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Cuomo plans low-key, low-cost inauguration

ALBANY — Gov.-elect Andrew Cuomo plans a low-key inauguration on Jan. 1 that will focus on work rather than ceremony in his first day in the office his father once held.

In contrast to grand inaugurations for past governors George Pataki and Eliot Spitzer and his father, Mario Cuomo, Andrew Cuomo plans to start work at 8:30 a.m. Jan. 1.

Cuomo said Thursday he’ll be sworn into office at noon in a small ceremony in the Capitol and then hold a reception at the Executive Mansion.

“This is not a time for the grand and expensive celebrations of the recent past. It is the time to return dignity, integrity, and performance to state government and begin making real progress for the people of this great state,” he said.

“That means we go to work on the very first day with a focus on renewing New Yorkers’ faith in government,” Cuomo said. He beat Republican Carl Paladino in November with a platform heavy on fixing the state’s fiscal crisis and cleaning up Albany’s ethics.

A small-budget inaugural affair may have been unavoidable as the state faces yet more multibillion-dollar deficits.

“He wants to stay on message in terms of addressing the real problems in Albany,” said Lee Miringoff of the Marist College poll. “The headlines he wants to avoid is, ‘Governor spends lavish amounts of tax dollars on inaugural,’ or ‘Major campaign donors foot bill for gala inaugural.'”

A black-tie inaugural, such as Pataki’s funded by political patrons, “would be obscene and it would be seen as obscene,” said political scientist Doug Muzzio, a professor at Baruch College.

Cuomo “understands the symbolic nature of political behavior,” Muzzio said. “This is the first opportunity as governor to demonstrate his understanding of the fiscal problem.”

By contrast, Gov. Mario Cuomo’s inaugural on Jan. 1, 1983, was in keeping with tradition of grand ceremony. More than 4,000 people attended a full day of events in what Mario Cuomo described in his published diary as impressive pageantry.

Cuomo and Robert Duffy, the lieutenant governor, will be sworn in a few steps from the governor’s office in the Capitol’s War Room, with its historic mural of battles and warriors. Cuomo said families, staff and reporters will attend along with Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and Eric Schneiderman, the new attorney general succeeding Cuomo.

Cuomo said he plans to usher in a “new era of openness in government.” It was an approach that was popular for Democratic President Jimmy Carter in 1977 when he walked along the street shaking hands as part of his inaugural during tough times.

Cuomo will hold an open house at the nearby Executive Mansion after he is sworn in. New Yorkers obtaining tickets beforehand will greet Cuomo, Duffy and their families in a receiving line.

Cuomo and Duffy will be legally sworn in New Year’s Eve, in a private ceremony at the mansion. Cuomo’s first major speech apparently will wait until Jan. 5, when he delivers the State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature.

Tickets for the Jan. 1 reception line at the mansion are available through www.nyinaugural.com until Dec. 23. The event is from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. A lottery will be used if request outnumber openings for the event.