NEW YORK—The progressive era in New York City is officially here.
Under a cloudy sky and in the crisp January air, the next generation of citywide politicians officially took office during a ceremony at City Hall Wednesday.
Bill de Blasio became the 109th mayor. Former President Bill Clinton, who stressed the urgency of addressing inequality, administered the oath. Letitia James took the office of public advocate, and Scott Stringer became the city’s comptroller. All campaigned to bring progressive change and rid the city of the conservative policies that have ruled for two decades.
“Today, we commit to a new progressive direction in New York,” de Blasio said during his inaugural speech. “And that same progressive impulse has written our city’s history. It’s in our DNA.”
The change in dialogue was evident in every speech given during the inaugural ceremony. Gone was the praise for the positive changes that former mayor Michael Bloomberg gave to the city that has dominated the news coverage for the last two weeks.
The progressives elected to citywide office reminded New Yorkers what change they had chosen for the city when they cast their ballots two months ago.
“The wave of progressive victories our city has recently enjoyed, thanks to the City Council, was in some ways inevitable,” James said in her inaugural speech. “The fabric of our city, of our nation is made strong by the untold sacrifices of so many who are left defenseless, unrepresented, unspoken for. But at some point in history, the tide must turn.”
Bloomberg was tasked with rebuilding the city following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and continuing to rid the city of the crime that gripped it in the ’80s and ’90s. The booming city economy, historic tourism numbers, and record low murder rates show he was successful.
Now the city will take a hard left and address income inequality, the next great challenge. Roughly 46 percent of New Yorkers are living at or below poverty while the wealthiest New Yorkers continue to get wealthier.
De Blasio campaigned with the motto of the “Tale of Two Cities” and Wednesday he promised it was not just campaign rhetoric.
“When I said we would take dead aim at the Tale of Two Cities, I meant it,” de Blasio said. “And we will do it. I will honor the faith and trust you have placed in me.”
Former President Clinton said he strongly endorses de Blasio’s campaign commitment.
“The inequality problem bedevils the entire country, and I can tell you from my work, much of the world,” Clinton said. “We cannot go forward if we don’t do it together.”
Changes won’t come overnight, but de Blasio will have a much easier time than his presidential counterpart. The City Council elected 21 new members, all young and with the same progressive values as the new mayor.
If Melissa Mark-Viverito is elected speaker of the City Council in early January, de Blasio will not have to worry about legislative gridlock that hampers progressive change at the federal level.
Public Advocate James, a close ally of de Blasio, will not be providing the same checks de Blasio, as public advocate, gave to former mayor Bloomberg. With their goal being the same, de Blasio and James are sure to cooperate.
If the last 12 years were about building up the city, the next four appear to be about lifting up the people. With the people behind him as well as his fellow officials, de Blasio has favorable conditions for change in the new progressive era.