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The World and Nation

N.Y.'s New Mayor Sounds Cautious Note


NEW YORK — Michael R. Bloomberg was sworn in as New York's 108th mayor Tuesday, vowing to help the city recover from the World Trade Center attacks but warning residents that tough economic times lie ahead.

Standing in front of an enormous American flag draped across the facade of City Hall, Bloomberg, 59, began his inaugural speech by praising his predecessor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, who got a standing ovation from the crowd of 4,000 dignitaries. He said Giuliani had asked him "not to fail the people of New York," and he answered to resounding cheers: "Rudy, I will not."

On a frigid afternoon, Bloomberg took the oath of office from Judith Kaye, chief judge of New York's Court of Appeals, while his 92-year-old mother, Charlotte, stood by his side. Bette Midler sang the national anthem to open the ceremonies, and jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis played "America the Beautiful" as the inaugural festivities ended.

Tuesday's ceremony marked the third time that Bloomberg had been sworn in. The first came in a private meeting with the city clerk, and the second occurred minutes into the new year in Times Square.

In a blunt, no-nonsense speech Tuesday afternoon, Bloomberg praised New York's spirit. Yet he acknowledged that major fiscal cutbacks were inevitable, given the city's looming $4.3-billion budget deficit and its loss of about 100,000 jobs after the Sept. 11 attacks. He promised a 20% cutback in mayoral staffing and urged other city departments to do the same--a proposal that met with scattered boos.

"We will not be able to afford everything we want," said the Republican media mogul, who has never held elective office. "We will not even be able to afford everything we have."

Bloomberg told New Yorkers that "this is not a time to fight with one another" and pledged cooperation with the federal government and New York Gov. George Pataki as the city begins to rebuild lower Manhattan. But he issued a pointed challenge to President Bush, who vowed several days after the terrorist attacks that America would help rebuild New York.

"Thank you, Mr. President, for all you have done and all you will do to fulfill that explicit pledge," he said. "This is a historic moment, and we have to work together."

The new mayor, who spent $69 million of his own money on his campaign and whose views on many issues are still largely unknown, gave an inkling of some controversial choices he would be making. He called for mayoral control of the city's faltering schools, a position sure to antagonize the Board of Education and the teachers union. He expressed only lukewarm support for Giuliani's plan to build $800-million domed baseball stadiums for the Yankees and Mets, saying those kind of projects could only be launched "when we can afford them."

Bloomberg's fiscal expertise was his strong suit in a mayoral contest overshadowed by the World Trade Center attacks. The founder of Bloomberg LP, a leader in fiscal information technology, he billed himself as a manager who could help New York rebound economically. Many political observers think his success will hinge on his ability to persuade businesses to remain in Manhattan after the attacks.

"I urge you to stay here and strengthen your commitment to this city," he said in remarks directed at corporate leaders. "This is not the time to leave the Big Apple. I want the world to know that New York is safe, strong and open for business."

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