2002-01-02 / Political Page

Rudy, Mayor To The End; Swears In Bloomberg Just After Midnight New Year’s Eve

Rudy, Mayor To The End; Swears In Bloomberg Just After Midnight New Year’s Eve

by john toscano

Right to the end, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was at the center of the action, ending his eight-year reign at midnight yesterday by swearing in his successor, Michael Bloomberg, as thousands of New Year’s Eve revelers joyously welcomed 2002 in Times Square.

It was an unprecedented event—past mayors traditionally took their oath of office in more private ceremonies. But then Giuliani’s two terms were filled with unprecedented events and accomplishments, such as his historic leadership following the horrific World Trade Center attacks on September 11. The terrorism actrocity catapulted the feisty, energetic chief executive onto national and world stages, earning him the respect of foreign leaders and the selection by Time Magazine as its Person of the Year.

Mostly though, it endeared him to New York City’s eight million residents and brought him the grateful thanks of thousands of victims of the attack.

Explaining Giuliani’s selection by Time, the magazine’s managing editor, Jim Kelly, said the mayor showed "superhuman strength" handling the September 11 ordeal "and gave the emotional armor to get up every day and get on with our lives."

The mayor reacted to the prestigious award by saying he was humbled and very moved by the honor. He said he accepted it as the representative of the entire city.

"It’s appropriate today that the people of New York led the way," he stated. "We didn’t do the whole thing, but we were under the most immediate attack—and had the people of New York reacted differently, it would have taken longer for the spirit of America to revive."

As his term wound down, the mayor continued dealing with major issues, such as his campaign to get approval for two new stadiums for the Mets and Yankees and his participation in carrying the Olympic torch on its journey around the country. He also reiterated his position that the 16 acres of Ground Zero should be used as an interactive memorial devoted to the memory of the nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives there and out of respect to their survivors.

Giuliani’s eight sometimes tumultuous years at the helm in New York City were remarkable in many respects and he truly will be a hard act to follow.

BLOOMBERG TAKES OVER: Meanwhile, the mayor passed the torch to Michael Bloomberg shortly after the stroke of midnight, ushering in a new era. The new mayor later in the day delivered his inaugural address on the steps of City Hall.

Bloomberg, the successful developer of a multi-billion-dollar financial media empire, is walking into an unenviable situation, facing huge budget deficits for the immediate future. He will need all the wizardry and managerial skills that made him a superior business success to weather the storms ahead.

To his credit, Bloomberg has surrounded himself with some experienced deputies and commissioners and has adopted a policy of inclusiveness with Hispanics and blacks, groups with which Giuliani had major problems. He also appears to be unflappable, a trait which will prove useful through the rough days ahead.

NEW COUNCIL: Bloomberg will have to do most of the heavy lifting in getting the city out of its financial doldrums because his partner in the city government, the virtually brand new City Council, collectively has even less experience in dealing with billion-dollar budgets and deficits. This could prove either a hazard or a Godsend. Bloomberg may find himself comparatively free to operate or else will have to hurdle impediments thrown up by the fledgling legislators trying to find their way in strange, new territory.

VALLONE’S ADVICE: Eyeing the new 38 members of the Council, ex-Speaker Peter Vallone advised them to stop wasting their time and effort on changing various Council procedures that would transfer some of the Speaker’s powers and concentrate instead on their nitty-gritty work as lawmakers and representatives of local districts.

"Do you think your constituents give one iota about what kind of rules you have in the Council?" he asked rhetorically during a career-end interview.

"They just want to make sure that the streets are clean, that the cops are there, that the homeless are not sleeping on their sidewalks," he offered. "The rules are designed to help you govern, and you mustn’t lose sight that the final role here is to govern."

Meanwhile, there have been acknowledgements from a variety of sources, including many of the new Council reformers, of Vallone’s successful conversion of the Council from a nearly meaningless body to a truly effective partner with the mayor in city government.

WEPRIN WANTS COUNCIL POWER INCREASED: One new lawmaker who’s taking the approach Vallone seems to have in mind is Councilmember David Weprin (D-Bayside).

Weprin last week called for City Charter changes to give the Council more power as an "advise and consent" body.

"Why not have the City Council exercise advice and consent over major mayoral appointments?" he asked, noting the appointments of Police, Fire, Sanitation, Parks, and Environmental Protection commissioners.

"The Imperial Mayoralty idea will lose influence, but the people and Council will gain in this excercise in democracy," said Weprin.

AVELLA RESIGNS FROM LOCAL ORGS: As a result of his recent election, Councilmember Tony Avella (D-Bayside/Whitestone) has resigned as president of four community organizations, some of which he founded and led for long periods of time. They are the Bay Terrace Civilian Patrol, now to be headed by Bay Terrace resident Rosemarie Breenan; the Preservation Alliance of northeast Queens, where Vice President Kaye Tinkelman will succeed Avella; the College Point Sports Association, where Louis Buonoventura will assume the presidency, and the North Shore Anti-Graffiti Volunteers, where Avella’s successor is longtime community activist Bernie Caulfield.

Avella also announced that the city Department of Transportation has agreed to his request for a new traffic light at 16th Avenue and Willets Point Boulevard in Clearview Gardens.

1ST QUEENS ASIAN-AMERICAN REP SWORN IN: Councilmember John Liu (D-Flushing) took the oath of office last Thursday in Flushing as the first Asian-American to win a Council post.


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