I turned on the TV this morning only to see more coverage of Mayor de Blasio’s vacation in Italy. I mean, it’s great that he’s there and enjoying time with his family, meeting country leaders and visiting the blue grotto in Capri but why do I need to see that?!
While Mr. de Blasio may not be thinking of Gracie Mansion, I am. As a native New Yorker living here for decades, I have never ever been to Gracie Mansion nor have I even passed it. What makes it stranger is that I am frequently on the Upper East Side exploring venues like The Gilroy and J Bird but never went east enough to see the Mayor’s digs.
The house on 88th Street and East End Ave was built in 1799 by Archibald Gracie as a (get this!) country house to overlook the beautiful East River in uncharted territory for many of us New Yorkers. This is a different tourist destination than say the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty given its location and proximity to hotels and other tourist destinations.
I did some investigating for us and found out that is not such an easy place to visit. It seems like New York’s White House is not as accessible as our country’s White House! The house may only be used for official city business. Only visiting public officials and the Mayor’s family may reside with the mayor at the mansion, even for a single overnight stay! As a result, Mayor Rudy Giuliani was unable to have his then-girlfriend live with him (because they were not married), because it would have violated using a taxpayer-funded home for a private citizen. Likewise, Mayor Michael Bloomberg never resided at Gracie Mansion, although he used it for meetings and events and has used the Mansion as a place for official visitors to stay while in the city. At the beginning of Bloomberg’s term he initiated a major restoration of the mansion, funded by an anonymous donor, suspected of being the billionaire mayor himself.
Don’t worry though, there is no force field…Gracie Mansion is owned by the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, operated by the Gracie Mansion Conservancy, and is a member of the Historic House Trust which means that we can check it out! General tours are on Wednesdays at 10am, 11am, 1pm and 2pm and last approximately forty-five minutes. Tea tours are available for groups of 25-50 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. School tours take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays. All tours by reservation only. Reservation required for all tours. To make reservations please call (212) 570-4773.