By Mary Alice Miller
If New Yorkers didn’t know that NYC’s first Democratic and progressive mayor in 20 years is a big deal, they found out when the de Blasio transition team announced that former president Bill Clinton would conduct the new mayor’s swearing-in. The announcement came one day after 1,000 inauguration tickets (set aside for the public) were released online and snatched up within 2 hours. All other mayors in recent memory have been sworn in by a judge. But de Blasio’s relationship with Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary run deep. De Blasio managed Hillary’s successful run for U.S. Senate. And de Blasio worked for HUD during Clinton’s administration under Andrew Cuomo, which may explain why Governor Cuomo announced he will not host his annual New Year’s Day Open House at the Governor’s Mansion. Cuomo announced he would be attending de Blasio’s swearing-in.
“We have to have a city of shared opportunities, shared prosperity and shared responsibilities. This inequality problem bedevils the entire country and much of the world,” said President Clinton. “It is not only a moral outrage, it is a horrible constraint on economic growth and giving people the security they need to tackle problems like climate change.”
De Blasio continued his campaign theme of ending “economic and social inequalities that threaten to unravel the city we love.” After listing NYC’s progressive history from Al Smith to Franklin Roosevelt and Fiorello La Guardia and others who “blazed a trail of progressive reform and political action, who took on the elite, who stood up to say that social and economic justice will start here and will start now,” de Blasio emphatically declared he would take “dead aim” at the Tale of Two Cities.
“You must continue to make your voices heard,” said Mayor de Blasio. “You must be at the center of this debate.”
De Blasio’s appointments to top administration appointments have been slow and thoughtful.
De Blasio announced his selection of Zachary Carter as the city’s next Corporation Counsel. Carter was the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York and successfully prosecuted a wide variety of high-profile civil and criminal cases, including the brutal assault of Abner Louima by NYPD officers and the murder of Yankel Rosenbaum. Carter makes history as NYC’s first African-American Corporation Counsel.
Watch The Full Inauguration Here:
[ot-video type=”youtube” url=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cvqfn3RYc9U”]
De Blasio chose veteran educator Carmen Farina (on Monday) as the city’s next Schools Chancellor. Farina’s advocacy for comprehensive early education and parental involvement in school policy aligns with de Blasio’s desire for fully-funded Universal pre-K education.
Gladys Carrion is de Blasio’s pick for Commissioner of the Administration for Children’s Services. Carrion most recently served as Governor Cuomo’s Commissioner of the Office of Family Services where she led the transfer of juvenile rehabilitation services back to the city from upstate for NYC youth in order to keep youth closer to their families and communities.
De Blasio chose to keep the commissioners for fire and emergency services in place, which helped quickly and efficiently clear the streets after last week’s snowstorm.
There will be a new NYCHA chairman in the new year. John Rhea resigned as head of the embattled agency after a four-year tenure that oversaw a backlog of thousands of unaddressed repair complaints while NYCHA was found hoarding $1 billion in federal capital improvement funds and $45 million in council-allocated dollars specifically set aside for the installation of security cameras. Mold, water leaks, broken entry door locks, hundreds of warehoused apartments and attempts to divert NYCHA open public space to luxury development are the hallmarks of Rhea’s tenure. De Blasio’s appointment to chair the agency will be closely watched by hundreds of thousands of NYCHA residents.
De Blasio’s most controversial appointment is that of Bill Bratton to lead the NYPD. During his former tenure as NYPD Commissioner under Mayor Giuliani, Bratton instituted ComStat, a data-driven system to track crime. Critics believe that system undergirded the rampant escalation of unconstitutional stop-and-frisks in NYC’s communities of color. Prior to his first stint as NYC Police Commissioner, Bratton served as Superintendent of Boston’s Metropolitan District Commission Police and moved on to Chief of Boston Police. During his tenure as Superintendent, Bratton presided over a massive manhunt in Black communities after a white man – Charles Stewart – claimed that a Black man killed Stewart’s wife Carol during a carjacking. A month later, Stewart’s brother identified Charles himself as Carol’s killer.
After leaving the NYPD in 1996, Bratton served as Los Angeles Police Commissioner (2002-09) during a U.S. Department of Justice oversight consent decree from 2001-2009. The decree arose from the DOJ threat of a civil rights lawsuit resulting from decades of widespread police abuses and corruption in communities of color, including the Rodney King incident. With de Blasio vowing to end NYC’s legal challenges to the Floyd stop-and-frisk class-action lawsuit, Judge Scheindlin’s decision ordering certain officers to wear a recording device and the appointment of an independent monitor, and City Council legislation aimed at curbing stop-and-frisk violations, Bratton’s experience with leading the LAPD while it was under federal oversight may be one reason why de Blasio chose him.
One unfinished business is who will become the next Speaker of the City Council. Numerous published reports allege de Blasio has expressed that his preferred choice for Speaker is Council member Melissa Mark-Viverito, who represents parts of upper Manhattan and the Bronx. If elected by her colleagues at the council’s stated meeting on January 8, Mark-Viverito would become the first Puerto Rican woman in a citywide leadership position. The entire Brooklyn delegation is behind her, as well as the council’s Progressive Caucus. Her chief challenger is Upper East Side Council member Dan Garodnick. With Mark-Viverito as Speaker, the city’s entire top leadership would have a progressive bent. According to the City Charter, the legislative council is independent of the executive powers in the mayor’s office. Mark-Viverito’s election to Speaker would make it easier for Mayor de Blasio’s policies to pass through the council, but with the close relationship between de Blasio, Mark-Viverito and Public Advocate Letitia James, who would be a check on the powers of the mayor’s office.
Melissa Mark-Viverito has been elected speaker of New York City Council on Wednesday.
Public Advocate Letitia James’ swearing-in was a glaring reminder of what James called “the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots” that threatens to “undermine our city and tears the fabric of our democracy.” James laid out the challenges ahead: “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; where longtime residents are priced out of their own neighborhoods by rising rents and stagnant incomes; where stop-and-frisk abuses and warrantless surveillance have been touted as ‘success stories’ as if crime can only be reduced by infringing on the civil liberties of people of color; where what should be the race to the top for high-quality education has turned into a race to the bottom for standardized test scores; and where hospital closures serve as an existential threat to the health of our communities and library privatization moves are little more than land grabs for more luxury condos.” James added, “Most disturbingly, we live in an age where a New York City worker can work full-time and still need food stamps to feed her family.”
Standing by James’ side was young Dasani, the subject of a NY Times feature on NYC homelessness. Dasani’s attendance at the inauguration was a vivid reminder of the failed policies of the outgoing Bloomberg Administration. Later at her reception, James said she would consult Dasani on homeless policy.
The New Year brings new Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. As they settle into their respective offices, Brooklynites will see their agendas.