As New Yorkers worried more about crime, the message was simple: Eric Adams, a former police captain, was the only candidate for mayor in 2021 who could rein in a sense of disorder that seeped into the city during the pandemic. .
The voters got the message and sent Mr. Adams to City Hall, where he immediately began increasing police patrols while promising to stop the armed “bad guys” terrorizing the streets. He often says that public safety is “a prerequisite for well-being,” the foundation behind the city’s effort to improve its economy and get people back into offices and restaurants.
But running a city of eight million people and a $100 billion budget is a complex task, and Mr. Adams quickly faced criticism on many fronts: nepotism in his administration, painful budget cuts in some schools, and a lack of urgency in tackling New York’s problems seems to be the case. affordability crisis.
The challenges continue to increase. The city’s financial forecast is bleak as federal pandemic relief comes to an end and tax revenues plummet. The influx of nearly 32,000 migrants from the country’s southern border has upset the responsiveness of institutions. A new policy of involuntarily removing the mentally ill homeless from the streets has met with fierce resistance. Nineteen people have died this year after being held in the city’s troubled prison system.
From his first day in office, Mayor Eric Adams has made fighting crime a top priority of his administration. Credit… Dave Sanders/New York Times
As his first year as mayor comes to an end, Mr. Adams argued that he has begun to deliver on his campaign commitment to reduce crime, citing a 13 percent drop in homicides by 2022 and a 17 percent drop in gun attacks as of December 17. 27. In a recent interview, he said it provided a “level of stability” to New Yorkers after the pandemic was interrupted.
Still, critics of the mayor question whether he is an efficient administrator. A staff crisis in the municipal government has slowed the work of critical institutions, and the city is missing its goals to build affordable housing, bus routes and other projects.
These critics also point to a lack of signature policy success comparable to the universal kindergarten program introduced by its predecessor, Bill de Blasio – something Mr Adams admitted in an interview.
He suggested instead that it should be considered in a series of initiatives: expanding a tax credit for poor New Yorkers, a new funding plan for public housing approved by state lawmakers, and a focus on dyslexia screenings for children. This is all part of the mayor’s “upward” approach to helping city dwellers before they hit the crisis.
In the final weeks of his first year, Mr. Adams, a Democrat espousing the slogan “Get Things Done”, announced two key policy initiatives: a plan to clean the mentally ill homeless off the streets and a plan to modernize housing development that will help spur the creation of up to 50,000 new homes over the next 10 years. regulations.
“So it was Blasio’s commendable upstream initiative, 3-K and pre-K,” Adams said, referring to programs that now serve more than 90,000 young children a year. “I’m listing a few production initiatives we’ve made over the past year.”
What You Need to Know About Affordable Housing in New York
It’s a worsening crisis. New York City is in a dire housing shortage, exacerbated by the pandemic that has made city living more expensive and increasingly inaccessible to many. What you need to know:
It’s a longstanding shortcoming. While the city seems to be building and expanding all the time, experts say it’s not fast enough to keep up with demand. Zoning restrictions, the cost of construction and the ability of politicians to find solutions are among the obstacles to increasing the housing supply.
Rising costs. The city regulates the rents of many apartments, but more than a third of the city’s tenants still experience a serious rent burden, meaning they spend more than 50 percent of their income on rent, according to city data. Property owners say higher rents are necessary to cope with the increased tax burden and increased costs for property maintenance.
Corporate housing. Thousands of people are on the waiting list for public housing in buildings inspected by the New York City Housing Authority. But the city’s public housing system, the largest in the country, has become a symbol of the deterioration of America’s aging public housing stock and is in desperate need of a financial rescue.
In search of solution. Mayor Eric Adams presented a plan to address New York City’s housing crisis, which includes expanding affordable housing through incentives for developers and preserving existing sub-market units. But critics of the mayor say the budget is still below what is needed.
Mr. Adams certainly enjoyed the theatricality of the work, which served as a jovial antidote to Mr. de Blasio, who seemed to be proud of his sullen face. In his first year as mayor, Mr. Adams was apparently everywhere: smiling on the red carpet at the Met Gala, fighting rats, patrolling the subway in Police Department attire, and visiting the Rikers Island prison complex on Thanksgiving.
His calendar was often filled with ceremonial appearances that felt like it was from his time as Brooklyn borough president, including at least 17 flag-raising events. In November, while his son was competing in Albania in an “American Idol” style competition, the mayor held a flag-raising ceremony for the Balkan country in Lower Manhattan and an “Albanian Heritage Celebration” at Gracie Mansion.
Mr. Adams said it was important to him to honor immigrant communities and that just because he wasn’t at City Hall didn’t mean he wasn’t working. He said he conducts most of his meetings over Zoom calls, an epidemic-era convenience that most previous mayors didn’t have.
“Trust me, when I go to that flag hoist on Bowling Green, I’ll do a Zoom on the way there, and I’ll do a Zoom when I get back,” he said.
Still, the town’s man personality has drawn scrutiny over the clubs he frequents, the occasional fish meals despite his openly committed to a vegan lifestyle, and some of the friendships he keeps. Critics questioned whether Mr Adams was focusing enough on politics and putting the right team together to bring solutions.
“I’m progressive and my priorities will be very different from the mayor,” said Melissa Mark-Viverito, a democratic political strategist and former City Council spokesperson. “But I’m also concerned on the management side and whether the city is providing the essential services New Yorkers rely on.”
Lorraine Grillo, the first outgoing deputy mayor, cited “capital process reform”, a task force initiative involving issues such as construction change orders and electronic bidding, as her most proud achievement in the recent past, as a possible sign of the lack of a focused message beyond crime. . year.
The mayor’s office provided a 16-page list of his “year-end achievements”, including police making slightly more gun arrests in 2022 than in 2021: it rose from 4,497 to 4,509.
“I continued to pursue crime, particularly gun violence,” said Mr Adams. “Even the critics have to say, ‘Listen, in the midst of all this, the man has reduced shootings, reduced murders, increased the amount of guns removed from our streets.’”
The subject of crime is complex. Major crimes, including assaults and robberies, increased by 23 percent overall in 2022 as of December 27, while shootings and murders decreased. And with a constant focus on crime and the state’s bail law, Mr. Adams is accused of helping to feed a Republican campaign narrative that the city is a haven of lawlessness.
It sought to reduce disorder by focusing on quality-of-life concerns and led to an increase in the number of summons for low-level crimes, even though crime remained well below the historic peaks of the 1980s and ’90s. Civil rights advocates are concerned about Black and Latino men being stopped by the police and would prefer that Mr. Adams do more in his first year to kickstart police reforms.
The city’s public defender, Jumaane Williams, said many of the mayor’s solutions to the crime problem were narrow-minded and too dependent on law enforcement. Mr. Williams sponsored a bill to end solitary confinement at the Rikers complex, which Mr Adams opposed but expected to be supported by a veto-resistant City Council majority.
“ It’s easy to say more law enforcement and more incarceration, but that hasn’t worked in the past,” said Mr Williams. “A temporary loophole at best.”
Another example of Mr. Adams’ emphasis on tackling disorder is his administration’s focus on garbage. In recent months, the city has increased garbage collection during the holidays, set times when garbage can be taken out for collection, and created a new position: rodent reduction manager.
“The mayor understands that the city has to look good to feel good,” Jessica Tisch, the city’s cleanup commissioner, said in an interview.
The escalating violence on Rikers Island has been another major challenge, and 2022 is expected to be the prison complex’s deadliest year in nearly a decade. Mary Lynne Werlwas, director of the Prisoners’ Rights Project, said the mayor’s response to the prison crisis was very slow and timid.
“They have been reluctant to make the bold changes they need to make to bring both competence and courtesy to prisons,” Adams said of his administration.
Management lagged behind in other key metrics. In the fiscal year ending June, the city began building 16,000 homes below market price, nearly half the average in recent years. The city also fell short of its goal of creating 20 miles of bus lanes and 30 miles of protected bike lanes this year, and expects to build less than 12 miles of bus lanes and 25 miles of protected bike lanes.
Mr. Adams said he is proud of the new housing projects approved by the City Council, which will offer affordable units, including Innovation Queens in Astoria and a project in the Throgs Neck section of the Bronx. He said he was committed to building bus and bike lanes faster, while insisting on greater access to local communities to get their support for such initiatives.
“We will make peace in 2023,” the mayor said. “We will move at a constant speed”
Asked to describe an area where he faces a learning curve, Mr. Adams spoke of technology and the delay in the rollout of an app called “MyCity” that New Yorkers can use to gain access to public services like food vouchers. He said the app, which he proposed during his mayoral campaign, should be available in early 2023.
“We can hurry now, but I really want to kick the tires,” he said.
The mayor was unapologetic about his administration’s hiring decisions, including bringing in roughly a dozen of his friends and political allies to the city government with high salaries. He argued that ordinary New Yorkers did not question the moves.
“I have to work with people in my office that I trust, have the skills to get the job done, and have a passion for going there all day, every day, and making deliveries for New Yorkers, and that’s what I did,” he said.
As the year drew to a close, rocky waters lay before Mr. Adams. More immigrants are expected to arrive. The mayor increasingly came head-to-head with City Council leaders. He warned that further budget cuts may be needed, including for public libraries.
Still, Mr. Adams remained optimistic at a recent press conference, calling 2022 “rookie season”, giving himself a B-plus rating for this year, and promising that “our best things are still on the way.”
“2023 will be an Aaron Judge year for me,” said Mr Adams, referring to the Yankees outfielder who was named the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 2022. What Mr. Adams didn’t mention: Mr. Judge was the league’s Rookie of the Year in his first full season.
Dana Rubinstein contributed to the reporting.