Current Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is a 22-year veteran of the New York City Police Department who left the force to run for state representative and is now a serious candidate in the crowded field running for New York Mayor.
Leading the pack of candidates for the June 22 Democratic primary is former Democratic Party presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who got 22 percent in the most recent poll. But standing in second place is Adams with 13 percent. Winning the Democratic Party primary in New York City is tantamount to winning the election, as the Republican Party is nearly invisible in much of the city.
Yang is likely to win, but surely there’s a place in politics somewhere for Adams.
Adams is an affable presence on the trail, a glad-hander with a booming laugh who gives out his personal cell-phone number to people he wants to talk more with (when I was with him, this included someone who wants the city to fund centers for kids to play video games after school). But Adams is also a political pugilist who hit the heavy bag at Gleason’s Gym to call for the return of indoor fitness classes and who has relentlessly attacked Andrew Yang as an arriviste, turning the sprawling field into a two-person race — and many city insiders are skeptical Yang can pull it off. When I asked staffers of rival campaigns who they thought was going to be the next mayor of New York (if, somehow, their candidate didn’t win), most said not Yang but Adams.
Adams is a reformer, not a bomb-thrower. He wants the city to hire more cops, not fewer, and believes some practices condemned by black activists should be reinstated.
As a teenager, Adams was beaten up by police in the basement of a South Jamaica precinct house; as a cop, he co-founded a group called 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, which advocated for improved relationships between police and communities of color. That tension, between being a police officer and being aware of police abuses, remains unresolved in Adams. Last year, for instance, the NYPD moved to disband its notorious anti-crime unit, which had been charged with getting guns off streets and was responsible for a disproportionate number of fatal police shootings; Adams wants to see the unit reinstated. He testified against stop and frisk as a state senator but now wants to bring back a modified form of it. He was at first against closing the prison at Rikers but now is in favor of doing so. He says pimps and johns should be prosecuted but does not want to decriminalize prostitution.
“You can have all the reforms you want. You can have a kinder, gentler police department. But if your streets are filled with guns and you’re dealing with a lot of violence, you are still going to have a lot of children being shot,” he said.
"This is the time when New York needs someone to run the city, not run from the city."
— Eric Adams (@ericadamsfornyc) April 26, 2021
Adams hopes to build a winning coalition of black and Hispanic voters combined with those working-class whites, small-business owners, and even Manhattan financial types who feel he can keep the city from a radical leftward tilt.
That’s probably a forlorn hope. Woke New Yorkers have supported Mayor Bill DeBlasio’s radical left drift. A recent approval poll showed he had 49 percent of New Yorkers approving of his performance while only 31 percent disapproved.
But Adams is well funded and has several powerful union endorsements in his pocket. The biggest issue — the perception that Yang is an “outsider” despite him being born and raised in Schenectady — has yet to be exploited by any of the candidates. That should change as we get closer to the primary.