Though the wind was biting, hundreds of New Yorkers bundled in down coats and winter boots to witness Bill de Blasio, the 109th mayor of the City of New York, be sworn in on New Year’s Day.
In a ceremony touted as “an inauguration for all New Yorkers,” the energy was optimistic when de Blasio placed his hand on a Bible that once belonged to Franklin D. Roosevelt.
“He’s unlike any politician I’ve ever seen,” Tabitha Montgomery, a Sunnyside resident said as she eagerly sipped hot cider out of one of the complimentary Thermoses given out at the door. “We’ve seen the same faces for so long. It’s nice to have someone who you feel is finally on your side. To be included in this is just fantastic.”
In fact, that was the theme of the Jan. 1 celebration: inclusion. From the beginning of his campaign to his swearing in, de Blasio said he has set out to bring New Yorkers together.
“When I said we would take dead aim at the Tale of Two Cities, I meant it and we will do it,” he said after his swearing in — presided over by former President Bill Clinton. “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.”
The now former Mayor Bloomberg was in attendance though he did take some hits from several speakers, especially the new Public Advocate Letitia James.
“The growing gap between the haves and the have-nots undermines our city and tears at the fabric of our democracy,” James said. “We live in a gilded age of inequality where decrepit homeless shelters and housing developments stand in the neglected shadow of gleaming multimillion-dollar condos.”
She went on to criticize the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk tactic, saying the police abuses “have been touted as ‘success stories’ as if crime can only be reduced by infringing on the civil liberties of people of color.”
It wasn’t until Clinton spoke, about an hour into the ceremony, that Bloomberg was recognized for his work. De Blasio also briefly thanked him.
“To say the least, you led our city through some extremely difficult times, and for that, we are all grateful,” de Blasio said. “Your passion on issues such as environmental protection and public health has built a noble legacy.”
Throughout the speeches, Bloomberg remained stone-faced, politely clapping after each speaker but visibly unpleased.
Newly inaugurated Comptroller Scott Stringer was a little less critical but assured the public that there would be changes made in the new government.
“There will be those who say that we as a city cannot afford to tackle poverty and inequality,” Stringer said. “As comptroller, I say we can’t afford not to.”
De Blasio, with wife Chirlane McCray and their children, Chiara and Dante, took the subway to the City Hall station, greeting bystanders who were unable to get a ticket to the outdoor event.
“I love that he invited the public,” Dwayne Henderson of Douglaston said. “I think it sends a good message, a message I never got with Bloomberg in office. I see good things with de Blasio.”
Members of the City Council’s Queens delegation were present, including Councilmen Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton). Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens) and Grace Meng (D-Flushing) were also in attendance.
Overall, the crowd seemed pumped up for change, hooting and hollering when speakers touched on topics they are passionate about.
“In a way this reminds me of Obama,” Chelsea Klausner of Richmond Hill said. “Everything is fresh, everything is open and we’re all witnessing it. I know it’s kind of cheesy but it makes me feel cared for. It makes me feel that the city will be a better and more accepting place.”
After the inauguration, the public was invited to shake hands with de Blasio, James and Stringer. A reception was held afterward in City Hall