Carrion Sworn In as Borough
By JORDAN MOSS
The transfer of power at the Bronx County Building's Memorial Hall hasn't occurred in 14 years, so it was with greater than usual pomp and circumstance that Adolfo Carrion Jr. was inaugurated as the borough's 12th president on Jan. 6.
Carrion, a Democrat, who takes over from political ally Fernando Ferrer (who received a standing ovation as he passed the torch to his successor), used the opportunity somewhat unusually by emphasizing education and only a few other issues, rather than the laundry list of initiatives usually ticked off in such addresses.
The 40-year-old former councilman and city planner made headlines with a clear message to the city's new mayor, Michael Bloomberg, regarding using city money to finance new stadiums for the Mets and Yankees.
"We can't afford it," said Carrion, who hobbled up to the podium on crutches because he broke his leg playing soccer during the transition period. "There is a need far more urgent. New Yorkers need schools and not stadiums, and I will never abandon that fight."
Bloomberg, in his inaugural address the previous week, said new stadiums were desirable but only when the city can afford them. Coincidentally or not, the day after Carrion's address, Bloomberg officially put plans for new stadiums on ice.
"I'd like to see great stadiums like anybody else," Bloomberg told reporters. "But you have to set priorities, and the priorities at the moment do not this year allow for the construction of new sports stadiums."
Carrion also called for "radical reform" of the city's school system, and, breaking with many of his Democratic colleagues, suggested he might support taking responsibility for education from the Board of Education and giving it to the mayor.
"We must look at all options ... including the creation of a New York City Department of Education," said Carrion, who lives in Kingsbridge Heights with his wife, Linda Baldwin, and their four children. "Too much is at stake for us to be dogmatic. Every option must be on the table."
Other issues Carrion listed as priorities were improving traffic safety, developing the borough's waterfront for housing and recreation use, creating affordable housing, and protecting residential communities from overdevelopment and pollution.
Carrion's hand-picked deputy borough president, Earl Brown, was also sworn in. Brown, a former official at the New York City School Construction Authority, will leave his current post at The New York Botanical Garden to become Carrion's second in command on Feb. 4.
Carrion's first official address as borough president had a powerful audience. The state's three top elected officials - Governor George Pataki, a Republican, and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and state Comptroller H. Carl McCall - all spoke at the event, as did the city's new comptroller, William Thompson. Former Mayor Ed Koch and the Rev. Al Sharpton sat next to each other in the front row of the audience. And Bloomberg and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer attended the reception at The New York Botanical Garden following the inaugural.
Perhaps it was not just Carrion's present political wattage that drew the heavyweight crowd, but also a prediction of how brightly the officials expect Carrion's star to shine in the future. Most of the speakers said Carrion would go places beyond the borough presidency. Thompson recounted visiting with Carrion a couple of years ago in his Bronx office where they discussed politics. As he left, he remembers saying to his aide, "I just saw the future."
"Somewhere down the road," Thompson continued, "we're looking at another citywide elected official."
Nevertheless, Carrion said he wanted to be judged for his accomplishments, not his potential.
"Leadership is about outcomes," he said. "That is how you should judge me and every elected official when we stand before you the next time and ask for your vote."
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