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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's inaugural speech tries to reconcile the upbeat with the grim

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during an

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo speaks during an inaugural address at One World Trade Center in New York, Thursday, Jan. 1, 2015. Photo Credit: AP / Craig Ruttle

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo is well-known for keeping up the pressure and the adrenaline.

Moments after Court of Appeals Judge Sheila Abdus-Salaam administered his second-term oath, he clearly intended to give his listeners the impression that the state will boldly confront broad, urgent challenges ahead.

But outgoing Lt. Gov. Bob Duffy, incoming Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, and Cuomo himself had all just finished speaking of how New York in his first term bounced back from deficits to surpluses and made strides on key issues.

So in seeking to reconcile the upbeat with the grim in matters of justice, education and economic inequality, Cuomo played the national card a bit.

"In many ways the most severe problems we face go beyond the borders of our state," he said. "We have seen the national unrest and the national discord; the American promise itself is being questioned."

That kind of statement could serve to fuel more loose chatter about his harboring national ambitions in 2016. More likely, however, it is about Albany in 2015.

Some of the difficulty with Cuomo's declared goal of "unifying" New Yorkers was visible during the half-hour in which guests waited for the ceremony to get underway.

On one side of a sunlit room on the 64th floor of the new One World Trade Center stood Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch, chatting with such public figures as Public Advocate Letitia James and ex-city Comptroller Bill Thompson.

On the other side of the room -- right on time, per his announced New Year's resolution -- landed high-profile New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who greeted others.

Everyone this side of Antarctica knows Lynch and de Blasio are highly alienated.

In his speech, Cuomo delivered words Lynch could appreciate: "Law enforcement officials have been wrongfully targeted and even assassinated."

But Cuomo prefaced that by stating: "The world saw an African-American man in Staten Island die. And people are confused, disappointed and angry."

"The truth is, law enforcement needs the respect of the community as much as the community needs to respect law enforcement. . . . This is a New York City issue, it is a Buffalo issue, it is a Ferguson issue, a Los Angeles issue, but it is also our responsibility to solve it here in the state of New York."

How all this might or might not translate into changes of policy and law has yet to unfold.

The New Year's speech also had its moments of poignancy and humor.

Cuomo played off Duffy's having referred to Cuomo's family as his "team." The governor called it "a quality team" indeed. "I'm just the good looks of the operation," he said, to some laughs.

"Yeah, then we'd be in real trouble."

The poignancy came after he thanked his long-term significant other, Sandra Lee, his three daughters, his brother and sisters, and other relatives.

Neither of his parents attended. Cuomo explained that his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, was not well enough to come. "We spent last night with him, changed the tradition a little bit," he said.

"He is in the heart and mind of every person who is here," the governor added, to applause, later learning that his father had died.


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