House Party: Mayor Turns Gracie Mansion Into Grand Prospect Hall for Weddings
Eric Adams has already presided over three weddings at his official residence, saying he wants the ‘people’s house’ to be open to New Yorkers.
A 1799 wood-frame mansion along the East River, home to nearly every mayor since Fiorello La Guardia, is now the hottest catering hall in New York City.
Mayor Eric Adams has presided over at least three marriage or civil union ceremonies in his first 16 months in office — including ones for a registered lobbyist, a City Hall staffer, and a “caviar heiress”-social media influencer — outpacing his most recent predecessors.
The weddings, along with other events held at the mayor’s official address, are part of an attempt to make Gracie Mansion more accessible, an Adams spokesperson told THE CITY.
Excluding food and labor, the lucky couples don’t have to pay to rent the space at the historic home, the spokesperson said, making it one of the cheapest venues in New York City — if you can get it.
“Mayor Adams has been clear that Gracie Mansion is the people’s house and he wants the public to be able to experience as many events there as possible,” spokesperson Fabien Levy told THE CITY.
“In addition to being used for mayoral events, Gracie Mansion also serves as the residence for the mayor, where he can hold private events as any individual would in their own home. Costs associated with these events, like flowers, catering, photography, and more, are not borne by the city.”
The mayor’s office said that labor and materials costs for the events, including the wait staff, catering, music, photography, flowers, are covered by the people throwing the event.
But there could still be public expenses associated with holding parties at Gracie Mansion.
Events held at Gracie Mansion involve multiple city agencies, including the Parks Department and the house staff who work for the Mayor’s Office, according to a job listing for a “house manager” with a salary of $75,000 to $80,000.
The job post details responsibilities ranging from “daily opening and closing of Gracie Mansion” to supervising “Parks Department and external vendors to facilitate seamless communication and execution for tent events and indoor events.”
Unlike other quintessential local backdrops, like the various borough botanical gardens and Central Park — Gracie Mansion doesn’t include any information on its website about the possibility of holding a wedding there, let alone the cost.
Other historic homes around the city rent their space for weddings for thousands of dollars. Renting the privately owned historic 18th-century Vander Ende-Onderdonk House and museum in Ridgewood, Queens — which covers an entire weekend — costs $5,400 with a $750 refundable deposit, according to the events coordinator.
The cost to rent out the Prospect Park Boathouse ranges between $4,500 and $7,500 for several hours, according to the Prospect Park Alliance.
Events at Gracie Mansion are run through the Mayor’s Office of Special Projects and Community Events.
But there is also the nonprofit Gracie Mansion Conservancy, launched in 1981 to raise money to preserve the home and to place historic art inside.
Requests for comment to the office of Gracie Mansion Conservancy Executive Director Rhonda Binda — who was appointed by Adams earlier this year — were referred to the mayor’s press office.
Not Just Weddings
It’s been a longstanding tradition for mayors to hold cultural and community events at Gracie Mansion.
Earlier this month, Mayor Adams hosted a Nowruz party for the Persian New Year and last week held a Greek heritage event, but several other events have not appeared on Adams’ public schedule — showing up only in social media.
THE CITY submitted Freedom of Information Law requests for the the list of events, including weddings, held at Gracie Mansion since Adams took office, along with names of attendees. Those requests have not been fulfilled, with the mayor’s FOIL office citing the “volume of requests” received.
Some of the private events were confirmed from social media posts, or observed by THE CITY.
Lobbyist and political consultant Scott Levenson’s wedding to his former intern Ademi Toregeldiyeva in January was not listed on the mayor’s public schedule, but was posted on Twitter.
As the president of The Advance Group, Levenson and his firm are registered with 37 different clients for lobbying between 2022 and 2023, according to records filed with the City Clerk. The company’s clients include Communications Workers of America Local 1180; Hotel, Restaurant & Club Employees and Bartenders Union, Local 6; Jamaica Hospital; and several real estate projects.
Levenson did not respond to multiple emails and calls seeking comment.
In December, Adams presided over the nuptials of Miosotis Munoz, a deputy commissioner in the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs, to Dr. Walid Michelen, an executive at ArchCare.
And last August, the mayor presided over the civil union of Aloni Matzon, a waste-compacting entrepreneur, and Danielle Zaslavsky, an influencer and “caviar heiress.”
In Instagram posts, the Miami-based Zaslavsky thanked Adams for leading their ceremony.
She told THE CITY in a brief phone call that the couple did not pay for the use of the space, but “had a few people who helped us who made it happen.”
Zaslavsky said, “I believe it is a public space so if you fill out forms and give notice, you can rent out the space, you can borrow the space, you can make donations to local New York City charities to use the space” — but declined to say which, if any, charities she gave to.
Bringing a completely different vibe, local employees of U.S. Customs and Border Protection held a holiday party at Gracie Mansion on December 15, right after an annual holiday party held for members of the news media.
As incoming guests passed reporters leaving their own party in the rain, attendees did not answer THE CITY’s questions about who the party was for, but social media posts later confirmed it was for CBP.
The party for the media is a long-held tradition between the mayor’s office and the journalists who cover City Hall, who paid $50 each to cover the cost of a small open bar and passed vegan hors d’oeuvres from 6 to 9 p.m.
A mayor’s spokesperson said CBP paid for all of the costs associated with the party but did not explain how the event came to take place at Gracie Mansion. A spokesperson for the Border Patrol did not respond to an email seeking comment.
New York’s appointed ethical watchdogs told THE CITY there don’t seem to be any rules being broken by the mayor using his voter-given home to host parties for friends and political allies.
Carolyn Miller, the executive director of the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board, said her office is focused on restricting gifts from lobbyists to elected officials and “that law does not extend to any other activities by lobbyists.”
The mayor is also allowed to host personal social events at Gracie Mansion, Miller added.
“The mayor gives access to who he gives access to,” Mark Davies, a former executive director and counsel of the Conflicts of Interest Board, told THE CITY.
“If the mayor’s not getting anything out of it and it’s not a violation, I don’t see anything that’s wrong with it.”
It’s unclear how to quantify the cost and value of renting out Gracie Mansion, one of the most famous homes in the city, complete with a wedding officiated by the city’s mayor.
But the series of weddings within the first 13 months of his administration demonstrate a departure from the ways of the previous two mayors.
Mayor Bill de Blasio sometimes presided over weddings, but they were usually inside the governor’s room at City Hall, according to his schedules. In his eight years as mayor, he hosted no wedding celebrations at Gracie Mansion, schedules show.
And Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who chose not to live in Gracie Mansion, hosted just three weddings at the home during his 12 years in office.
One of those was the wedding of his predecessor, former mayor Rudy Giuiliani, to his now ex-wife, Judith Nathan, on the mansion’s lawn in 2003.
Two years later, Bloomberg performed the ceremony for his daughter, Emma, in a last-minute change after he realized his authority as marriage officiant did not extend to Westchester, the wedding’s original location.
And Bloomberg also officiated the same-sex nuptials of two staffers, his chief policy advisor John Feinblatt and commissioner for consumer affairs Jonathan Mintz, at Gracie in 2011.
La Guardia was the first mayor to live in the mansion, and the first to host a wedding there.
In decades since, most of the weddings held at Gracie Mansion were of people employed by the city, or working closely to it — or at least related to the mayor, as was the case with Harold Koch, Mayor Ed’s brother.
Outside the City Clerk’s office in Manhattan – another city-owned building for weddings – some said they wouldn’t mind a ceremony at the mayor’s home, and for free.
“It’s nice over there, it’s nice to be married over there,” said Luann, who declined to give her last name. Her daughter Samantha was married Thursday afternoon at the city Marriage Bureau — but they planned a small dinner with family and friends after.
David Nieves, 47, from Manhattan, who is planning to marry his fiancee Pilar Luciano, 41, said it is a nice option for some couples.
“For those that want it, yes, it would be a nice option,” Nieves said. “For us, I don’t think we want it.”