Vowing to “leave no New Yorker behind,” Mayor de Blasio took his oath of office Wednesday in an inaugration ceremony that signaled a sea change in city government and policies after 20 years of Republican and independent rule.
From the opening remarks of actor Harry Belafonte to the strident words of teenage poet Ramya Ramana, the themes of income inequality that de Blasio struck during his “tale of two cities” campaign drove the inauguration of the city’s 109th mayor.
And while speaker after speaker amplified de Blasio’s calls for taking on “the elite” and fighting for “everyday people,” a grim-faced Bloomberg could only listen and applaud politely.
“When I said we would take dead aim at the tale of two cities, I meant it,” de Blasio declared. “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.”
He added, “Our march towards a fairer, more just, more progressive place, our march to keep the promise of New York alive for the next generation – it begins today.”
Five thousand people, many huddled under blankets, attended the 81-minute ceremony on the front steps of City Hall.
Frank Franklin II/AP
New York Mayor de Blasio waves to the 5,000 members of the public who attended his inauguration.
Two other Democrats were also sworn in to citywide offices: Letitia James as public advocate and Scott Stringer as comptroller.
The partisan tone of the ceremony – at times, sharply critical of the Bloomberg – represented a sharp departure from past inaugurals.
It wasn’t until former President Bill Clinton spoke more than 50 minutes into the ceremony that someone from the podium offered praise to Bloomberg.
“I also want to thank Mayor Bloomberg who has committed so much of his life to this city,” said Clinton, who spoke briefly before administering the ceremonial oath to the new mayor.
De Blasio also took a moment to single out his predecessor.
“Thank you Mayor Bloomberg. Let’s acknowledge the incredible commitment of our mayor,” de Blasio said, citing Bloomberg’s efforts to fight global warming and improve public health.
Corey Sipkin/New York Daily News
Mayor de Blasio is joined Wednesday by his very telegenic family — his wife, Chirlane, and their children, Dante and Chiara.
De Blasio also thanked another former mayor on the stage, David Dinkins, for helping launch him on his political path.
Towering over much of the throng and beaming despite 31-degree cold, de Blasio spent much of his address emphasizing the themes that propelled him to the mayoralty.
He repeated his campaign vow to “ask the very wealthy to pay a little more in taxes,” to fund full-day pre-K programs. He said the cost for the ultra rich would amount to the price of a small soy latte every day.
“We do not ask more of the wealthy to punish success,” he said. “We do it to create more success stories.”
Sitting behind the 6-foot-5 mayor and soaking up the applause with him was his telegenic family — his wife, Chirlane McCray, and their teenage children, Dante and Chiara, whose appearances in campaign ads helped propel the longshot mayoral wannabe to City Hall.
Mayor de Blasio shakes hands with his former boss President Clinton on Wednesday at City Hall.
When de Blasio finished speaking, the family linked hands while “Good Times,” a disco hit from 1979 by the band Chic, blared.
The speeches also were notable for what was not said. The only specific reference to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack came 21 minutes into the ceremony and was made by one of the chaplains. By contrast, 9/11 shadowed Bloomberg’s first inaugural, which occurred less than four months after two airplanes brought down the World Trade Center.
De Blasio, 52, officially became hizzoner early Wednesday morning just minutes into the new year when state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman administered the oath of office outside the new mayor’s modest Brooklyn rowhouse.
Then, on Wednesday morning, de Blasio hopped aboard a No. 4 train in from Park Slope for his first trip as mayor to City Hall.
Along with the swearing in of James and Stringer, the day marked a return of Democratic control of City Hall for the first time in two decades after the mayoralties of Bloomberg and Republican Rudy Giuliani, who did not attend Wednesday’s ceremony.
And Bloomberg, once the leader of eight million New Yorkers, was back to being Michael Bloomberg, media mogul, after a dozen years in power.
Corey Sipkin/New York Daily News
The de Blasios, from left, Dante, Chiara and Chirlane and the mayor wave to the crowd.
Indeed, the swearing-in ceremony featured a who’s who of Democratic heavyweights.
In addition to Clinton there was his wife, former New York senator and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. De Blasio worked for the ex-President in the Department of Housing and Urban Development and helped manage Hillary Clinton’s successful senate run in 2000.
Also on hand was Gov. Cuomo, who was de Blasio’s boss at HUD, and two former governors — Cuomo’s dad, Mario, and David Paterson.
More than a dozen of de Blasio’s relatives attended the ceremony, including his brother Steven Wilhelm and cousin John Wilhelm, a national labor leader.
“I’ve always watched the boy for a long time, and I always thought he was terrific,” said Jean Wilhelm, the mayor’s 86-year-old aunt. “He really cares so much about people. He always has.”
Many members of McCray’s large extended family were also present.
KEITH BEDFORD / MAYORS OFFICE / HANDOUT/EPA
Mayor de Blasio had two swearing-in ceremonies. Above, he is sworn-in at midnight by New York Attorney General Eric Scheniderman at his home in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
“We are so proud,” said McCray’s sister, Cynthia Davis.
De Blasio won by reaching out to New Yorkers who felt disenfranchised during the Bloomberg years. In taking up the progressive cause, de Blasio also became a hero to liberals across the U.S. who will be watching him closely, hoping his ascention to power can be repeated in other states.
In a symbolic gesture, 11-year-old Dasani Coates, a homeless child whose plight was featured in a New York Times series about the explosion of families living in city shelters, was given a seat by the inaugural committee on stage.
She also had a featured role in the ceremony, holding the bible on which James recited her oath “My new BFF,” James said of the young girl.
“This is so cool,” Dasani said before the ceremony, wearing a pink scarf and gold hoop earrings. She added that “never in a million years” did she imagine she would attend the proceedings, let alone be featured prominently.
A fifth of the 5,000 tickets for the inauguration were set aside for regular New Yorkers, who waited patiently in line after the ceremony for the chance to shake the hand of the new mayor.
Also sworn in Wednesday was Bill Bratton as police commissioner to replace Raymond Kelly. Bratton took his oath of office at Police Headquarters in lower Manhattan just after midnight. It is Bratton’s second stint as the city’s top cop. He served as police commissioner under Giuliani.
With Annie Karni, Daniel Beekman and Celeste Katz