Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio and his family have decided after weeks of deliberating to move from their Park Slope home to the official mayoral residence known as Gracie Mansion on the Upper East Side, but they insist they will remain Brooklynites at heart.
The 214-year-old building has sat vacant for the last 12 years after Michael Bloomberg instead elected to live in his luxurious town house.
Although Bloomberg never spent a night there, the billionaire poured millions into a sweeping renovation of the graceful Federal-style mansion, which sits in a park that overlooks the powerful confluence of the East River and the Long Island Sound.
De Blasio said when he was elected in November that he and his wife, along with their two children, in college and high school, had not decided whether to move. One of the issues, he indicated, was the longer trip to school for his teenage son.
The family said in a post on the mayoral transition website
Wednesday that they would make the move from their Park Slope home for a variety of reasons, including "logistical and security concerns."
"It's a tough decision. Brooklyn is our home and Park Slope is our neighborhood. And we love those places. In many ways, they've come to define who we are," the family said. "No matter where we live while Bill is mayor, this won't change."
The family said they would move over the next few months, and would keep the home in Brooklyn. The change, they said, is temporary.
"We'll miss Brooklyn, but we are incredibly gratified to the people of New York for the opportunity to live in the mayor's residence," the family said.
The Upper East Side mansion, which is painted in its original yellow with green shutters and white trim, has changed considerably since Rudy Giuliani's family departed in December 2001. (The mayor himself had moved out earlier that year after separating from his wife.) Soon after taking office, Bloomberg, under the guise of being an anonymous donor, gave $7 million to refurbish the home's porches, stairs and bathrooms.
"The place was falling apart," said Susan Danilow, executive director of the nonprofit Gracie Mansion Conservancy. "Mayor Bloomberg may not have lived there, but he really loves the home."
The kitchen was redone last year at a cost of $1.25 million, money that was raised by the conservancy. The nonprofit organization was established in 1981 by Mayor Ed Koch to preserve the mansion, which sits on the site of another home that was commandeered by George Washington during the Revolutionary War.
That home was destroyed by British cannonballs, one of which was found a century later during construction work. The 12.5-pound ball now sits on a mantle in the home.
The current structure was built in 1799 by a merchant named Archibald Gracie in a location that, at the time, was in the countryside more than 5 miles north of the fledgling New York City. It changed hands several times until it was seized by the city in 1896 after the owner failed to pay taxes.
It briefly housed the Museum of the City of New York, but in 1942, powerful Parks Commissioner Robert Moses designated it the official residence of the mayor, prompting Fiorello LaGuardia to move in. In 1966, the home nearly doubled in size thanks to an expansion.
The four-bedroom home, which Bloomberg uses for weekly meetings, has 12 full-time employees, including kitchen and gardening staff.
The bulk of the mansion's $1.7 million operating budget is picked up by the city, with additional costs paid by the conservancy.
The home's downstairs features the kitchen, meeting rooms and a gigantic ballroom for events, while the upstairs is the living quarters. The home is dotted with antiques donated by some of the city's most prominent families, though the de Blasios can furnish it as they wish.
Copyright Associated Press / NBC New York