New Yorkers came by the thousands Sunday to meet new Mayor Bill de Blasio at his official Manhattan mansion. And each got an assembly-line photo with the newly minted mayor.
They came dressed in everything from a tuxedo and a sable coat to rugged winter boots and jeans.
In an unprecedented gesture, de Blasio opened Gracie Mansion to the people of his city — about 5,000 who had pre-registered online for tickets. After a handshake, he wrapped his hand around each one’s shoulders for a digital photo to be sent to them later.
“Remember, this is the people’s house, this is your house,” he told one teenager.
To enter the mayor’s residence, they each waited for hours in the winter chill for their several-second moment with de Blasio by a library fireplace where he spent five hours tirelessly greeting guests.
Some got a bit more time, exchanging a few quick words.
“Bill de Blasio has this kind of down-to-earth vibe,” said another teenager, Noor Javid, after her meeting with the mayor, who came to power in a landslide victory in November.
The 17-year-old Queens resident of Pakistani descent said the chance to meet the mayor surprised her.
“I didn’t think we’d be invited to his house,” she said. “The average Joe doesn’t get the opportunity to meet the mayor.”
But that’s the populist tone the Democrat had set in his campaign.
De Blasio is a Brooklyn resident who has yet to move into Gracie Mansion with wife Chirlane McCray and son Dante. His daughter Chiara is away at college. The mayor was alone Sunday. The crowd was carefully managed.
After waiting in a line that stretched from the 1799 wooden house all the way to the East River, those with tickets passed through airport-style metal detectors outside. While shuffling on inch-by-inch in temperatures hovering around freezing, they were serenaded by various musicians and served hot chocolate.
Dimitri Gertzog had already met the mayor — as the father of his old Brooklyn middle school classmate, Dante de Blasio.
“Bill de Blasio is a good man,” said the 16-year-old Gertzog.
If anyone had any doubts, said New York University human rights advocate Robert Quinn, “give the guy a chance. This is only his first week.”
He brought along his two children, a 5-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl.
“It’s important to expose them to the democratic process, to be a part of it,” the 48-year-old Quinn said.
Later Sunday, the sable-clad Winfield smiled as she waited on a street for a city bus.
The de Blasio event apparently was a public relations success.
“He’s a very warm individual,” she said, noting the mayor had complimented her burgundy hat.