De Blasio walks the line between Brooklyn, Manhattan homes
In the final seconds of a 42-minute news conference Thursday announcing the appointment of his top deputy for human services, New York City Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio fielded a question about his family's upcoming move to Gracie Mansion.
For someone who so recently campaigned on "outer-borough" populism, evoking the contrast between privilege and poverty, it had to be slightly ticklish, symbolically, to explain occupying a house valued by real estate agents at $100 million-plus -- even if it is a long-established perk available to mayors.
The city's new top politician couched it in wistful terms.
"You know, Chirlane and I have been in our neighborhood in Brooklyn for almost 22 years," he said, acknowledging his wife, who sat in the first row among transition advisers. "And we love it, and it's where we raised our children. . . . And you know it will always be home. And we are keeping our house, continuing to be owners of our house for that reason, among many."
Having thus pledged his borough fealty, de Blasio broached the rationale for choosing the Upper East Side waterfront residence.
"To do the work of mayor, which is 24/7, to deal with all the crises that come up, to deal with just the really substantial, logistical security realities that attend to being mayor, it is more practical to be in Gracie Mansion," he said. " . . . We think it's the right thing to do to move this administration forward and the right thing to do for our family."
This time the outgoing public advocate didn't mention, as he earlier has with a bit of flippancy, that his family members sometimes compete over the single bathroom at their Park Slope row house. Gracie Mansion has eight of them. Not to mention the five bedrooms, the porch and other amenities.
For more than a month, starting before the election, de Blasio left the move publicly undecided. There was talk of his son's continuing to attend high school in Brooklyn and concern over the commute involved. There was the matter of police coverage, details of which were understandably left vague in all statements to news media.
For many people, personal finances would be a factor in such a move. A finance professional who declined to be identified noted that the IRS is known to consider employer-provided lodging a taxable fringe benefit -- though that varies by circumstance.
But one City Hall source said tax considerations didn't factor in the family's decision.
His honor-to-be's housing and taxes have come up before. When he disclosed tax forms during the campaign, de Blasio revealed a $3,300 monthly mortgage payment on the Brooklyn home. He also declared rental revenue in recent years from the nearby house of his mother, Maria de Blasio, who died in 2007.
Late in the campaign, there were published reports that he'd failed to include the rent payments on the second house to the Conflicts of Interest Board. But de Blasio's campaign said at the time that the rent payments couldn't be considered income because deductions and depreciation turned it into a loss for tax purposes.