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Eric Adams is elected New York City mayor


Mayor Mike Duggan in his office in Detroit on Aug. 16, 2021.

By Katie Glueck


Eric Leroy Adams, a former New York City police captain whose attention-grabbing persona and keen focus on racial justice fueled a decadeslong career in public life, was elected on Tuesday as the 110th mayor of New York and the second Black mayor in the city’s history.


Adams, who will take office on Jan. 1, faces a staggering set of challenges as the nation’s largest city grapples with the enduring consequences of the pandemic, including a precarious and unequal economic recovery and continuing concerns about crime and the quality of city life, all shaped by stark political divisions over how New York should move forward.


His victory signals the start of a more center-left Democratic leadership that, he has promised, will reflect the needs of the working- and middle-class voters of color who delivered him the party’s nomination and were vital to his general election coalition.


In New York City, even as Republicans appeared poised for the possibility of slight gains in the City Council, Democrats won the marquee contests easily. It seemed likely that many of the officials Adams must work with closely — prominent incoming City Council members, the public advocate and other Democrats who won on Tuesday — will be substantially to Adams’ left.


Adams, whose win over his Republican opponent, Curtis Sliwa, appeared to be resounding, will begin the job with significant political leverage.


He assembled a broad coalition, and was embraced by both Mayor Bill de Blasio, who sought to chart more of a left-wing course for New York, and by centrist leaders like Michael Bloomberg, de Blasio’s predecessor. Adams was the favored candidate of labor unions and wealthy donors. And he and Gov. Kathy Hochul, who showed up at his victory party, have made clear that they intend to have a more productive relationship than de Blasio had with Andrew Cuomo when he was governor.


Adams was buoyant in taking the stage at the New York Marriott in Brooklyn an hour after polls closed, entering to “The Champ Is Here,” a Jadakiss song he used during his campaign, before delivering his acceptance speech.


“We are so divided right now and we’re missing the beauty of our diversity,” Adams said, remarks that echoed the “gorgeous mosaic” that David N. Dinkins, New York’s first Black mayor, famously discussed. “Today we take off the intramural jersey and we put on one jersey: Team New York.”


The Associated Press called Adams’ victory 10 minutes after polls closed, reflecting the overwhelming edge Democrats have in New York City even amid signs of low turnout. Minutes later, AP declared Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, the winner of the Manhattan district attorney’s race.


Sliwa conceded Tuesday night, telling supporters that he was “pledging my support to the new mayor Eric Adams.” But Sliwa, a longtime tabloid fixture, also insisted, “You will have Curtis Sliwa to kick around.”


Observers of New York politics were awaiting results in two Long Island races for district attorney that tested suburban attitudes about the state’s recent criminal justice reforms.


And in Buffalo, a fiercely contested matchup between India B. Walton, a democratic socialist and the Democratic nominee, and the incumbent mayor, Byron W. Brown, was getting national attention. A victor was not expected to be decided on election night, in part because Brown waged a write-in campaign. But about 60% of the ballots were marked for write-in, and Brown declared victory.


In New York City, the difficulties that Adams, 61, will encounter were apparent even as he celebrated his victory. “We are fighting COVID, crime and economic devastation all at once,” he said Tuesday night.


In one of the world’s financial capitals, workers are barely trickling back to their midtown Manhattan offices. The tourism industry is suffering. Many of the city’s beloved restaurants and other businesses have closed for good. And even as Wall Street profits soar, the city’s unemployment rate stood at 9.8% in September, with job growth lagging behind the pace that some economists had predicted last spring.


Adams will also inherit a budget gap of about $5 billion that will require immediate action, said Andrew S. Rein, president of the nonpartisan Citizens Budget Commission. There will also be contracts to negotiate with city workers and eventually, the federal aid that helped pay for some city priorities will dwindle.


“Every decision has long-run implications,” Rein said. “If you start sooner, you can take care of it. When you’re in an emergency situation, it’s hard to make good decisions that are not painful.”


There is no issue Adams has discussed more than public safety.


“We’re not going to just talk about safety,” Adams declared. “We’re going to have safety in our city.”


Adams, who grew up poor in Queens and Brooklyn and says he was once a victim of police brutality. He spent his early years in public life as a transit police officer and later a captain who pushed, sometimes provocatively, for changes from within the system. That experience cemented his credibility with many older voters of color, some of whom mistrust the police while also worrying about crime.


During the primary, amid a spike in gun violence and jarring attacks on the subway that fueled public fears about crime, Adams emerged as one of his party’s most unflinching advocates for the police maintaining a robust role in preserving public safety. He often clashed with those who sought to scale back law enforcement’s power in favor of promoting greater investments in mental health and other social services.


Yet other voters said Adams’ emphasis on policing stoked misgivings. And he will certainly face resistance on the subject from some incoming City Council members.


Tiffany Cabán, a prominent new member who was endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America, said that on many issues she was “ready to be collaborative.”


“Then you’ll see that there are times where there will be tension,” Cabán said. After emphasizing potential areas of common ground, she mentioned the prospect of Adams’ more assertive policing policies and added: “We’re going to be ready for a fight on those things.”


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