Some Question Furniture Gift To de Blasio Residence

NEW YORK (AP) -

Mayor Bill de Blasio and his family are getting comfortable at Gracie Mansion in part thanks to a $65,000 furniture donation to modernize the historic house. While the handout does not appear unethical, some feel it undercuts his common man image.

The official mayoral residence had not housed a family for more than 12 years, so the de Blasios asked for help in making it feel like a home after deciding to relocate to the Manhattan mansion from their modest Brooklyn rowhouse.

They liked a few modern-style pieces from West Elm in their home and contacted the Brooklyn-based company about furnishing the residential portion of the Federalist-style home, which was built in 1799 and sits on a bank above the East River.

The company gave $65,000 worth of furniture to the privately funded Gracie Mansion Conservancy, rather than directly to the family. The furniture is now the property of the conservancy and will remain in the home even after de Blasio, his wife and their two teenagers leave.

Even if the donation wasn’t unethical, some feel it flies in the face of a mayor elected last year on a campaign promise to fight income inequality.

Alexandra Lange, an architecture critic, wrote in The New York Times on Saturday that “there’s the whiff of something unseemly about taking such a large donation from a single company.”

And Hank Sheinkopf, an unaffiliated Democratic consultant, said that while “no one is begrudging a move to Gracie Mansion — it’s clear his heart will always be in Brooklyn — but taking the furniture looks like he’s becoming what he ran against.”

A mayoral spokeswoman said the city consulted with its Law Department on the use of the mansion before the family moved in last week. And spokesman for the City Conflict of Interest Board had no comment.

Gifts to Gracie Mansion are not uncommon. Tiffany & Co. donated china in 1995 and 2002. Many wealthy New Yorkers, including philanthropist Brooke Astor, have given furniture. And while de Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, did not live in the home, he spent some of his money on a multimillion dollar renovation.

De Blasio said his family has enjoyed the new home — he spoke glowingly about eating dinner on the porch — and is thrilled that it has eight bathrooms, as opposed to the one on the third floor of their Park Slope home.