NBC 4 New York
New Yorkers came by the thousands to meet new Mayor Bill de Blasio at his official Manhattan mansion. And each got an assembly-line photo with the newly minted mayor. Melissa Russo reports.
New Yorkers came by the thousands Sunday to meet new Mayor Bill de Blasio at his official Manhattan mansion. And each got an assembly-line photo with the newly minted mayor.
They came dressed in everything from a tuxedo and a sable coat to rugged winter boots and jeans.
In an unprecedented gesture, de Blasio opened Gracie Mansion to the people of his city — about 5,000 who had pre-registered online for tickets. After a handshake, he wrapped his hand around each one's shoulders for a digital photo to be sent to them later.
"Remember, this is the people's house, this is your house," he told one teenage girl.
To enter the mayor's residence, they each waited for hours in the winter chill for their several-second moment with de Blasio by a library fireplace where he spent five hours tirelessly greeting guests.
Some got a bit more time, exchanging a few quick words.
"Bill de Blasio has this kind of down-to-earth vibe," said another teenager, Noor Javid, after her one-on-one with the mayor who came to power in a landslide victory over Republican opponent Joe Lhota.
The 17-year-old Queens resident of Pakistani descent said the chance to meet the mayor surprised her.
"I didn't think we'd be invited to his house," she said. "The average Joe doesn't get the opportunity to meet the mayor."
But that's the populist tone the Democrat had set in his campaign.
Those who came Sunday represented every age group and dozens of ethnicities.
Jacques Francois, 57, editor of the Journal Avent, a monthly Brooklyn-based magazine aimed at the French-speaking Haitian community, said he was impressed by de Blasio's quick surge from behind in a pack of Democratic candidates.
"I knew he would make it even when he was behind," said Francois, standing in the mansion's garden. "He was ready to be mayor, because he was living the reality of a city divided between the rich and the poor."
De Blasio has yet to move into Gracie Mansion with wife Chirlane McCray and son Dante. His daughter is away at college. The mayor was alone Sunday.
Remnants of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration were still visible, including a giant, sagging Christmas tree in the crystal-chandeliered ballroom packed with visitors waiting to enter the library.
Shelley Winfield was wearing her Sunday best — her mother's old sable coat.
"I expect that Mayor de Blasio will review all the great things that were done by his predecessors and continue those things that were successful, and forge ahead with those things that were not," said Winfield, 67, a Manhattan resident.
The crowd was carefully managed.
After waiting in a line that stretched from the 1799 wooden house all the way to the East River, those with tickets passed through airport-style metal detectors outside. While shuffling on inch by inch in temperatures hovering around freezing, they were serenaded by various musicians and served hot chocolate.
Dimitri Gertzog had already met the mayor — as the father of his old Brooklyn middle school classmate, Dante de Blasio.
"Bill de Blasio is a good man," said the 16-year-old Gertzog.
If anyone had any doubts, said New York University human rights advocate Robert Quinn, "give the guy a chance. This is only his first week."
He brought along his two children, a 5-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl.
"It's important to expose them to the democratic process, to be a part of it," the 48-year-old Quinn said.
Later Sunday, the sable-clad Winfield smiled as she waited on a street for a city bus.
The de Blasio event apparently was a public relations success.
"He's a very warm individual," she said, noting the mayor had complimented her burgundy hat.