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NY1 Exclusive: Belafonte Defends Speech as Mayor Opens Gracie's Doors to Public

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TWC News: NY1 Exclusive: Belafonte Defends Speech as Mayor Opens Gracie's Doors to Public
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Mayor Bill de Blasio celebrated his inauguration with the city's political elite and regular New Yorkers Sunday at an open house at Gracie Mansion, while one of the mayor's most prominent supporters - Harry Belafonte - forcefully defended the tone of the much-criticized inauguration ceremony. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.

Mayor Bill de Blasio is still basking in the glow of his inauguration. And he opened the doors of Gracie Mansion to invite the public to share in the moment.

"The idea today was that Gracie Mansion is the people's house, that everyday New Yorkers should be able to come here and enjoy it," de Blasio said.


Before the open house there was a private breakfast for lawmakers and high-profile supporters.

"Most mayors hit the ground running. Our mayor hit the ground shoveling. No one has ever done that before," said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

The new mayor may have won points for clearing the sidewalk outside his Park Slope home after the storm. But he also faced criticism earlier in the week for the tone of his inauguration.

Some argued too many speakers were focused on pointing fingers at former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, instead of trying to bring the city together. Activist and artist Harry Belafonte defended his speech in an exclusive interview with NY1.

"The people who were at that inauguration celebrated it exactly the way they wanted to celebrate it. If you have an idea about how it should be celebrated, then you should have come down and made your noise. But we said what we said we wanted. We did what we said we wanted to do," Belafonte said.

Belafonte came under fire when he said, "New York alarmingly plays a tragic role in the fact that our nation has the largest prison population in the world."

Under Bloomberg, the city's incarceration rate dropped by more than one third.

"There are two million people in jail. Whom am I to apologize to? And what did I say that was incorrect?" Belafonte said.

As for de Blasio, he seemed to be enjoying his surroundings. He announced last month that he would soon be calling Gracie Mansion home.

There is no word yet on when the mayor will actually move into Gracie Mansion. He has not yet announced a move-in date.

His aides say the transition will be gradual.

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