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It’s official: Bay Ridge’s Janet Yellen confirmed as treasury secretary

January 28, 2021 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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Bay Ridge-born Janet Yellen was confirmed Monday as the nation’s first female secretary of the Treasury. The confirmation vote was 84-15 with one abstention. 

President Joe Biden had nominated her for the post in November.

Yellen, who was the chairperson of the Federal Reserve from 2014 to 2018, graduated as valedictorian from Fort Hamilton High School in 1963 and was elected to the school’s Hall of Fame in 1993.

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“Fort Hamilton H.S. was named after the country’s first Treasury secretary, so how amazing is it that the class of 1963’s valedictorian has now been named to that position?” said Valerie Hodgson, president of the Fort Hamilton H.S. Alumni Association. “Janet Yellen continues to make all Fort alumni proud as she’s confirmed with strong bipartisan support, befitting her accomplishments and abilities.”

When Yellen was nominated as Treasury secretary, she spoke at a news conference about her family roots in Brooklyn, especially about her father’s influence on her career.

“When he graduated from medical school during the Great Depression, he looked for a home and place to hang his shingle near the Brooklyn docks,” Yellen said. “That’s in Bush Terminal on the upper New York Bay, which was a thriving hub for manufacturing and transportation – and for the union workers whose livelihoods depended on them.”

She also spoke about her Brooklyn youth in 2018, when she was honored by the Brooklyn Public Library at a Williamsburg fundraiser. 

“The Brooklyn Public Library is an important part of my life starting in early childhood,” Yellen explained. “The Bay Ridge Branch on Ridge Boulevard was just three blocks from my home.”

Recounting hours spent studying in the library, Yellen said, “It wasn’t that I couldn’t study at home, I just enjoyed the look and feel of the library, the presence of people of all ages and backgrounds. I believe the enrichment of a community’s public resources can make an important difference on young people’s prospects of success.”

“I am so proud that the Senate will confirm Dr. Janet Yellen to be the first woman to ever hold the position of Treasury secretary,” said Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, also a native Brooklynite. “She’s a native of working-class Brooklyn, and no one has more experience for this job.”

During her confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee on Jan. 19, Yellen discussed Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion economic rescue package.

“Neither the President-elect nor I propose this relief package without an appreciation for the country’s debt burden,” Yellen said. “Right now, with interest rates at historic lows, the smartest thing we can do is act big. In the long run, I think the benefits will outweigh the costs, especially if we care about helping people who have been struggling for a long time.”

After graduating from Fort Hamilton, she graduated with a degree in economics from Brown University, then received a PhD in economics from yale University. She taught economics at Harvard from 1971 to 1976, then became an economist with the Federal Reserve’s Board of Governors in 1977.

In 1980, she joined the faculty at the University of California at Berkeley. In 1994, President Bill Clinton appointed her to the Fed’s Board of Governors, and from 2014 to 2018 she served as chair of the Fed, the first woman to serve in that position. 

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