Actor Harry Belafonte lamented “issues of race perpetuated by the depth of human indifference to poverty.” A chaplain’s invocation bemoaned “the plantation of New York City.” The new public advocate, Letitia James, assailed “land grabs for more luxury condos.”
As the 109th mayor was sworn in yesterday, speaker after speaker at Bill de Blasio’s inauguration ripped the 108th mayor’s legacy. Through it all, the man introduced for the first time in public as “former Mayor Michael Bloomberg” sat stone-faced on the frigid podium, arms and legs crossed.
“I’m pretty sure that Mayor Bloomberg wanted to escape during some of the speeches,” said audience member Tanya Elder, 49, of Brooklyn, who once performed with the street-theater group Billionaires for Bush. “But it’s stuff he also needs to hear after 12 years.”
Only more than an hour into the ceremony, following eight speakers, did someone — Bill Clinton, who was there to ceremonially swear in de Blasio — say anything nice about the man who reigned for three terms that ended a day earlier.
“He made the city stronger and healthier than he found it,” the former president said. “More people are coming here than leaving.”
The compliment sent Bloomberg’s girlfriend, Diana Taylor, into sustained applause.
De Blasio, who campaigned for mayor last year with Bloomberg as his foil, yesterday said only nice things about his predecessor. He even ad-libbed additional praise for Bloomberg — “let’s acknowledge the incredible commitment of our mayor” — on top of prepared remarks celebrating Bloomberg’s work on the environment and public health.
Later in the day, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s office sent out a statement commending Bloomberg “for his years of service that have left New York City better off than when he found it.”
D. Pulane Lucas of Fort Greene, wife of Rev. Fred Lucas, the Brooklyn pastor who made the plantation remark, had a more nuanced assessment of the Bloomberg years than her husband, a Sanitation Department chaplain.
“I liked the balance that he (de Blasio) gave. He did recognize Bloomberg’s accomplishments after Bloomberg pretty much took a beating,” she said.
The lists of who else was and wasn’t at the inauguration reflected the scars and sideshows of the past political year and provided grist for forward-looking politics watchers.
Present were two potential 2016 presidential candidates — Hillary Clinton and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Also there was Hillary Clinton’s close aide, Huma Abedin.
Absent were Abedin’s husband, former Rep. Anthony Weiner, whose attempted comeback from sexting scandal failed; former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who had campaigned for de Blasio rival Joe Lhota; and former NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly, a constant target of de Blasio. Most if not all of de Blasio’s other opponents from 2013 mayor’s race were absent.
Another no-show was de Blasio’s chief spokeswoman, Lis Smith, who has been “on vacation,” as de Blasio has put it, since shortly she was revealed to be dating former Gov. Eliot Spitzer.
(With Dan Rivoli)