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An Embattled Mayor

A lagging economy, rising crime, new scandals, and budget problems have left their mark on Eric Adams’s first two years in office.

City Journal – “This is a very, very complicated city,” New York mayor Eric Adams told WPIX television journalist Dan Mannarino earlier this week, “and that’s why it’s the greatest city on the globe.” Its complexities are certainly presenting Adams with all the challenges he can handle. Earlier this month, Quinnipiac revealed that Adams has the lowest approval rating of any mayor it has polled: 28 percent (and only 35 percent of New York City Democrats), with 58 percent disapproving. Under a third of New Yorkers approve of Adams’s handling of crime, schools, and the migration crisis. Only 32 percent find him honest and trustworthy. An abysmal 22 percent back his handling of the city’s (dire) financial situation and homelessness problem.

The worries are piling up. Since 2019, the Tax Foundation has rated New York the second-worst state in the union to start a business, behind New Jersey. Manhattan commercial real estate vacancy rates are still high, at over 22 percent—more than double the annual average in the decades before the Covid-19 pandemic—with no relief in sight. Nearly half a million people have left the city since 2020, with many settling in low-tax and pro-business red states. In financial services alone, according to an August 2023 Bloomberg study, 158 firms managing more than $1 trillion in assets have abandoned Gotham for sunnier places.

Adams, a Democrat elected to replace (and, voters hoped, improve upon) the term-limited Bill De Blasio, has been reduced to begging prosperous ex-New Yorkers to return. Few have answered his pleas so far; nor do those who remain seem interested in organizing a financial bailout for the city, as had been the case in the 1970s. New York’s self-proclaimed status as a “sanctuary city,” however, has drawn more than 150,000 illegal immigrants, who will cost the city some $12 billion by the end of 2025, when Adams will be up for reelection. This past September, Adams declared that the migrant crisis alone “will destroy New York City.”

All the while, crime rates have continued to rise across multiple categories, including assault, auto theft, transit violations, and hate-related attacks—though the dramatic spike in homicides that began in 2020 has thankfully abated somewhat. Frustrated by limits on law-enforcement operations, leftist criminal-justice ideology, and policies that favor criminals over the law-abiding, thousands of police officers have left the NYPD, continuing the most rapid exodus of cops in the city’s history. In the early months of 2023, police departure rates were more than twice last year’s high monthly totals. And New Yorkers who act to protect themselves or others from assailants in public places can themselves easily end up under arrest and subject to prosecution.

Adams’s answer to Gotham’s problems? Shortly after entering office, he advised New Yorkers to “change your perspective.” In a way, they have. According to a Siena College poll released in July, a whopping 87 percent of New Yorkers said they consider crime a major issue, while nearly one in six reported acquiring a firearm despite strict gun-control legislation. Adams has blamed the media, rather than the criminals or his inability to deal with them, for fanning the public’s fears.

Two recent scandals, in addition to other corruption allegations, further handicap Adams. In November, the Turkish government was alleged to have helped his mayoral campaign, presumably to gain favorable treatment from city government. A group of FBI agents investigating the case embarrassingly confronted Adams on the street and seized his electronic devices, while others searched his chief fundraiser’s home.

Late last month, one of Adams’s former colleagues in the New York Transit Police alleged in a lawsuit—filed under Democrat-sponsored state legislation that temporarily dropped the statute of limitations on civil actions for sexual assault—that he had sexually assaulted her 30 years ago, as well as committing battery and employment discrimination. Adams denies the accusations.

Between news of the FBI investigation and the lawsuit, Adams announced some $4 billion in emergency budget cuts, affecting police deployments, garbage collection, public library services, and migrant resources—all of which could make the city less livable. Some 83 percent of New Yorkers have expressed concerns about the cuts, and DC 37, the city’s largest public-sector union and a major supporter of his election campaign, has filed a lawsuit against him and several other officials over the reductions. Disclaiming responsibility, Adams blamed Washington for not picking up the slack.

The mayor’s position is so embattled that former New York governor Andrew Cuomo—who resigned from office in August 2021 after sexual harassment complaints—is reportedly exploring a campaign to become New York’s next mayor, telling the media, “I do not believe the city is heading in the right direction.”

Perhaps all is not yet lost for the Adams administration. When WPIX’s Mannarino asked the mayor what he thought he could work on the most in his remaining two years in office, Adams replied, “Probably communications.”

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