NEW YORK – Bill de Blasio was to be sworn in as the 109th mayor of New York City on Wednesday, becoming the first Democrat to occupy City Hall in more than two decades while vowing to pursue a sweeping liberal agenda for the nation’s largest city.
The new mayor was elected two months ago by a record margin on the promise of being a sharp break from Michael Bloomberg, who leaves office after 12 years that reshaped New York, making it one of the nation’s safest and most prosperous big cities but also one that has become increasingly stratified between the very rich and the working class.
De Blasio was to take the oath of office moments after midnight at his modest Park Slope, Brooklyn home. His inauguration will be celebrated on a far grander scale at noon Wednesday on the steps of City Hall when he takes the oath again, which will be administered by former President Bill Clinton.
The inauguration was expected to be a joyous day for city Democrats, who outnumber Republicans in the city by a margin 6-to-1 but have been shut out of power since David Dinkins left office on New Year’s Day 1993.
The party’s ascension will be underscored by the presence of Clinton and his wife, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is mulling a presidential run in 2016.
Both Clintons have ties to de Blasio: the new mayor worked for the former president’s administration in the Department of Housing and Urban Development and helped manage Hillary Clinton’s successful 2000 Senate campaign. De Blasio and his wife are also frequently compared to the Clintons since McCray has long been considered the new mayor’s most powerful, if informal, adviser.
De Blasio, 52, was expected to be joined in the first minutes of 2014 by his wife, Chirlane McCray, and their two teenage children, a close-knit interracial family who played a central role in his campaign and to some are a further symbol of a new era after the data-driven, largely impersonal Bloomberg years.
Initially, de Blasio said that the press would not be permitted at the midnight ceremony. But he relented after a request from The Associated Press.
“We appreciate Mayor-elect de Blasio’s swift response,” said AP Senior Managing Editor Michael Oreskes. “We also appreciate that the AP’s insistence on access for independent journalism has been upheld.”
De Blasio, an unabashed progressive who touts his Brooklyn roots, takes office at a crucial juncture for the city of 8.4 million people.
Even as the city sets record lows for crime and highs for tourism, and even as the nearly completed One World Trade Center rises above the Manhattan skyline, symbolizing the city’s comeback from the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, many New Yorkers have felt left behind during the city’s renaissance.
De Blasio reached out to those he contended were left behind by the often Manhattan-centric Bloomberg administration, and he called for a tax increase on the wealthy to pay for universal pre-kindergarten.
He also pledged to improve economic opportunities in minority and working-class neighborhoods and decried alleged abuses under the police department’s stop-and-frisk policy. He and his new police commissioner, William Bratton, have pledged to moderate the use of the tactic, which supporters say drives down crime but critics claim unfairly singles out blacks and Hispanics.
Two other Democrats will officially assume citywide posts during the New Year’s Day ceremony: Letitia James as public advocate and Scott Stringer as comptroller. Another Democrat is certain to be named city council speaker next week.