TBE MAYOR New York is no easy task. Bill de Blasio, the incumbent, was once a progressive darling. However, his unique political talents – a penchant for self-glorification and a sufficient contempt to deal with the city’s problems – along with constant feuds with the governor, made Mr. de Blasio ineffective and widely hated. He will soon limp out of Gracie Mansion, leaving behind formidable problems for his successor. Economic growth is stifled by regulation and insufficient housing construction. There has been a dramatic increase in shootings and homicides. Without a timely federal bailout, the city would face severe budget cuts.
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The man New Yorkers will choose to pick up these coins is Eric Adams, a former black, vegan police captain from Brooklyn. In a crowded field, Adams narrowly won the Democratic primary with the support of a broad coalition of non-whites and non-Manhattanians. As with President Joe Biden, his supporters were the working class, the elderly and minorities. He promises to be mayor of the Bronx and Brooklyn, not the Upper West Side.
His victory in the primary elections and his almost guaranteed triumph in the upcoming general election is a rebuke of the progressive zeal that has pervaded America’s largest cities since the protests against racial justice began more than a year ago. This is a growing movement that is almost contemptuous of the industries that generate urban prosperity. He sees special education for gifted students as oppressive; he interprets pathological housing markets as signs of too little government intervention rather than too much; and he argues, at odds with common sense and political reality, that “defining the police” is the solution to rising crime. Its most enthusiastic followers seem to be citizens comfortably isolated from both violence and want.
Mr. Adams is not their avatar. A former cop himself, he does not want to finance or abolish the police department, but to reform it. Even before his candidacy, Adams had agitated to facilitate the dismissal of officers who brutalized citizens. But he resists the condescending attitude adopted by some progressives that the resurgence of violent crime inflicted largely on the poor is an acceptable compromise on the road to social justice.
Rather than increasing the city’s budget by 25% in real terms, as Mr de Blasio has done, Mr Adams intends to cut his heavy bureaucracy. He says he wants to repeat the $ 1.5 billion spending cut that Michael Bloomberg managed when he was mayor.
The problem of high-cost cities largely reflects a lack of housing, which no “rent stabilization” scheme, however elaborate, can mask. From 2010 to 2019, for five new jobs created in New York, only one new home was built. Mr Adams is right that new developments must be approved quickly in the city and that the burden of change should be borne not only by poor neighborhoods, but also by upscale neighborhoods like the charming and absurdly low-slung West Village.
It’s foolishness to trust too much someone who aims to run America’s greatest city. Even M. de Blasio has already shown a certain enthusiasm. Mr Bloomberg’s admirable technocratic impulses have plunged him into endless debates over soda taxes.
Unfortunately, Mr. Adams’ judgment also has its flaws. The rumor that he lives part-time in New Jersey did not die out even after letting the press tour his sparse townhouse. Incorrect financial statements do not inspire confidence in a man who is about to take over a $ 100 billion operation. As a political machine he owes many people many favors. Alarmingly, during his campaign he called an alliance between two of his opponents in the primary an attempt to suppress black votes in the city – a cheap, bogus and inflammatory attack.
Getting New York back on track will require sustained and skillful leadership, not empty displays of populism. Gotham has gone through enough already. ■
This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “New cop on the beat”