City Limits has teamed up with The Nation to cover the first 100 days of the de Blasio administration. Click here to read the series.

Last year, Michael Bloomberg's final state of the city address fell on his birthday and took place in the gleaming Barclays Center, the NBA arena at the centerpiece of the controversial Atlantic Yards development project. There were banners hanging from the rafters celebrating the mayor's accomplishments. The Nets dancers performed. A man waving a massive New York City flag led the mayor in.

Today, Bill de Blasio's first state of the city was in the arena at a community college in Queens. There was a sign-language interpreter on stage who would extend her arms upward and shake her hands when people clapped. But she didn't use that sign too often, because de Blasio's speech featured a lot of long, very serious passages devoid of applause lines.

Symbolism is cheap. Bloomberg, last year, was giving a valedictory talk; de Blasio is just a rookie. But the packaging wasn't the only difference between the speeches.

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