Photo of the day: VISITING OUR NEW YORK WHITE HOUSE – “You’re invited: Open house with Mayor de Blasio at Gracie Mansion Date: 12/18/2013 12:12:41 P.M. Eastern Standard Time”
When on December 18, at 12 minutes past noon I received an email inviting me to meet the new mayor at the formerly closed Gracie Mansion – I clicked the “reserve” button without a second’s hesitation. This was the final symbolic dig at the elitist mayor Bloomberg who distanced himself from ordinary working people as much as possible, after all, we can’t afford to fund big condo projects.
Sunday January 5th came and it was a bleak, cold, wet, foggy, icy and rainy day. A few of my friends debated whether to head out in this weather. Not me, a full blown blizzard could not have kept me away! Every person on line would be another twist of the knife in Bloomberg’s back.
I arrived at 11:15 and the lines we already half way through Carl Schurz park surrounding the mansion. I was greeting by friendly park rangers who led me to friendly police who led me to friendly volunteers to show me my spot on line. The volunteers made every effort to assure me that the misery of standing out in this weather would be lessened by hot cocoa and cider, wandering musicians and heating tents. Portable bathrooms where everywhere, every detail had been thought of. No one complained, no one groused about the weather. There was a feeling of excitement and accomplishment in the air, we the people had done it and this was our lucky reward. We were doted on by the volunteers with warm smiles and cheery attitudes, “more cider?”, “more cocoa?”, “let me throw that away for you.”
The mood was infectious, no pushing, no shoving, no griping, just busy texting “I’m here!” as the rain poured down our umbrellas and onto our backs. As the rain let up, people were so excited they were doing ‘the wave’ on line! (No one ever did ‘the wave’ on line waiting to meet Grinch Bloomberg!) At 12 noon came the most wonderful odd assortment of unique wandering musicians ranging from opera singers to a melodica (hand blown air accordions) band complete with giant tuba and the best of all – a marching electric guitar band complete with their own amplifiers and power source strapped to their waists, you would never had seen that at a Bloomberg event, they stole the show!
12:30 noon I got near the mansion, we were given a card to fill out with our names and email address so that they could mail us our ‘photo with Bill’. Are you kidding?! We thought, ‘ok, we’ll see him, say hello,’ but to have DeBlasio’s people perfectly organize to have each and everyone of our pictures taken with him and then send them to us, left many absolutely giddy with surprise. This was like waiting in line for Santa Claus.
At the door the security tent hardly felt like “security”, the police were so polite, so helpful, no tension in the air, no airs of suspicion, just ‘hey folks, just this one more step and you get to see him.’ Was this for real? Up the steps to the mansion I went. At every entrance, corner and room we were met by obliging volunteers and docents warmly welcoming us. I am a born and raised New Yorker of 58 years and I have never been inside Gracie Mansion – 99% of us had never been inside either. Cameras were clicking like mad, selfies galore. The Christmas tree was still up, since Doomberg hadn’t lived here it was poorly and sparsely decorated (the DeBlasios will change that), but…if you looked up to the top, the tree topper is a miniature Gracie Mansion!
We were steeped in history. The Federal style mansion was built in 1799 by Scottish born shipping magnate Archibald Gracie. In 1942, builder Robert Moses convinced Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia to appropriate the house as a mayoral residence. It’s main two floors are open to the public on a limited basis for guided tours, and serve as a small museum. It has not been occupied for the past 20 years. This is our New York White House. The buzz in the house was like that of an opening night in the theater and we were about to meet the star of the show. The line snaked through the historic old house as the press eagerly interviewed and filmed the people on line. “This is a historic event. It is even more so, because it’s a symbolic a stab at Bloomberg. I feel as if a black 12 year old cloud has been lifted and this is the colorful dream I have awakened to, I am bursting with pride and joy” I said to a reporter.
Our final room to see was the dining room where Bill, his wife Chirlane, and children Dante and Chiara will have breakfast and their family meals. The dining table was complete with official New York City seal placemats, I just have plain cloth at home J . It has a wonderful view of the east river through the trees of the park. Final stop – meet Bill.
Yet again the Gracie Mansion staff surprised us, they made sure our email name cards weren’t wet, we were asked whether we wanted our photo taken with or without our coats on. They provided a table were we could place, our coats in order. It was managed like a well oiled machine. Then . . . there he was, all 6’7” of him. As warm as a figure he his, his height is a bit imposing.
He had taken a break to talk to one of his staff members, so I had to wait. When finished, he turned to me outstretched his arms and joyfully and proudly said “welcome to Gracie Mansion, the people’s house!” I almost forgot what I wanted to say to him! I said: “After fighting so hard against Quinn, this is such a joyful experience, thank you!” We posed, he turned to me grabbed and squeezed my hand and said “you guys did hero’s work.” I felt like a billion dollars ! (I am waiting for the official photo to be sent to me.)
He patiently and above all in good humor, shook 7,000 hands, listened to 7,000 greetings/complaints, wishes and concerns and smiled for 7,000 photos – god bless him! Upon leaving, my coat was properly waiting for me and no one was given the expected bums rush out. People were just giddy with excitement and took their time leaving, no one rushed us as we took out beaming final pictures on the back porch of the mansion –