Barring political cataclysm, Eric Leroy Adams, a former police captain turned Democratic politician, will become New York City’s next mayor.
For Mr. Adams, Brooklyn’s charismatic borough president and the Democratic nominee for mayor, winning the general election on Tuesday is likely to be the easy part. Democrats outnumber Republicans in New York City nearly seven to one. The real challenge comes in January, when the new mayor will begin setting the pandemic-scarred city back on its feet.
If he is elected, Mr. Adams will enter City Hall with very few of the advantages that Bill de Blasio enjoyed eight years ago. He may have to guide the city’s recovery without the same generous surpluses and steady economy, for example. Unlike Mr. de Blasio, Mr. Adams only barely won the Democratic primary. To govern effectively, he will also have to find a way to reassure those who didn’t vote for him — which includes a large portion of voters in his own party — that he will be a mayor for all New Yorkers.
Since the Democratic primary, a great deal of the mayoral race has focused on crime. Mr. Adams has staked his campaign in large part around law and order, while also supporting police reform. That may seem strange for a Democratic politician in liberal New York City. Coming from Mr. Adams — who served in the Police Department for 22 years, rising through the ranks to become a captain, even as he publicly fought to reform the department — it is more complicated.
In many ways, Mr. Adams, who is Black and grew up in South Jamaica, Queens, represents the unaddressed hunger of Black communities for both safer streets and better policing. If Mr. Adams can better protect communities that bear the burden of gun violence while also bringing accountability and reform to the city’s Police Department, as he has promised to do, that will be a triumph.
The city is also facing other, arguably even greater, challenges.
The top priorities for the next administration ought to include ensuring that the city’s roughly one million public school students recover from a year of lost learning in the pandemic, particularly the 600,000 students who learned remotely last year. Even as the pandemic recedes, the city’s public school system needs significant help: more aid for some 100,000 homeless students in the city, sweeping reforms to improve schools in low-income communities and progress in integrating some of the nation’s most segregated schools.
In order to fund better schools and all the rest of the good that the administration is capable of doing, it is vital that New York regains a solid financial footing. That means working with businesses large and small to restart the economic engine that can power progress.
That progress should include building far more affordable housing, especially in wealthy areas with good transit where less city subsidy is needed to create units for poor and middle-income New Yorkers.
The city should speed its plodding march toward reclaiming its streets from cars for pedestrians, restaurants and cyclists. Of course, ultimate success there depends on getting the beleaguered subway system back on its feet. That means maintaining a good relationship with the governor, who holds the real power over the city’s transit system. The endless cycle of fruitless bickering between the former governor and current mayor helped no one.
The next administration will also need to work alongside the state government to close the jail complex on Rikers Island, holding fast to reforms that prioritize mental health services and modernize detention facilities, while still keeping the city safe.
All this work must be done while continuing to shore up this waterfront city against the rising tides of climate change.
There are also several policy areas in which we hope Mr. Adams will change his mind over the next four years from promises made on the campaign trail. We hope he will take a greater interest in racially integrating the city’s public schools. We also hope he will adopt a tougher approach to ensuring that ultra-Orthodox yeshivas that have been the subject of serious complaints from parents and former students actually meet basic state education standards.
If the polls and history are any indication, Mr. Adams has little competition at the ballot box Tuesday in Curtis Sliwa, a Republican and the founder of the Guardian Angels who has laid out few detailed proposals for what he would do in office. Voters intent on differentiating the two need look no further than the fact that Mr. Adams supports the city mandates requiring thousands of city workers to get vaccinated. Mr. Sliwa not only does not support the mandate, but recently marched alongside workers protesting the policy.
Mr. Adams has our endorsement.
We’re encouraged by the passion Mr. Adams shows for championing the needs of working-class New Yorkers, who have for too long been left out of the city’s success. Some of Mr. Adams’s most thoughtful ideas include straightforward policies and changes that stem from his own personal experiences. His promise to create universal screening for dyslexia — a learning disability Mr. Adams dealt with as a child — is an encouraging example of how he viscerally understands the role city government can play in a child’s life.
Several years ago, Mr. Adams overhauled his diet and is now a vegan. For plenty of politicians, that would be a biographical detail. Mr. Adams has parlayed the story into a call to arms (as well as a cookbook), and a poignant example of the connection between racism and health for Black Americans. He has said he is determined to improve the quality of food in schools, jails and shelters.
“When we feed people, we should only feed them healthy food,” he told Times Opinion’s Ezra Klein. “They go to the government because they don’t have any other choices. So it’s almost a betrayal when you know someone has no other choice but to eat what you give them, and you’re giving them food that feeds their chronic diseases.”
For some voters, this may be a distant priority. But there are millions of New Yorkers who need a mayor who so clearly understands the impact of municipal government on their everyday lives.