Public Advocate Tish James delivered a fiery inauguration speech this afternoon, digging into the Michael Bloomberg administration and declaring Dasani Coates, the homeless girl profiled by the New York Times, who has becoming a symbol of inequality in the city, her new “BFF.”
Wearing a bright pink scarf and matching gloves, Ms. Coates was a guest of honor at the event, sitting right behind Mr. de Blasio’s family, along with her mother and siblings.
“This is Dasani Coates. You see, you all read about her in the New York Times. And this is my new BFF,” Ms. James declared.
When it came time for Ms. James to be sworn in, it was the 12-year-old Ms. Coates who held the bible and later joined Ms. James on stage, where the two stood hand-in-hand as Ms. James delivered her biting remarks.
“The wave of progressive victories our city has recently enjoyed thanks to the City Council was, in some ways, inevitable,” she told the crowd, which included Mr. Bloomberg. “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, the policies that make them voiceless must give way to a government that works for them, that speaks for them, that cares more about a child going hungry than a new stadium or a new tax credit for a luxury development.”
Ms. James, who is the first woman of color elected to citywide office, continued to dig into the administration, saying that the “growing gap between the haves and the have-not’s undermines our city and tears at the fabric of our democracy.”
“We live in a gilded age of inequality where decrepit homeless shelters and housing developments stand in the neglected shadow of gleaming multi-million dollar condos,” she said, “where long-term residents are being priced out of their own neighborhoods by rising rents and stagnant incomes; where stop-and-frisk abuses and warrantless surveillance have been touted as ‘success stories’ as if crime can only be reduced by infringing on the civil liberties of people of color … and library privatization moves are little more than land grabs for more luxury condos.”
She also put Mr. de Blasio on subtle notice that she–and Ms. Coates–won’t be afraid to challenge him when she deems it necessary.
“Of course,” she added, “if working people aren’t getting their fair share, if our government isn’t securing the reforms New Yorkers were promised, you’d better believe Dasani and I will stand up–that all of us will stand up–and call out anyone and anything that stands in the way of our progress.”