In 2013, that Brooklyn coalition, led by Black voters, sent Mayor Bill de Blasio to Gracie Mansion.
Then, in early 2020, the pandemic hit New York City, claiming tens of thousands of lives. It killed people from all walks of life, but hit especially hard in the minority and immigrant communities in the Democratic base. Every level of government, including City Hall, had failed them.
A year later, the Democratic primary included three major Black candidates. One of them, Maya Wiley, a progressive, garnered significant support. But working-class Black New York went with Mr. Adams, handing him a narrow victory. Basil Smikle, director of the public policy program at Hunter College, said they wanted someone who understood their everyday lives. “The Dinkinses and the Obamas of the world, yes it’s aspirational, we’d all like our children to grow up to be them,” said Mr. Smikle, who is Black. “But to what extent do you know how people are living?”
Mr. Adams’s political showmanship doesn’t hurt.
In 2016, when Mr. Adams became a vegan, reversing a diabetes diagnosis, he touted the diet as a way to liberate Black Americans from the history of slavery and published a cookbook.
Years earlier, in the State Senate, Mr. Adams produced a dramatized video from his office encouraging parents to search their children’s belongings for contraband. “You don’t know what your child may be hiding,” Mr. Adams tells the camera, pulling a gun out of a jewelry box. The political stunt left political insiders giggling. But it demonstrated how deeply connected Mr. Adams was to the voters he represented.
“It is comical, but let me tell you, my mom would probably be nodding her head for the entire video,” said Zellnor Myrie, 35, who holds Mr. Adams’s former Senate seat, and was raised in the district by his mother.
Much of what appears to be paradoxical about Mr. Adams is, to Black Americans, just familiar.
“All of us have been at dinner with some uncle who talks about ‘Black on Black’ crime,” said Christina Greer, associate professor of political science at Fordham University. “We know Eric Adams.”
Yet, Mr. Adams is familiar to New Yorkers of many backgrounds. They recognize the swagger of the beat cop; the blunt cadence of southeast Queens, with its languorous vowels; the hustle and ambition found all over New York.