National News

Weather and Visiting Senator Steal the Show at de Blasio Inauguration

Posted January 1, 2018 9:31 p.m. EST

NEW YORK — It took 37 minutes of sitting outside in 18-degree weather on Monday before Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., unfurled one of the blue blankets that had been laid out for guests at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s second inauguration and spread it over his legs.

A personal space heater sat in front of former Mayor David N. Dinkins, who turned 90 in July, and de Blasio drew some of his biggest applause when he jokingly gave the crowd the choice of a brief speech.

“You are the most distinguished frozen group of people I have ever spoken before,” said de Blasio, whose speech lasted about 13 minutes.

De Blasio is the first Democrat in 32 years to win re-election, and one of the hallmark achievements of his tenure has been the city’s plunging homicide rate, which he cited in his speech. But the frigid temperatures stole the show as de Blasio took the oath of office before several hundred guests — including dozens of people stationed beneath heat lamps spread throughout City Hall plaza.

“Now, by Vermont standards this is a warm and pleasant afternoon,” Sanders, who did not wear a hat, said during his speech.

The entire event ran for 69 minutes and included the swearing-in and speeches from Scott M. Stringer, the comptroller, and Letitia James, the public advocate, as well as de Blasio.

Security was tight, with streets around City Hall blocked off to cars, City Hall Park padlocked closed, heavily armed police officers patrolling the area and bomb-sniffing dogs deployed in the City Hall subway station. Isaac Kusi, a 63-year-old immigrant from Ghana who makes beauty products, said he had been invited because he had been a volunteer for de Blasio’s campaign, working on phone banks in the Bronx.

“I contributed to the campaign,” he said, explaining that he also donated a small amount toward de Blasio’s re-election.

Kusi said he was not going to let the weather keep him away. He kept warm under several layers in addition to the blue blanket he gripped in his gloved hands.

“It’s a fake fur hat!” he said laughing when asked about his black hat. “It keeps the heat in.”

Feeling the Bern

It was de Blasio’s inauguration, but the clear star was Sanders.

Vicki Winters, 60, a travel agent and blogger, said that she braved the cold “because I love Bernie Sanders, because I feel the Bern.” She wore an ankle-length mink coat and matching mink hat that had belonged to her mother, along with battery-powered, heated gloves.

“I think de Blasio is good, but when I heard Bernie Sanders was going to be here I wanted to come and show the love,” said Winters, adding that she got tickets that had been made available online by City Hall.

Benjy Kile, 47 and his son Harry, 18, a senior at Brooklyn Technical High School, whose alumni include de Blasio’s son, Dante, also had come to see Sanders.

“Well, you know, it’s the second time around,” Kile said of the mayoral inauguration. “He and I are big Bernie fans.”

The father and son also drew attention for their choice to wear shorts.

“The cops thought we were from Canada. Somebody else thought Alaska. Nope: 20th Street,” said Benjy Kile. “My legs stay warm.”

“We didn’t check the weather,” his son added.

Sanders, in his remarks, touched on his signature issues, such as health care, climate change and income inequality.

“In this city, the largest city in our country, the people of New York, under Bill de Blasio, have chosen to move government in a very different direction than what we’ve seen in Washington,” Sanders said. Ruben Diaz Jr., the Bronx borough president, said that hearing Sanders speak made up for the brutal cold.

“He could have been anywhere in the country,'’ Diaz said. “I’m sure he’s in high demand, but he decided to be here with our mayor, and us, in New York City.

“It was the added bonus. If there was a purpose to be out here in the middle of the cold — or a number of reasons — Bernie was certainly on top of that list.”

— This Time, Cuomo Chose to be Elsewhere

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who has had a strained relationship with de Blasio, was one of the many dignitaries at the mayor’s first inauguration four years ago. This time he decided to bypass the event and instead spent part of Monday on Long Island, swearing in Laura Curran, a Democrat, as the Nassau County executive.

Curran, a former reporter for New York City tabloids who was elected in November, told the audience at the county government building in Mineola that one of her main priorities was to help overcome the county’s record of political corruption.

“One of my most pressing challenges is to restore trust and respect in our government so we as a county can chart a new path forward,” Curran said as the audience huddled against the cold. “Over the decades the erosion of trust has broken down the bonds between the government and the people it serves, but the stakes are too high for that to continue. Now is the time for action.”

Some of the loudest cheers were for Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who is not known for being pithy. Schumer opted to discard his prepared remarks and gave a relatively short speech. He then raced to Manhattan to make a late appearance at de Blasio’s inauguration.

— There’s a First Time for Everything

This wasn’t the first time Justin Brannan had been at City Hall on Jan. 1 for an inauguration. But this time, he was attending as an elected official.

Brannan was elected to the City Council from the 43rd District in Brooklyn, to replace Vincent J. Gentile, a term-limited councilman for whom he served as director of communications.

“This is the second inauguration for Mayor de Blasio, so it’s a continuation, but it’s also a new beginning in a lot of ways,” Brannan said as he stood inside City Hall chatting with his new colleagues while waiting for the ceremony to begin.

“It’s pretty cool. My family is pretty excited,” Brannan said.

What’s the biggest difference between attending the inauguration now and as an aide?

“The best part is that I get to wait inside,'’ Brannan said. “Otherwise I’d be outside freezing.”