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De Blasio era begins in New York City

Former President Bill Clinton administers the oath to

Former President Bill Clinton administers the oath to Bill de Blasio. He is joined by his wife Chirlane McCray, son Dante, and daughter Chiara, as he is sworn in as the 109th Mayor of New York City during a ceremony outside of City Hall in Manhattan. (Jan. 1, 2014) Credit: Charles Eckert

Bill de Blasio, taking charge as New York's 109th mayor, pledged from the steps of City Hall Wednesday that he will move with urgency to fulfill the promise of a "city that fights injustice and inequality."

"We won't wait. We'll do it now," he repeated after vows to expand paid sick leave, build more community health centers, reform a "broken" stop-and-frisk policy and raise taxes on the rich for education programs.

"When I said I would take dead aim at the 'tale of two cities,' I meant it," he said to cheers. "And we will do it. I will honor the faith and trust you have placed in me. And we will give life to the hope of so many in our city. We will succeed as one city."

De Blasio, 52, the city's first Democratic mayor in 20 years, was sworn in ceremonially by former president Bill Clinton, who embraced de Blasio's call to fight income inequality. "It is not just a moral outrage," he said. "It is a horrible constraint on economic growth."

The former public advocate, an early underdog in last year's Democratic primary race, won election on a platform to usher in a more egalitarian era. He claimed a mandate after beating Republican Joe Lhota in the general election with 73 percent of the vote.

Public polls reflected yearning for a new direction after three-term Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who sat stone-faced through the inauguration ceremony as some speakers took shots at his legacy.

While De Blasio called for "a fairer, more just, more progressive" New York in his speech, he avoided his past harsh criticisms of his predecessor, instead lauding Bloomberg's "incredible commitment" to his former job.

About 5,000 de Blasio supporters -- including political notables, activists and everyday New Yorkers -- sat on folding chairs, braving the cold by wrapping themselves in complimentary blankets and clutching commemorative mugs of hot cider, for the inauguration. It was a celebration of prayer, music and poetry.

The city's first family -- de Blasio, his wife, Chirlane McCray, and their children, Chiara, 19, and Dante, 16 -- received a standing ovation when they arrived on stage after traveling to City Hall by subway. The multiracial family's prominent role during the campaign has made them well-known to New Yorkers.

Political VIPs looking on included former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former governors David Paterson and Mario Cuomo, former mayors David Dinkins and Bloomberg, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo.

De Blasio needs to win support from the governor and the state legislature to fulfill a key campaign pledge that requires state approval: higher income taxes on the rich to fund universal prekindergarten and after-school programs. Cuomo has been noncommital.

The mayor called the tax a small sacrifice for the greater good. He said those earning between $500,000 and $1 million annually would see an average increase of $973 a year under his proposal. "That's less than three bucks a day -- about the cost of a small soy latte," he said.

He said steps to lift up the have-nots should not alarm well-to-do New Yorkers.

"We do not ask more of the wealthy to punish success. We do it to create more success stories," de Blasio said.

Democrats eager for the return of one of their own to the mayor's seat after 12 years of independent Bloomberg and eight years of Republican Rudy Giuliani -- who did not attend -- were exultant before, during and after the ceremony, dancing and cheering.

Maxine McCrey, 60, of Harlem, who has attended several mayoral inaugurations -- the first was John Lindsay's in 1966 -- said there is a "great new change in the city."

"It means we need to not put all our energy into the rich," she said.

After the speech, de Blasio greeted attendees who queued up to meet him, posing for photos with them, one by one, inside City Hall.

"He is so personable. We call him the people's mayor," said D. Pulane Lucas, of Fort Greene, the wife of the Rev. Fred Lucas Jr., who had delivered an inaugural invocation, after receiving a hug from the mayor.

Also inaugurated Wednesday were Letitia James as public advocate, the city's first female minority to hold citywide office, and Scott Stringer as comptroller.

With Matthew Chayes, Ivan Pereira and Dan Rivoli

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