctance.) "What they're doing is they're costing this city a lot of money and depriving the rest of the city of one of the great facilities any city has."
Maybe they were just happy to be in out of the cold, but as I surveyed the serpentine line of New Yorkers waiting for their photo op with the mayor I saw only smiles. Nobody seemed particularly upset that the de Blasios are moving from their Park Slope townhouse to Gracie Mansion.
"Thank you for being here," the mayor said as we shook hands. I'd like to think he meant it.
Later I made my way home from the remote outpost, and waited for the subway at Union Square. A pair of musicians sang through a repertoire of Motown classics. One was Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come." Perhaps it will! But first let's get ourselves some hot chocolate.