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NYC Latinos hopeful as Bloomberg marches with them

NEW YORK (CNN) -- New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg reached out to Latinos Friday in one of the first acts of his tenure, marching in an East Harlem parade his predecessor never attended in his eight years in office.

Four days after his inauguration, Bloomberg walked the full route of the Three Kings Day parade -- the New York community's 25th annual celebration of a feast day popular in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Community leaders saw the appearance as evidence of the mayor's acknowledgement of Latinos' growing importance in New York. Rudy Giuliani, who preceded Bloomberg in office, never attended the event.

"It means that the doors to City Hall are open to our community," said Adam Clayton Powell, an assemblyman for East Harlem. "It really shows that his heart is in the right place with the community."

Even though he was re-elected in a landslide in 1997, Giuliani never fared as well in the city's black and Hispanic communities as he did in white districts.

His harshest criticism from non-white groups centered on the aggressive police model that he advocated, underscored by the 1997 torture of Haitian immigrant Abner Louima in a Brooklyn police station and the 1999 shooting of West African immigrant Amadou Diallo by four police officers in the Bronx.

Yet while Giuliani never ventured out to Spanish Harlem for the Three Kings Day parade, other New York mayors -- including David Dinkins and Ed Koch -- have braved the early January weather and joined the revelers.

Three camels, two baying donkeys, sheep and about 1,000 community leaders and local politicians joined Bloomberg. The new mayor shook hands and gave "high fives" to several hundred schoolchildren, but didn't don a standard "Three Kings Day" turban. "I just don't look great in it," he said.

Local politicians said they hope Bloomberg will promote the Latino community's concerns, chief among them education, housing and health care.

"We want access. We want to be able to talk to his administration. We want to be able to be listened to," said Powell.


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