Brad Lander’s Inauguration

In the Press

Brad Lander’s Inauguration

Louis Crawford
Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn

Brad Lander’s Inauguration at the Prospect Park Picnic House

January 18, 2010

On Sunday January 17 at 2 PM, Brad Lander was sworn in as City Council representative for the 39th district at the Picnic House in Prospect Park. Opening the event was the very articulate Meg Barnette, the wife of Lander. Steven Flax and Kali Ndoye were hosts of the event.

Before the oath of office was administered by Fritz Schwarz, Jr, there were speeches a-plenty by local politicians, including Senator Chuck Schumer, Borough President Marty Markowitz, NYC Comptroller John Liu, Public Advocate (and former City Councilman for the 39th) Bill di Blasio, Congresswoman Nydia Valezquez, Congresswoman Yvette Clarke Congressman Jerrold Nadler.

Best of all performers from the MS 51 choir, dancer Samantha Speis of Urban Bush Woman, the Bangladeshi Institute for the Performing Arts, and sax and bassist Ravi Coltrane and Massimo Biolcati gave their all on behalf of Brad’s big day.

In just about all the speeches, Brad was lauded for his listening skills, his huge skill set, his vast experience in advocacy for equity and affordable housing at the Fifth Avenue Committee and at the Pratt Center for Community Development, his big heart and head.

Senator Charles Schumer: “Brad is a man of dedication, knowledge and soul. He is an amazing addition to the City Council. This is a great day for Brad, a great day for the district, a great day for his family, a great day for the USA.”

NYC Comptroller John Liu: ” Today we celebrate the ascension of a community organizer and a family man at heart…it’s a magical recipe: a policy wonk, a whip, a community organizer…”

Public Advocate Bill Di Blasio: “You have 150,000, activist, opinionated, strong willed and wonderful people in the 39th district.”

Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz: “I was happy to support someone who did it the old fashioned way: he earned it. You will try to please everyone but it’s impossible. People will question everything you do. Make decision that you believe are right, do the right thing for those you serve…Those you help may remember you. Those you don’t help: they never forget.”

HPD Commissioner Rafael E. Cestero: “Brad is an incredible listener. He will listen to your side of the discussion to inform his own judgement. I can’t think of a better quality.”

Congressman Jerrold Nadler: “You can change the world from the City Council. You can do that. Brad will do that.”

Council Speaker Christine C. Quinn (in a note): “It’s hard to believe that you are just now becoming a city council member. You have amazing courage: you have never shied from your commitment to the LGBT community.

Saxophonist Ravi Coltraine spoke briefly before playing: “Heart and soul have been sort of a theme here today. I won’t be playing “Heart and Soul” but I will play “Body and Soul.’ And indeed he did and it was an incredibly powerful and ravishing improvisation on the jazz classic.

Lander’s family, including his wife, kids, parents, sister, nieces and nephews, came to the stage for his swearing in and the young children held up a Bible while Lander took the oath.

Then it was Lander’s turn to speak. Here are some random quotes from what was a really heartfelt, intelligent and well-written speech:

“I am awed, inspired and daunted by the creativity and soul of all the performers and the civic commitment of all the speakers and the people sitting int his room.”

“Taking an oath is a profound act and one that I don’t take lightly…”

“I have a deep sense of hope though these are difficult times as we recover from the economic crisis..we need to get our city back on its feet; we need to create a new model of development, a true partnership of government and community, which will bring real results and democratic engagement…”

“…I want to invite parental involvement in schools, involve transit riders in an honest conversation…”

“…redouble our efforts to strengthen groups where community comes together, where we can wrestle with our disagreements…”

Here is a longer excerpt of the end of Lander’s speech:

I come to this moment as someone who has worked only outside of government, often frustrated with current policy, committed to organizing to demand change.  And I will certainly hold onto that approach.

But I also see a challenge here.  For democratic government must also be the space in which groups with different points-of-view meet to debate, in effect to organize against each other … and then to figure out what to do with those differences.

I am mindful of the fact that some of the things I plan to organize for – paid sick days for all workers, congestion pricing to prevent us from choking on traffic, full civil rights for the LGBT community – do not have the support of all the people in this room, much less all New Yorkers.

Of course we don’t always agree.  After all, we’re Brooklynites.  But our shared commitment, our diverse civic energy – even our arguments – help us understand the common treasure that is this city.

In an essay he wrote last week about the opening of the Prospect Park Armory, a fantastic new community resource, my son Marek wrote the following:  “The best part of the Armory is the location and the community it’s in.  The location of the Armory is very good because it is very near my house.  The community it’s in is great, because everyone likes to help with this kind of thing.”

At a time of harsh budgets and scarce funds, there is one resource that is vast: the creative, collective energy of the people in this room, the people in our community, the people of this city.

Tapping into that vast resource is my pledge – and my challenge – to everyone here.

Somehow, even with all we are already doing, we must redouble our efforts to strengthen the institutions and spaces where community residents come together – community and civic groups, religious andchesed organizations, labor unions, cultural groups, coops, PTAs – and now for relief efforts for our brothers and sisters Haiti as well.  To help meet basic needs, to create vibrant communities, and to wrestle with our disagreements toward public policy that will yield a city that offers real hope and opportunity to everyone who calls it home.

I started campaigning more than two years ago, believing in the possibility of local democracy both to improve our neighborhoods and to advance a broader vision of social justice.

Over the past two years, in thousands of conversations on stoops and at subway stops, in parks and classrooms and small businesses, over too much coffee and every type of food the world has brought to Brooklyn, that belief has deepened into the awe, the deep sense of responsibility, and the profound feeling of hope that I feel at this moment.

As big as the challenges are, I am certain that we will rise together to meet them – because in this place, as Marek wrote, everyone likes to help with this kind of thing.

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