The 43rd City Council district’s new representative was sworn in over the weekend before a crowd of over 500 family members, friends and constituents in the auditorium of his alma mater.
Councilmember Justin Brannan was sworn in on Sunday, January 21 during a formal ceremony held at Xaverian High School which saw the likes of loved ones, elected officials – past and present – and the mayor, among other notable guests.
Brannan – a lifelong Ridgeite and a staunch Democrat – graduated from Xaverian in 1996. Following that, he toured the world with not one but two hardcore bands he helped found and has worked to make his hometown a better place via his role as founding club president of the Bay Ridge Democrats and as a founding member of local grass-roots organization Bay Ridge Cares.
The son of immigrants (his mother an educator), a small business owner (he and his wife, Leigh, own the Art Room on Third Avenue) and the former deputy executive director for the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs at the New York City Department of Education, Brannan was also a longtime aide to his predecessor, Vincent Gentile.
His old boss, Gentile, did the swearing-in, which was accompanied by a heartfelt address from Hizzoner himself.
“Yes, Justin Brannan has a lot of personality,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said as he touched on the new elected’s quick wit and big heart. “If you know his irreverent sense of humor and you know his passion for this work, then you know he’s someone who doesn’t take no for an answer and he’s never afraid of a tough fight. This is someone who, from the beginning, you could tell what kind of leader he was going to be.”
Brannan, a local known for pounding the pavement for his neighbors, was renowned for his accessibility long before he was elected. He has also played an integral part in bettering city schools – “Justin has been a part of helping us achieve this success,” said de Blasio as he applauded the advancement of Pre-K For All.
When it was his turn to speak, Brannan touched on his life’s work of the past, present and future. Most notably, he swore not to make empty promises, not to take “no” for an answer when looking to get things done and – above all else – be as inclusive as his district is diverse.
“Like America, Brooklyn is a rich mosaic of traditions and cultures. Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bath Beach and Bensonhurst are some of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country,” he said to bouts of applause. “We are at a critical time for our city, state and nation, and while some inexplicably see diversity as a threat, I know our diversity is our true strength.
“Our community has a long and beautiful tradition of welcoming new immigrants with open arms,” he continued. “I don’t care if you’re a new arrival or a native – my door will always be open to you, and I swear today to make sure that on these streets, from Colonial Road to Cropsey Avenue, from Shore Road to Shore Parkway, everyone will be treated with respect.”
As for the swearing in itself, Brannan had much to revel in.
“Yesterday was a truly humbling experience. I am really just so honored that the community put their faith in me and elected me to this position,” he told this paper. “It is something I will cherish and hold dear every single day on the job.”
Brannan secured the seat after defeating Republican hopeful John Quaglione and Reform Party contender Bob Capano (the only former GOP candidate to attend Brannan’s ceremony) in one of the city’s tightest races in November. Prior to the election, Brannan beat out four other Democratic hopefuls in a heated primary that saw a total of nine candidates (both Democrats and Republicans) vying for the seat.
During his campaign, he focused heavily on issues like education, transportation and inclusivity in the district, which encompasses the neighborhoods of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst and Bath Beach.
“The people put me here and the people can take me out of here,” Brannan said. “I am here to serve and will fight like hell for everyone who calls the 43rd District their home.”
The date of Brannan’s inauguration had been pushed back a day to accommodate constituents looking to attend the New York City Women’s March.