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Cuomo starts 2nd term as governor; delivers inaugural speech saying a unified New York can overcome discord

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. Credit: AP / Craig Ruttle

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo began his second term Thursday with a speech framing inequality in the economy, education and the justice system as problems that New York State can lead the nation in tackling.

Cuomo, delivering his inaugural address from the 64th floor of One World Trade Center, focused largely on sweeping statements rather than specific policy, which could come at the State of the State Jan. 7.

In New Year's Day remarks to more than 100 invited guests, Cuomo said a unified New York can address a negative perception of policing or the barriers to quality education and economic advancement that exist in many minority communities.

Cuomo cited the rebuilding of the site from which he spoke, after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, as an example of the state's resolve.

"You give us adversity, we turn it into opportunity," he said. "That's what these challenges are asking us to do: to take that great diversity that is New York and find the commonality, and to come together for the good of New York."

A number of elected leaders attended Cuomo's 30-minute address, including Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Rep. Peter King (R-Seaford), Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Democratic New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, Democratic Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone and Republican Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano.

Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch, who blasted de Blasio after last month's ambush killings of two NYPD officers in Brooklyn, also was present. He heard Cuomo speak of a climate that has generally pitted pro-police voices against those calling for significant law enforcement reforms.

"The world saw an African-American man in Staten Island die," Cuomo said, referring to Eric Garner, who died last summer after an NYPD officer apparently used a banned chokehold to subdue him. "And people are confused, disappointed and angry. Law enforcement officials have been wrongfully targeted and even assassinated.

"The situation has devolved into one where everyone is talking and no one is listening," Cuomo said, adding, "the justice system needs review" and "police officers need more safety and more protection."

Lynch said in a statement: "It is reassuring to hear the calm, practical and reasoning voice of Governor Andrew Cuomo and his call for respect and support of law enforcement."

Although calling the tension between law enforcement and the communities they are sworn to protect a national issue, Cuomo said, "it is also our responsibility to solve it here in the state of New York."

Cuomo's remarks came after he and Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul took the oath of office. Cuomo delivered a second speech Thursday in Buffalo, where he has focused on redevelopment.

The governor also hit on first-term accomplishments, such as legalization of same-sex marriage, but mostly steered clear of referencing stalled ethics reform efforts or clashes with teachers over evaluations and charter schools. Still, Cuomo made education reform a broader theme, saying: "Today we have two education systems . . . one for the rich and one for the poor."

Cuomo quoted his father, former Gov. Mario Cuomo, who died just hours after the swearing-in ceremony, in saying the state -- "a collection of the most daring, bold, accepting people from all countries on the globe" -- could start making progress on that broad issue and others.

"We'll lead the nation by our example once again," he said.

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