STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — It’s official. Debi Rose is the first African American ever elected to represent Staten Island — for any office. The fact that the latest city council member from the North Shore is a woman and a progressive is icing on the cake for many who live in what they see as a neglected district.
Progressive Democrat Debi Rose was sworn in as a member of the New York City Council on Saturday. The ceremony was held in the historic Saint George Theater and brought out a number of New York’s best known political leaders. Sharing a podium with Rose was Governor David Paterson, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Liu, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, Assemblyman Matt Titone, State Senator Diane Savino and numerous other prominent Democrats. Conservative Party boss, and Staten Island Borough President, Jim Molinaro, State Senator Andy Lanza and several other Republicans were also in attendance.
Many of the prominent Democrats spoke in what was a long inauguration ceremony that somehow managed to keep a good pace. Much as Rose had been required to pace herself in her marathon run for office.
The road to City Hall for Debi Rose was long and tiring. But after three attempts and thirty years of community service, she made it, winning the November 2009 election in a convincing manner. Her staff and supporters, as grassroots as they come, couldn’t be more thrilled.
Senator Charles (Chuck) Schumer spoke at Rose’s inauguration
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(Photo: Thomas Good / NLN)
“Third time is the charm,” Senator Charles Schumer (D, NY) said as the audience cheered.
Schumer, the first of many speakers, articulated what many felt when he told Rose, “You got here the old fashioned way — you earned it!”
Schumer commented on the difficulty of life in the North Shore — and how it relates to the well being of the United States.
“It’s also a great day for the residents of the forty-ninth district on the North Shore of Staten Island. This is a district where people work hard and have many barriers put in the way. This is a district where people struggle. This is a district that truly is the future of our city, our state and our country. If the people here can advance, America will do great,” he said.
Schumer said that Council District 49 “needs good service” and that Debi Rose is the person to provide it.
Congressman Mike McMahon (D, NY-13), a political foe of Rose in recent years, indicated a desire to move on and praised Rose for her dedication to the community.
“She’s shown time and again her strongest desire is simply to serve the people of the North Shore,” McMahon said.
McMahon predicted the city council would prove to be just the beginning of “an incredible career.”
Newly elected city comptroller John Liu was introduced as the first Asian American to hold citywide office in New York but he immediately focused attention on the woman of the hour, saying, “Today is for Debi Rose!”
Describing Rose as a “tough cookie,” Liu, who previously worked on the city council’s transportation committee, told the crowd that Rose would be a powerful advocate for Staten Islanders, many of whom commute to Manhattan.
“She’s never been shy about coming down to City Hall to give us a piece of her mind,” Liu said.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio said, “I think the people of the forty-ninth chose a leader who was not interested in business as usual. Would you agree with me?”
The answer was unanimous.
Rose’s committment to reform and progress were central themes in her campaign. One brochure featured a photograph of a woman’s feet – in stockings and heels – beneath a bench otherwise populated by men in wingtips. The caption read “Not one of the boys.”
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn commented on the beautifully restored Saint George Theater, noting that it was a local family that stepped up and “rebuilt an institution.”
“And that’s really what won this race for Debi — her extended family — which is all of you,” Quinn said.
New York’s Governor David Paterson told the audience that he feels a strong bond with Staten Island – he “found a wife here” and once played basketball at the Cromwell Center.
“They wouldn’t let me play in Harlem,” he quipped. “They would now,” he added.
Calling Staten Island a microcosm of New York City — in terms of diversity — Paterson said that he found it appropriate that Debi Rose would serve as the representative of the diverse and struggling North Shore.
In a touching moment, Paterson swore Rose in as her family looked on – her father “Sweet Lou”, her son Timothy and her loyal supporter and significant other, Manny Braxton.
Following the ceremony. Rose stepped up to the podium, saluted, and announced, “Debi Rose, reporting for duty.”
She was met with sustained applause.