Mayor Bill de Blasio was sworn in Monday for a second and final term, with the oath of office administered by his progressive political hero Bernie Sanders.
Promising that the mayoralty would continue to resist the right-leaning approach of President Donald Trump — whose name not one speaker uttered — de Blasio said “to do anything less would be an affront to our very identity as New Yorkers.”
De Blasio, 56, in November became the city’s first Democratic mayor to win re-election since Ed Koch in 1985. De Blasio, who won about 66 percent of the vote, predicted that New York’s liberalism would spread across the United States.
“In this heyday of hatred, this new dawn of divisiveness, we in our city refused to be dragged down to a place we know is beneath us. We know that the gaudy celebration of discrimination based on faith or color or nationality is simply un-American,” de Blasio said. “We know the overt and gleeful prejudice that is suddenly in vogue spits in the face of all that has made our city great, and we will not be passive in the face of regression.”
In the 13-minute address delivered partly in Spanish, de Blasio vowed to ease life for the non-rich and make New York City more affordable.
“The deepest, truest stakeholders of this town,” he said, “are the people who do the work — who every day make this city come to life, but have too often not reaped the rewards.”
Absent from the dais was the Democratic establishment that came four years ago to fete de Blasio’s ascension, including Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who has since feuded with the mayor, and Hillary and Bill Clinton, who swore de Blasio into office the last time. The following year, de Blasio endorsed Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid, but did so months after the Democratic mainstream; he reportedly wanted to give the nod to Clinton foe Sanders.
And in contrast with de Blasio’s first inauguration, when 5,000 packed the City Hall plaza, there were, according to his spokesman Eric Phillips, about 950 who came to Monday’s ceremony.
Monday’s low-key event had none of the dazzle seen in previous inaugural ceremonies at City Hall. In 2006, Michael Bloomberg’s celebrated his first re-election with a performance by actress Liza Minnelli, hot cider and doughnuts for the crowd.
Before leading de Blasio through the oath of office, Sanders assailed Trump’s governing, particularly the suspension of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, an Obama-era temporary amnesty for young immigrants living illegally in the United States.
De Blasio has earned plaudits on the left and ire on the right for refusing to turn over nearly all criminal arrestees who are at risk of deportation, kicking the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency out of the Rikers Island jail, and suggesting that he would continue to employ DACA beneficiaries, even if their permission to work in the country is revoked.
“In this city at least,” Sanders said, “they are safe.”
Sanders hailed de Blasio’s priorities — prekindergarten for all city 4-year-olds, more below-market-rate housing, and a focus on mental health led by de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray.
“The bottom line is that what Mayor de Blasio and his administration understand,” said Sanders, a U.S. senator from Vermont, “in this country, in the home of Ellis Island, our job is to bring people together with love and compassion and to end the divisions and the attacks that are taking place.”
In her opening remarks, First Lady Chirlane McCray had a similar message, calling New York City the “light that illuminates a better way forward.”
“We don’t build walls here, we open our doors wide,” she said, taking a jab at Trump's promise to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
The inauguration — also for the second terms of Public Advocate Tish James and Comptroller Scott Stringer, Democrats who like de Blasio are term-limited — was in front of City Hall in frigid temperatures. City workers distributed hand warmers and city-blue blankets; others huddled around heat lamps placed throughout the plaza.
Peter Gleason, who is involved in local politics and attended the ceremony, said he supports de Blasio’s progressive agenda “with what’s going on not only at the state and local level, but the national level.”
“We have to get behind the mayor,” he said.
With Lisa L. Colangelo