Mayor Eric Adams wants New Yorkers to know it is safe to go out again.
The dapper Democrat and so-called “celebrity mayor” is frequently spotted at city hotspots with VIPs and he stopped by the Met Gala and broadcast booth at Yankee Stadium this month.
“We have an amazing nightlife in this city. And I like to say, I’m a nightlife mayor, so I have to test the product,” he told the YES Network.
It’s the type of swagger and outside-the-box thinking that swept him into office, as he cobbled together Democratic support without espousing the “defund the police” mantra from progressives.
But there are signs that New Yorkers are dimming the lights on his after-party, pointing to crime and quality of life issues as signs the city is locked in the doldrums despite a 24-hour booster campaign from its mayor.
Voters gave Mr. Adams a 43%-37% approval rating in a Quinnipiac University Poll this month, a downturn from the 46% approval and 27% disapproval he saw in a similar poll from February, or shortly after he took the reins from Bill de Blasio on New Year’s Day.
“There’s significant slippage. It has to do with the sense that things are still out of control and crime is still increasing. There is a general sense of disorder, and he did not provide — early — what he said he would,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a longtime political consultant who’s worked on 20 citywide races. “The problem is the expectations were so high because he was replacing someone that people detested.”
“He’s performed very well as the chief booster for the city. That New York swagger has become much more pronounced,” Mr. Sheinkopf said. “Now he’s got to focus more in a granular way. He’s got to focus more on government management issues, which include crime.”
The mayor is seeking the right balance on public safety, rejecting “broken windows” policing that was panned as discriminatory, while assuring residents that he can address frequent shootings, including a mass attack on a Brooklyn subway platform in April.
Murders are down by nearly 14% compared to this point last year but other major crime categories are up, including a 45% spike in robbery, according to CompStat data from the New York Police Department.
“Mayor Adams gets a positive score on his job performance, but it’s tepid. The biggest weight on his numbers: crime. It’s by far the most urgent issue and voters are holding him accountable,” Quinnipiac University polling analyst Mary Snow said. “In the wake of April’s mass shooting on the subway along with an increase in major crimes, confidence slips in the mayor being able to reduce gun violence.”
Mr. Adams has pointed fingers at state officials, saying they need to fix a revolving-door criminal justice system.
“Arrests are up, but letting guys out is up also!” he said at a Wednesday event on efforts to combat untraceable “ghost” guns. “Let’s make sure people serve their time. That’s what we’re missing.”
The mayor’s office says while New Yorkers are rightly worried about crime, there has been progress. The administration restored anti-gun police units that Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat, disbanded amid complaints about police brutality, although Mr. Adams rebranded them as Neighborhood Safety Teams.
“The mayor launched the new anti-gun unit to focus on getting dangerous guns off the streets, he helped deliver public safety reforms in Albany that many thought were impossible, and he has worked with partners in the federal government to stem the tide of dangerous guns flowing into New York City from other states,” Adams press secretary Fabien Levy said. “But reducing crime in the city won’t happen overnight. We are seeing movement and the crime numbers from last month reflect that with homicides, shootings, rapes, and hate crimes all down. Mayor Adams is laser-focused on reversing the failures of the previous administration while fighting back against failed reforms to the state’s justice system and irresponsible laws that flood our city with out-of-state guns.”
Even if public safety remains a work in progress, no one can accuse Mr. Adams of hiding from the spotlight.
The mayor had to quarantine amid the fallout of the April subway shooting due to a COVID-19 diagnosis. But he kept a marathon media schedule during isolation, doing back-to-back television hits to update the public on the investigation — with a few coughs.
Since then, he’s resumed his busy schedule, ferrying from event to event during the day and hitting up restaurants, performance venues and nightclubs.
His office also said the mayor visits the subways or homeless shelters unannounced after evening festivities, so he is attuned to city needs. However, critics say he’s failed to make the Big Apple attractive to everyone.
“His first four months he’s worked very hard to establish himself as the swagger mayor, there’s no doubt. The customized suits, the Ferragamo shoes, the nightlife,” Curtis Sliwa, the GOP nominee who lost the mayoral contest to Mr. Adams, told The Washington Times. “But that’s not why he got elected. The Swagger Man never had a plan to deal with crime and that’s become extraordinarily evident to all.”
Fixing crime is just one piece of Mr. Adams’ bid to restore the city’s swagger after a pandemic bruising. He wants to restore foot traffic to key business zones, though it hasn’t been easy.
A survey by the Partnership for New York City, a key business group, found only 8% of Manhattan office workers are returning to the office five days per week. Notably, about 78% of workplaces are using a hybrid model that offers a mix of remote and in-person labor, a huge jump from 6% before the pandemic.
At the same time, surveyed companies do not expect their city footprint to crumble. The partnership said 39% of employers expect to increase their New York City office-based workforce in the next five years, while only 8% expect a drop in their office-employee headcount, and 18% expect the headcount to remain the same.
Two-thirds of New Yorkers are very, or somewhat confident the city’s economy will bounce back from the pandemic, according to the Quinnipiac poll.
“There’s a silver lining tucked in a somewhat bleak snapshot of the city. Despite concerns over crime, half of voters expect tourism in New York City to increase over the next year,” Ms. Snow said.
Mr. Adams recently made a direct appeal to younger people who are socially conscious but are getting accustomed to staying at home.
“You stay home, then that person who works in the cleaners that normally cleans your suit is not getting paid. That person who’s a dishwasher in a restaurant at a low wage, or a cook, or a waiter, they’re not getting paid,” he said on a podcast hosted by former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.
Mr. Adams is balancing efforts to deal with crime and the virus with initiatives based on his personal experience. He frequently extols the benefits of a plant-based diet and struck a partnership with London Mayor Sadiq Khan to measure how food supply chains and consumption habits impact emissions and climate change.
“I have talked about this for years. It’s in our food. Not only is our food harming our mothers and fathers, but it’s harming mother nature. And it’s time for us to be honest about this conversation and unafraid of where the facts take us,” Mr. Adams said.
Mr. Sliwa said efforts to take on things like diet and dyslexia are commendable but will be long-term projects.
“Again, the electorate is like, ‘Wait a second, that’s nice, that’s garnish — but you haven’t dealt with the meat and the potatoes,’” he said. “And that’s crime, quality of life, and our ability to come in to work and enjoy the benefits of the city.”
Mr. Sheinkopf said the mayor’s honeymoon with New Yorkers isn’t over, but the clock is ticking.
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