House Divided

updated 06/11/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/11/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Agracious riverside manor that serves as New York City's official mayoral residence, poor Grade Mansion is rapidly being reduced to a mere set for the city's sudsiest soap opera. On May 21 a judge ruled that Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's girlfriend, Judi Nathan, 46, could no longer visit the premises as long as Giuliani's children Andrew, 15, and Caroline, 11, live there. Last week the mayor struck back, stripping his estranged wife, Donna Hanover, 51—who also lives at Gracie Mansion and had sought Nathan's banishment—of any ceremonial role as the city's First Lady. Telling aides that it was no longer appropriate for Hanover to host events, Giuliani appointed Irene Halligan, 71, the city's protocol officer, to serve as hostess at Gracie Mansion.

And that may not be all. Last week, as Giuliani's attorney Raoul Felder filed an appeal challenging the ruling against Nathan, reports surfaced that Giuliani plans to fire Hanover's four staffers. "Nobody's being fired, but there will be reassignments," says a source close to Giuliani. Neither side would comment on reports that Giuliani also is considering moving Hanover's offices out of Gracie Mansion.

Giuliani, meanwhile, had other brushfires to stamp out. On May 27, the day before his 57th birthday, a New York Daily News report charged that the mayor has become so "distracted" by his private contretemps that the handling of the, city's affairs—the political ones, anyway—is increasingly falling to his deputies. Not so, Giuliani responded briskly. "I do this job every day. I do it as my main priority." Still, there are skeptics. "This man is spending time searching for ways to destroy [his wife]," says a First Lady ally. "It's pervasive and evil, and this is only the tip of the iceberg."

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