‘She Persists’ is part of First Lady Chirlane McCray’s efforts to activate the mayor’s home as the ‘People’s House.’
Eleanor Heartney, February 11, 2019
Gracie Mansion is a stately home with a complicated history. The Federal style residence was built on the East River in 1799 as a country house for a slave-holding Scottish merchant named Archibald Gracie. After passing through various owners, it fell victim to tax foreclosure in the late 19th century. Taken over by the city, it was downgraded to a park concession stand and public restroom. Then, in 1943 Robert Moses pushed to designate it the official residence of the Mayor of New York. City officials agreed, arguing that it offered the Mayor greater safety during wartime. Enlarged with a new addition during the Lindsay administration in 1966, Gracie Mansion underwent a major restoration in the 1980s when mayor Koch opened sections of the private living quarters to public view.
The Mansion’s recent history has been bumpy. In 2001 it was embroiled in Rudy Giuliani’s messy divorce. On taking office in 2002, Michael Bloomberg privately financed much needed renovations but refused to live there. Instead he declared that henceforth the house should just be a museum. With the de Blasio administration, Gracie Mansion has returned it to its historic use. The de Blasio family lives there and First Lady Chirlane McCray has been developing programs to underscore its newly designated status as the People’s House. And so, in the last five years, the Mansion’s walls have hosted a series of exhibitions that stress both the triumphs and the less salutary aspects of New York history.