By Errol Louis
Less than a day after officially concluding 12 tumultuous years as mayor, Michael Bloomberg sat stone-faced in the front row at the inauguration of his liberal successor, Mayor Bill de Blasio, as one speaker after another made blistering, thinly veiled attacks on Bloomberg's legacy.
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The Rev. Fred Lucas, one of the clergymen who delivered the opening invocation, asked God to turn "the plantation called New York City" into a better place. Actor Harry Belafonte used his turn at the podium to call for an end to what he called the city's "deeply Dickensian justice system." And the newly elected public advocate, Letitia James, ticked off a litany of criticisms of Bloomberg's police, education and economic policies.
The attacks, which dominated an inauguration ceremony that is normally a celebration of municipal unity, jarred many observers. "As outside observer, hard to understand the bitter partisanship at De Blasio ceremony," noted an Israeli journalist on Twitter. "There's a time for everything, and this isn't it."
Things got so heated that, an hour into the event, former President Bill Clinton, who administered the oath of office to de Blasio, tried to reset the tone by offering the first praise of Bloomberg, noting that the departing mayor "leaves the city stronger and healthier than he found it." De Blasio himself departed from his prepared speech to ask the crowd to applaud Bloomberg.