De Blasio opens up Gracie Mansion to New Yorkers

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio smiles while New York Mayor Bill de Blasio smiles while posing for pictures with visitors at Gracie Mansion, the official residence of the mayor, during an open house and photo opportunity with the public as part of the inauguration ceremonies in New York. (Jan. 5, 2014) Photo Credit: AP

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Mayor Bill de Blasio Sunday opened Gracie Mansion to the public as part of his inauguration, welcoming into the mayoral residence thousands of ticket holders who braved long lines and frigid temperatures.

The open house was billed by de Blasio's team as an event giving unprecedented access to the public -- the first of its kind in recent memory -- and the mayor greeted, one by one, everyday New Yorkers.

"We felt with this whole inauguration that it is crucial to make clear government was open to the people," he said Sunday. "This is the people's house. Gracie Mansion is the people's house. City Hall is the people's house. We want people to know, in everything we do, they are welcome in."

De Blasio said most New Yorkers have never had a chance to visit Gracie Mansion, a four-bedroom, eight-bathroom Federal-style Upper East Side structure that Michael Bloomberg used primarily for diplomatic and ceremonial events.

De Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, and their children Chiara, 19, and Dante, 16, will be the mansion's first residents since former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and his family lived there until he moved out in 2001. Bloomberg chose to live in his Upper East Side town house during his 12 years as mayor.

The de Blasios will move from their Park Slope house into the mansion, but the mayor said "we have not set a date yet. It might be a little while."

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Petal Hwang, 39, of the Upper West Side, waited about 90 minutes outside and an hour inside Gracie Mansion to meet de Blasio. She said of the mansion, "It's lovely. It's really fantastic to see the old and new."

De Blasio, speaking to Hwang's son, Derek, 11, emphasized that Gracie Mansion belonged to the city's entire population: "You have a one-out-of- 8.4-million share of this place."

Those in a line that stretched blocks outside Gracie Mansion were somewhat comforted by warming tents and hot chocolate and hot cider stands. Inside, they stood in a line snaking through a ballroom before meeting and posing for photos with de Blasio.

McCray, Chiara and Dante were not present at the start of the open house.

Asked whether a photo opportunity with de Blasio was worth the wait, Gail Matthews, of Selden, said, "Sure. Definitely. You don't have an opportunity to meet the mayor every day."

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