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Mayoral Hopefuls Defend Right to Live in Gracie Mansion

By Jill Colvin | March 28, 2012 4:45pm
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the first mayor who has chosen not to reside in Gracie Mansion on East 89th Street and East End Avenue.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg is the first mayor who has chosen not to reside in Gracie Mansion on East 89th Street and East End Avenue.
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

UPPER EAST SIDE — The candidates vying to succeed Mayor Michael Bloomberg are striking back against the billionaire mayor's edict that his successor should follow his lead by not living in Gracie Mansion.

Bloomberg argued Tuesday that future mayors should steer clear of moving into the manse on the East River because it costs taxpayers too much cash and prevents members of the public from using the space.

“Mayors should not live there," Bloomberg told reporters at an unrelated press conference Tuesday.

"If a mayor lives there, then what they're doing is they’re costing this city a lot more money and depriving the rest of the city of one of the great facilities any city has to host events and to show off our city,” he said.

“To take one of the great houses away from the public, I just think is wrong,” he said.

Bloomberg is the first mayor since Mayor Fiorello La Guardia not to live in Gracie, choosing to abide in his ritzy Upper East Side townhouse instead of the sprawling white mansion with dramatic views across the East River.

Instead, the space is used primarily for events, including breakfast meetings, celebratory dinners and the wedding between two male staffers that Bloomberg presided over after gay marriage was passed.

Bloomberg aides noted that during the eight years he has been in office, the number of people taking tours of the mansion has nearly doubled, from over 21,000 people in fiscal year 2003 to almost 41,000 people in 2011. The number of events held in the space has also soared, from 166 in 2000 to 291 in 2011.

At the same time, the number of staffers serving the building has also been cut from 32 full and part-time staffers in 2000, to 19 full-time employees today.

But those who are vying to succeed Bloomberg in 2013 defended their right to move into Gracie, just like their predecessors, Rudy Giuliani and Ed Koch.

Bill Thompson, the former city comptroller, said that he intends to move into Gracie if he wins, regardless of what Bloomberg says.

"Mayors living in Gracie Mansion are part of the rich tradition and history of New York City,” he said. “Mayor Bloomberg's remarks fly in the face of former mayors Rudy Giuliani, David Dinkins, Ed Koch and every other former mayor who has lived there."

Manhattan Media publisher Tom Allon, the other declared candidate in the race, argued that living in Gracie would make him a more effective mayor, since he'd be close to official business, and said that the live-in model has worked just fine for other officials, like the president of the United States.

"I intend to live in Gracie Mansion not because it's an upgrade from my current apartment (unlike this Mayor's), but because it will maximize my efficiency to hold late night and early morning meetings with staff, business leaders, community leaders, Council members and other key stakeholders in our city's future,” he said in a statement.

"Living above the store' seems to work well for the President of the United States and also worked well for Mayors Koch and Giuliani."