January 1, 2014
De Blasio Tells New York, ‘We Will Not Wait’ on Inequality
By THOMAS KAPLAN
Claiming his place as the 109th mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio delivered an inaugural address on Wednesday that focused on the issue of inequality, promising that the attention he gave to the subject when he was running for office was not merely campaign rhetoric.
Outside City Hall, in front of an audience that included members of his family, luminaries like Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton and hundreds of ordinary New Yorkers, Mayor de Blasio spoke of the city’s history of embracing liberal causes, and he laid out a mayoralty that emphasized social and economic justice.
“We are called to put an end to economic and social inequalities that threaten to unravel the city we love,” he said. “And so today, we commit to a new progressive direction in New York. And that same progressive impulse has written our city’s history. It’s in our DNA.”
He called on “millions of everyday New Yorkers, in every corner of our city,” for their help.
“Our work begins now,” Mr. de Blasio told the audience, saying he would push for the development of affordable housing, the preservation of local hospitals and the expansion of prekindergarten. For several causes, he punctuated his call for action with the words: “We won’t wait.”
Mr. de Blasio, 52, was formally sworn in shortly after midnight in a brief ceremony in front of his family’s rowhouse in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
Shortly after 1 p.m., he was ceremonially sworn in by former President Clinton, in whose administration he had served as a regional official in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Mr. de Blasio was sworn in using a Bible once owned by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
He spoke for about 20 minutes, during a ceremony that began with hip-hop music and ended with an invitation for New Yorkers to meet the new mayor.
A Democrat, Mr. de Blasio begins his term as an emblem of resurgent liberalism, offering hope to progressive activists and officeholders across the country — but also as an untested chief executive whose management of the city will be closely scrutinized.
Previously the city’s public advocate and before that a city councilman, Mr. de Blasio rose out of obscurity in a crowded Democratic primary field as he shaped his campaign around the “tale of two cities” — a succinct summation of the rising income inequality he vowed he would urgently address as the next mayor.
“We will make this one city,” Mr. de Blasio said in his inaugural address. “And that mission — our march toward a fairer, more just, more progressive place, our march to keep the promise of New York alive for the next generation — it begins today.”
The mayor also spoke of his proposal to expand prekindergarten and after-school programs by increasing taxes on high-earning New Yorkers.
“We do not ask more of the wealthy to punish success,” he said. “We do it to create more success stories.”
Mr. de Blasio won a landslide victory on Nov. 5 over the Republican candidate, Joseph J. Lhota, seizing on an anxiety among voters that the city was increasingly becoming a gilded enclave for the rich, and vowing a sharp turn from the administration of his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg, who had served for 12 years.
The new mayor appeared at City Hall on Wednesday with his wife, Chirlane McCray; his 19-year-old daughter, Chiara; and his 16-year-old son, Dante.
Mr. de Blasio’s successor as public advocate, Letitia James, who had been a city councilwoman, was also inaugurated on Wednesday, as was the new city comptroller, Scott M. Stringer, who had been the Manhattan borough president.
Children played an unexpectedly prominent role in the swearings-in of both Ms. James and Mr. Stringer.
Dasani Coates, the 12-year-old girl at the center of a recent New York Times series about the plight of the 22,000 homeless children in New York City, was called upon by Ms. James to hold the Bible while she was being sworn in.
In the series, Dasani and her family — her parents and seven siblings — were living in a decrepit room in a homeless shelter in Brooklyn.
On Wednesday, Dasani looked happy but slightly nervous, chewing gum as she solemnly watched Ms. James take the oath of office.
Afterward, Ms. James held Dasani’s hand during her speech, and referred to her as her “new BFF.”
Earlier, as Mr. Stringer raised his left hand (not his right) to be sworn in, his young son Max, whom his wife, Elyse Buxbaum, was holding, squirmed and seemed to register a few audible objections.
But Mr. Stringer managed to get through his oath. Afterward, he joked of Max, “He’s not quite ready for a television commercial yet, but we’re working on it.”