On June 22, 2020, 43 more people died from the pandemic battering New York City. Protesters took to the roads , NYPD helicopters hovering low overhead, cops in riot gear kettling marchers and hammering their bikes, continuing the confrontations triggered by the murder of George Floyd one month earlier. The idea that a tough-on-crime former cop would be the top mayoral candidate annually afterwards appeared far-fetched.
Things have shifted. Early voting starts this weekend, culminating on June 22, 2021, primary-election day. Crime, maybe not coronavirus, has become the top priority for a majority of respondents, according to some fresh NY1 poll. And Eric Adams, ex-NYPD captain, is the front-runner. What a world.
Timing is always crucial in town elections. David Dinkins won as a racial conciliator in 1989 soon after Yusuf Hawkins, a Black teenager, was murdered by a group of white men in Bensonhurst. Four years after crime was up, and Rudy Giuliani won as a hard-ass ex-prosecutor. Eight years later the World Trade Center was attacked, and the town thought it had to select a billionaire businessman, Mike Bloomberg, to recuperate. Twelve years after that, lefty Bill de Blasio was the supposed antidote to the autocrat.
Now COVID cases are (thankfully) down way; shootings are far up. Adams, a Black former cop, is promoting himself as the perfect mix of authorities reformer and public-safety expert. “Adams is saying,’I have the aid of Abner Louima. I have the support of Sean Bell’s dad. However, I also think we need to have a strategy to get guns off the street,”’ says Bruce Gyory, a Democratic strategist who is not working with some of the contenders. “There’s a clear majority of New Yorkers who want significant criminal justice reform. But there’s also a clear majority that wants proactive community policing that is not racialized. He’s in the sweet spot of the electorate.”
As effort messaging, it’s indeed working nicely for Adams. More dubious is whether Adams has the skills and experience to deliver what he’s promising. True, his 22 years in the NYPD could offer him a degree of authenticity with the section that de Blasio has sorely lacked. And Adams has occasionally been prescient in his criticism of this department on racial issues, although still in uniform. What Adams actually did as a cop, however, is largely a mystery. Politico has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for Adams’s personnel records, but they’re still sealed; when there weren’t any internal affairs investigations of Adams, for instance, they are still out of sight. Throughout the campaign, Adams has regularly referenced his years wearing a bulletproof vest. Like most young cops, he apparently spent some time on patrol. Yet contemporaries mostly remember him as a unremarkable officer during assignments with Brooklyn and Manhattan precincts. “Eric was well liked, personall