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Richards takes oath at York swearing-in

Richards takes oath at York swearing-in
Photo by Christina Santucci
By Rich Bockmann

Newly elected City Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) recalled the death of a young friend that led him to politics during his community inauguration earlier this week and pledged to be the voice of a new generation in city government.

“Tonight I’m reminded of my teenage years, nearly failing out of high school,” Richards said in the atrium at York College Monday evening. “Tonight I’m reminded of my friend Darnell Paterson, who was fatally gunned down in front of his home 10 years ago. Tonight I’m reminded of a state senator, James Sanders, who took a chance on me — a young man I was from southeast Queens with no experience in politics. He took me under his wings.”

By a margin of 80 votes, Richards won a hotly contested special election in February to replace Sanders, who won his seat in Albany after former Sen. Shirley Huntley was charged with covering up the embezzlement of taxpayer dollars from a nonprofit she had ties to.

“I knew when I threw my hat in there would be those who would say, ‘He’s too young,’ although I had 10 years of experience,” said the 30-year-old councilman, who credited his election victory to the support of “those young people [who] decided to roll up their sleeves to ensure this generation has representation in City Hall.”

Richards began working in Sanders’ office 10 years ago after Paterson was killed, and he pledged he would spend his time in City Hall tackling youth violence. He received a large round of applause when he announced he had created a task force to address rowdy summertime house parties that concern his district, which covers Rosedale, Laurelton, Springfield Gardens and Far Rockaway.

City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, a mayoral candidate, administered the oath of office to the new councilman, who in his speech took a swipe at the Brooklyn Nets and the negative perception of New York politics.

“You could have been anywhere tonight. You could have been at home watching the Brooklyn Nets get eliminated from the playoffs,” said Richards, an avid New York Knicks fan. “But you chose to be here with me, and for that I’m am truly honored to be in your presence.”

Several weeks after Huntley pleaded guilty to fraud, another southeast Queens public official was embroiled in scandal. This time it was Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-Hollis), who was accused of trying to use taxpayer dollars to bribe his way onto the Republican ticket in the city’s mayoral race.

During his campaign, Richards received support from the Council’s progressive caucus, and he was joined Monday night by caucus members Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) and Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) as well as Councilmen Leroy Comrie (D-St. Albans) and Ruben Wills (D-Jamaica), city Comptroller and mayoral candidate John Liu and Councilman Dan Garodnick (D-Manhattan).

“I can say at a time when the public is cynical about public officials that there are many who do walk in integrity and many of them are here tonight,” Richards said.

The Nets came from behind Monday night to beat the Chicago Bulls 110-91 and force a Game 6. It remains to be seen how many New York politicians will have the public calling “foul.”

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at rbockmann@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.

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