Gracie Mansion, built in Manhattan in 1799, has been the official residence of the Mayor of New York City for over 70 years. Overlooking the East River, the manor has become a popular sightseeing destination for tourists looking to catch a glimpse of the head of the city. However, that all may change: current mayor Bill de Blasio recently erected a “privacy fence” around the residence, angering many who claim it defies an established tradition.
While Gracie Mansion has always been surrounded by a red brick wall and wrought iron fence, the mayor has now added a taller white fence inside its perimeter. This alternative fencing adds another four feet to the barrier, further shielding the famous house from passerby. The mayor reportedly requested the fence be built because he was tired of people from nearby Carl Schulz Park looking in and speaking to him when he was in the yard.
The New York City Parks Department, which maintains the taxpayer-funded landmark mansion, stated that the fence was installed due to security concerns. The department declined to comment on the cost of the project, further fueling debate over the project.
Despite the controversy, privacy fences are becoming common throughout the United States. In fact, the U.S. fencing industry is expecting demands for the structures to increase 7% every year, reaching $9 million by 2018, equal to 875 million linear feet.
“Privacy Fences have become extremely popular over the years due to the multiple benefits they offer, says Karen Beitzell, President, Beitzell Fence Company. “The fence can act as a wind barrier which keeps the wind from damaging plant life and protecting the property from the elements. Security benefits include keeping out unwanted persons or animals along with being a sound barrier if someone lives near a noisy road.”
However, many people in New York City are still dismissive of the fence, seeing it as a representation of how de Blasio’s term has differed from his presentation as an open, progressive candidate during his campaign. Many have pointed out that a bigger fence was not necessary for previous mayors who lived at Gracie Mansion, which is called the “People’s House” in many visitors’ guides. The change has caused some city residents to compare de Blasio to his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, who did not live in the mansion but often held events there which were visible to the public through the original fence.