Feting a New Mayor, and Skewering the Last One

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Bill de Blasio on election night, Nov. 5,  2013 Bill de Blasio on election night, Nov. 5, 2013 (Stephen Nessen/WNYC)

Bill de Blasio took the oath of office administered by former President Bill Clinton on Wednesday, formally becoming the 109th mayor of New York City while pledging to pursue a sweeping liberal agenda.

"Big dreams are not a luxury reserved for a privileged few but the animating force behind every community, in every borough," he said in his speech.

De Blasio thanked his family, supporters and the city for "taking on the elite" and pushing for change.

"When I said we would take dead aim at the tale of two cities, I meant it. And we will do it. I will honor the faith and trust you have placed in me. And we will give life to the hope of so many in our city. We will succeed ... as one city."

De Blasio reached out to those he said were left behind during the Bloomberg administration, and he called for a tax increase on the wealthy to pay for universal pre-kindergarten.

"We do not ask more of the wealthy to punish success," he said. "We do it to create more success stories."

He also pledged to improve economic opportunities in minority and working-class neighborhoods and decried allegations of abuse under the police department's stop-and-frisk policy.

Throughout the inaugural ceremonies, there was a theme of rebuke for the Bloomberg Administration. Singer Harry Belafonte, one of the first to address the crowd, referred to stop and frisk.

"The change of the law is only the tip of the iceberg in fixing our deeply Dickensian justice system," Belafonte said.

The city's new Public Advocate, Leticia James, who was sworn in before de Blasio, delivered a sprawling speech that focused on what she called the "unspoken for."

"The policies that make them voiceless must give way to a government that works for them, that speaks for them, that cares more about a child going hungry than a new stadium or a new tax credit for a luxury development," she said.

James was sworn in next to David Dinkins, the city's first African American mayor, and Dasani, a 12-year-old homeless girl profiled in a recent New York Times series. James brought Dasani up to the podium during the speech and called the girl her new BFF.

The city's new comptroller, Scott Stringer, was also sworn in alongside his wife and two young children.

De Blasio, 52, was first sworn in 12 hours earlier at a brief modest ceremony outside his home in Brooklyn's Park Slope neighborhood. Flanked only by his wife, Chirlane McCray, and their two teenage children, he was administered the oath by state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, signed the official paperwork and, with a broad smile, paid the requisite $9 fee to the city clerk.

The events at City Hall were conducted on a far grander scale.

Clinton was joined by his wife, ex-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is a presumptive White House front-runner in 2016. Another presidential candidate, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, also sat nearby, as did former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, just hours into his first day as a private citizen after spending 12 years in office.

In addition to Belafonte, the celebrities in attendance included actresses Cynthia Nixon and Patina Miller.

New Yorkers streamed into City Hall plaza throughout the morning for the inauguration ceremonies. The temperature was low, at about 30 degrees. Spectators huddled under the blue blankets provided by ceremony staffers. Others danced to pre-ceremony music on the speakers from Madonna, the Jackson 5 and Stevie Wonder. New commissioners weaved through the crowd, greeting guests from all five boroughs.

Christopher Sui from Queens, a city employee, said he came to the ceremony to meet his new boss. "I see change coming. A lot of people are getting hired now, the economy's going up, crime's down. The city can only go further from here." Sui praised de Blasio's "gumption" and commitment to fight inequality.

Lauretta Jaysura came to the inauguration from Coop City in the Bronx. She said she's pleased "to have a Democrat back in Gracie Mansion."

With reporting by WNYC's Jessica Gould and the Associated Press


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