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Column: The different rationalizations for why Bill chose Gracie Mansion

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gracie mansion Credit: Inside Gracie Mansion (Charles Eckert)

In the final seconds of a 42-minute press 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 realtors 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 advisors. "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 county 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 public advocate didn't mention, as he earlier has with a bit of flippancy, that his family members sometimes compete over the bathroom at their Park Slope rowhouse. Gracie Mansion has eight of them. Not to mention the five bedrooms, the porch, and other unique 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 to 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.

Dan Janison is a Newsday columnist.

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