Brooklyn District 46 Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus was sworn into office on Nov. 15, but her in-district ceremonial inauguration took place this past Sunday, Jan. 6, before a who’s who of New York elected officials, community leaders and supporters. And there were even some surprise speakers including U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer who delivered a sincere and heartfelt address.
The Coney Island activist initially won a hard-fought primary battle based strictly on grassroots support against Democratic establishment-backed candidate Ethan Lustig-Elgrably.
Then, on Nov. 6, Frontus beat Republican candidate Steve Saperstein to take the Assembly seat formerly held by Pamela Harris. Harris resigned in the wake of an 11-count indictment on a slew of corruption charges, later pleading guilty to four counts.
The inauguration ceremony was held in the packed auditorium of William E. Grady Career and Technical Education High School in Brighton Beach. Jeff Lindor, a long-time friend and supporter of Frontus, served as master of ceremonies.
Lindor called Frontus’ inauguration a new day for the 46th Assembly District and said that he was excited about all the new work that would be taking place.
Guest speakers included Congressmembers Yvette Clarke and Max Rose; City Councilmembers Justin Brannan, Mark Treyger and Mathieu Eugene; Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte; and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, who swore Frontus into office.
Treyger called Frontus’ inauguration a joyous occasion. “I believe that this is more than just an inauguration of a highly qualified and capable public servant,” Treyger said. “This is also a reminder that our democracy and our system of government is about bringing people together.”
He added that he and Frontus are now proud colleagues serving one community and congratulated her on what he called a significant, momentous accomplishment.
Brannan quoted Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” and said that Frontus epitomized the meaning of democracy and a government of the people, by the people and for the people.
“For me, a true democracy is when a loyal and faithful community leader like Dr. Frontus decides that it’s her time to run for office and that’s exactly what she did,” he told the crowd. “Mathylde is smart and fearless — the perfect cocktail for a public servant. She’s someone who won’t take no for an answer when it comes to deliberating for her constituents.”
Bichotte praised Frontus for all the work she did for Coney Island following the devastation of Superstorm Sandy and cited this as an example of how hard Frontus has worked on behalf of the people in her community. “We need people who can touch people,” Bichotte said. “And you touch people.”
Schumer called Frontus a great American success story who grew up in a working class family as the oldest child of Caribbean immigrants. She attended Edward R. Murrow High School, New York University, Harvard University and ultimately received her Ph.D. from Columbia University.
“With all this great education, she could have gone and made a whole lot of money working for some big corporation,” Schumer said. “But Mathylde cared about the community.”
Rose reminded the audience that they had elected a public servant, not a politician. “Mathylde is going to Albany to unite us,” he added, telling the fledgling assemblymember, “Your allegiance is not, nor ever will be, to some political establishment or some political club. Your allegiance is to your community and to your values.”
Civic leader Pat O’Brien was extremely pleased with the scope of the ceremony. “I don’t think anyone realized how powerful an event this would be until we were there,” he told this paper. “I’ve known Mathylde a long time and I’m so proud of all that she has accomplished.”
Frontus thanked guests for attending including her family and staff members and “everyone who played a role in making it possible for me to stand here today as the new assemblymember for the 46th District.”
She also thanked “my original kitchen cabinet,” who she said encouraged her to run during meetings held at a local Dunkin’ Donuts with the goal to make positive change in the neighborhood. She concluded by saying, “I’ve always lived by the old adage that we must be the change that we are looking for.”