Poor Gracie! After spending the last twelve years as an active events space, the mayoral mansion was slated to be a home once again. But for the first quarter of 2014, Gracie Mansion has been neither a family home nor the humming reception hall it once was.
In the first three months of 2014, the Federalist-style mansion has hosted only 13 events, as opposed to the 32 it hosted during the first three months of 2013, according to data obtained by the Observer.
During the last winter season under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the mansion hosted eleven events in January, nine in February and twelve in March, according to records from the time. By contrast, under freshly-minted Mayor Bill de Blasio, three events were held in January and February of this year and four in March, according to City Hall. Events under de Blasio included a Mayor’s Dinner with New York State Assembly Members, a Universal Pre-K Reception, Black History Month Youth Reception and the New York’s Female Elected Officers Dinner.
Additionally, the numbers of visitors to the mansion—3,900 in 2013 and 4,600 in 2014—was similar, though the numbers for 2014 surged considerably with a post-inauguration open house that drew thousands. (The events totals do not include meetings or tours, which provide a significant portion of the foot traffic through the historic Upper East Side mansion.)
The mayor’s office argued that the decrease in number of events can be attributed to the fact that the final months of a three-term mayor’s administration are likely to be busier than the beginning of a freshly-inaugurated mayor’s. Numbers from the first three months of Mr. Bloomberg’s first term were not available as the mansion was undergoing renovations in 2002, but a de Blasio spokesperson pointed out that only 14 events had been hosted in the home during the first three months of 2006, the start of Mr. Bloomberg’s second term.
“You shouldn’t compare the last year of a 12-year administration to the first year of a new administration—there were a lot of goodbyes!” said spokesperson Rebecca Katz. “It’s like comparing apples and oranges.”
Mr. de Blasio’s delayed move-in date might also have played a role in the mansion’s comparatively quiet halls, with ongoing uncertainty about the home’s occupation discouraging events planning. After announcing in December, following much hemming and hawing, that he and his family would be relocating from their unglamorous Park Slope rowhouse, Mr. de Blasio has been cagey about setting a move-in date, telling reporters in January that it would be “a little while” as the family had “been kind of busy.”
At the end of February, a spokesman confirmed to Capital New York that the family’s move had been delayed until after Mr. de Blasio’s son, Dante, finished his school year at Brooklyn Tech—presumably in June. A spokesperson told the Observer that as of late April, a move-in date has yet to be decided.
There also seems to have been some reluctance to using the home for entertaining—in March, the Observer reported that leaders of the Irish community were upset when the mayor failed to send out invitations to the annual St. Patrick’s Day Breakfast, which “after repeated inquiries,” were sent, “albeit with fewer attendees than in recent years.”
Mr. de Blasio has been consistently careful to strike a populist tone when discussing the home—repeatedly referring to the mansion as the people’s house and declaring in January before the open house that “we’re excited to give New Yorkers a chance to see that which is theirs.”
Mr. Bloomberg has long argued that the home should remain a full-time events space, telling The New York Times that “the mayor should not live there—everybody’s going to understand if a mayor lives there, then 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.”
Under Mr. Bloomberg, the number of annual visitors to Gracie was reported to have doubled, from 21,000 people in 2006 to almost 41,000. The website of the Gracie Mansion Conservancy now pegs the number at 50,000, estimating that the mansion hosts “approximately 150 events each year.” Mr. de Blasio’s office declined to provide estimates on the number of events planned for the upcoming three months, but in 2013, the mansion hosted a total of 43 events that were attended by 13,000 people, according to city records.
The office said a similar level of use was expected after the de Blasios move into Gracie, which would bring the number of estimated annual events to somewhere around 56.
“Our team is hard at work planning a very busy summer schedule,” a spokesperson for the mayor’s office wrote to the Observer, “and we are looking forward to hosting thousands of people from all over the City at Gracie.”