Gracie Mansion and the Upper East River Esplanade
November 7, 2013

Who is home at Gracie Mansion?

Bill de Blasio moved city politics far to the left, but it's still unclear whether he will be able to move his family family to the left--over the East River from Park Slope, Brooklyn, and into Gracie Mansion in Manhattan.  Dating back to 1799, the two-story, yellow-clapboard, Federal-style house along the East River had served as the mayoral residence until Mayor Bloomberg came along. Among the countless notable things about the departing mayor, was that he chose not to live in Gracie Mansion, saying that it was best used for official functions and other events.  It has been reported that de Blasio wouldn't mind residing in the mansion (who wouldn't?) but his family is as deeply rooted to their Park Slope home as Mayor Bloomberg is to his luxury apartment. 

Gracie Mansion has one of few--and in our view, the best--front lawns in Manhattan, a.k.a: Carl Schurz Park.  It is a terrific destination or layover while promenading along the East River Esplanade.  The Esplanade can be accessed in the south by following the pedestrian walkway straddling FDR Drive on 71st Street, or further north in Harlem by following 120th Street to its eastern terminus.

Carl Schurz Park is an absolutely delightful oasis  consisting fountains, garden areas, benches, playgrounds, dog runs, lawns, and picnic areas surrounding the historic yellow mansion. The mansion is something of a novelty, not just for its official role, but also as a house—sprouting out of the urban landscape of apartment complexes. In every season—and in virtually every kind of weather—we have always found the park full of young families throwing balls, flying kites or sliding and swinging in the playgrounds.

Be sure not to miss the Peter Pan statue. It briefly went missing in 1999 but was later found at the bottom of the East River. This mysterious act of vandalism provoked the parks commissioner to comment: “We thought his only enemy was Captain Hook.”

The other attraction, obviously, is the river itself. We saw boaters on the water and guys with fishing poles.


Apparently you can catch flounder, bluefish, and striped bass in the river. The pattern of the wrought-iron railings along the esplanade is also eye catching—and you will notice remnants of the coastline’s history as place ships were docked when the river was an important facilitator of the city’s wealth.

The commercial ships that ply the water now are a source of curiosity for our children. They are very few and far between as the east coast of Manhattan and Queens and Brooklyn across the river get redeveloped into parkland.

Another site sure to attract the eyes of young adventurers is a big rock jutting out from the river. This rock is named Mill Rock—and it once had a neighbor—Flood Rock. The these rocks made travel up the East River so treacherous that the Army Corps of Engineers used 500,000 pounds of explosives to destroy Flood Rock in 1885, a handy thing to cite when reinforcing fifth-grade geography topics with our son, Riley.

Getting There

The 4, 5, 6 trains have the drop off points closest to this area—depending upon where you want to begin.

 

 

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