Mayor Watching and Other Pleasures

Mayor Watching and Other Pleasures

Mayor Watching and Other Pleasures

Mayor Watching and Other Pleasures

Excerpt

I DO NOT wish to push myself forward as a municipal historian, but I think that I can shed some light on the habits of several recent mayors of the City of New York and their families. For the past ten years, I have lived in an apartment in a remodelled brownstone on East End Avenue, directly across from Gracie Mansion, the official residence of the mayor. From my living-room window, I look down upon the lovely old white house, with its imposing iron gates and fence separating it from Carl Schurz Park, in which it is situated. Beyond the Mansion lies the tidal turbulence of Hell Gate, where the East River becomes all churned up and behaves like an inland sea. Since I am by nature a lazy and easily abstracted man, I have spent an appalling amount of time during the past decade just staring out the window. If nothing is going on at the Mansion, I wait for a boat to come past. If no boat comes past, I wait for something to happen at the Mansion.

My first mayor was Fiorello H. LaGuardia. He was already in residence at the Mansion, along with his wife and his young son and daughter, when I took up my post at the window. LaGuardia was certainly the busiest of our recent mayors, and he spent, for a mayor, an inordinate amount of time at City Hall. Thanks to this perversity, I didn't see as much of him as I would have liked. He left the house each weekday morning shortly after eight-thirty, bustling down the steps from the porch and leaping into a police prowl car parked in the Mansion's circular driveway. (I never saw LaGuardia in a limousine, although I know that at one time . . .

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