For the first time in a dozen years, a New York City mayor will be living in Gracie Mansion. Something vanished has returned. Yesterday, in a rare event, Bill de Blasio opened the traditional mayoral residence to the public.
Thousands of New Yorkers with free tickets waited in the cold and rain, but no one seemed to mind. The mood was upbeat and friendly. Everyone seemed--dare I say it?--very happy. The event staffers were happy. The volunteers who handed out cups of hot chocolate were happy. The community relations cops were downright jovial. Security was minimal.
Even under the gray winter sky, there was a lightness in the air. The general feeling was one of welcome and openness. Gemutlichkeit was the word that came to mind--"a situation that induces a cheerful mood, peace of mind, with connotation of belonging and social acceptance, coziness and unhurry."
The line moved smoothly and, once inside, we wound our way through Gracie, from room to room, past oil paintings, fireplaces, a Christmas tree topped with its own miniature Gracie Mansion. Photographs were permitted. The guards chatted and laughed with the visitors. Docents answered questions. No one pushed. No one was talking on their phones or texting. Everyone seemed rather delighted to be there.
At the end of the tour we emerged into a room where Mayor de Blasio awaited. One by one, he took us under his arm (it's a very long arm). We put our arms around him in return and posed for the photographer. The mayor smiled and chatted, responding to whatever anyone had to say.
And then we were back outside, on the porch and down to the yard, looking at the river. We lingered in the unhurry, in the excited air of a new, unknowable era.
A woman said to her teenage son, "Bill de Blasio is very warm." And when the son asked, "What was Bloomberg like?" the mother answered, "He was, well, he wasn't very warm."
And it seems to me that whatever happens, whatever promises our new mayor keeps or breaks, whatever scandals are to come, whatever inevitable disappointments, there is this--this warmth, this openness, this Gemutlichkeit feeling in the city that simply was not here before, not for many years. And that's something to behold.