‘We have made history’: Brooklyn’s first Chinese-American council member Susan Zhuang celebrates inauguration

Susan Zhuang being inaugurated
Susan Zhuang was sworn in as Brooklyn’s first Chinese-American representative alongside her family and U.S. Rep. Grace Meng.
Photo courtesy of John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

Newly-elected City Council Member Susan Zhuang was sworn in as Brooklyn’s first Chinese-American representative at a local inauguration ceremony on Sunday, doubling down on her commitment to focus on quality of life issues for constituents in District 43, New York City’s first Asian-majority district.

The Jan. 21 ceremony at the Edith and Carl Marks Jewish Community House of Bensonhurst, which followed Zhuang’s City Hall swearing-in last month, attracted the top brass of New York’s democratic establishment with Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer among the dozen of elected officials in attendance.

Zhuang, the former chief of staff for Assembly Member William Colton, ran on a platform committed to public safety — including cracking down on hate and racism in southern Brooklyn — improving public education, increasing affordable housing, and demanding action from the federal government on New York’s migrant crisis.

susan zhuang with group at inauguration
Zhuang ran on a platform emphasizing public safety, including standing up against hate and racism. Photo courtesy of John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

In November’s election, Zhuang won more than 58% of the vote against her opponents, Republican Ying Tan and Conservative Vito LaBella who had run on similar platforms.

“We have made history,” said Zhuang. “But, this is just the beginning. Looking ahead, I am eager to take on the issues that matter most to the people of my district: safer streets, better educational opportunities and affordable housing.”

“Thank to you to America and New York City for making my immigrant success story possible. I came to America when I was 20 years old with limited English. My story is only possible in America, a true Brooklyn success story,” said Zhuang. “Many families in my district are immigrants and I am so proud to being one of them. Even with my historic election, the Asian American community continues to be underrepresented. Our voices and needs have not been fully heard.”

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng, the first Asian American elected to Congress from New York, helped Zhuang administer her oath during the Sunday service, saying she was “so proud of what Susan had accomplished.”

“Susan is someone who truly puts her constituents, her country, her community over party and over politics. She truly puts the people of the 43rd District before anything else, and that is the mark of a good candidate. And it will be the mark of a good, honest and passionate elected official and public servant,” said Meng.

chuck schumer with susan zhuang
Sen. Chuck Schumer joined in on the inauguration festivities. Photo courtesy of John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

Speaking to the packed gymnasium, Sen. Schumer declared the 43rd District as “America’s future,” lauding Zhuang’s win as a come-back for the Democratic party in southern Brooklyn.

“With so many people who come from all over the globe to work, to establish a decent life and to make a better life for their children. That is Susan’s story. And that is America’s story. And that is Brooklyn’s story,” said Schumer.

“Susan is testament to the power of the American dream. She wasn’t born with a silver spoon in her mouth. She’s an immigrant with a dream who came to New York, studied at SUNY Oswego and wanted to help out and become a public servant. And she’s a public servant to her core, in the best sense of the term,” he added.

Attorney General Letitia James told the crowd that it was important that the city and state understand the importance of Asian power, telling Zhuang her election represents the promise of democracy, “because representation matters.”

As the first woman and first African to be elected to the position of NY Attorney General, James advised Zhuang not to be a miracle worker as might be expected of her but to be a “promise keeper.”

“Keep your promises and make sure that you deliver for this district and deliver for the residents who were there for you,” said James, adding that she will “use the law as a sword and as a shield to lift up your district, protect their rights and protect the rights of democracy.”

susan zhuang with daughter
Zhuang celebrated with her family. Photo courtesy of John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit

While congratulating Zhuang on her election, Mayor Eric Adams had some words of advice to the constituents in attendance: “Be kind.”

“She was elected to be councilwoman, not Christ, not Muhammad, not Buddha. She’s not going to walk on water, she’s not going to part water. She’s not going to be able to solve every problem that you face in this council district overnight,” Adams said. “But trust me when I tell you, She’s committed. She’s a parent. She’s a public servant. She’s a wife. She loves this community, and you show her you love her.”

The new District 43 encompasses parts of Sunset Park, Dyker Heights, Bensonhurst, Bath Beach, Gravesend, Sunset Park, Borough Park, Midwood and Gravesend.