The top contenders vying are challenged with leading a city out of a public health emergency that has magnified long-standing disparities in housing, education and economic security, while issues of police reform and public safety have dominated debate in the middle of a pandemic that has devastated its neighbourhoods.
Democrat Eric Adams – a Brooklyn borough president, former state legislator and retired New York City Police Department captain – defeated Democratic primary candidates in the city’s first-ever ranked-choice election and is favoured to win the general election in the largely Democratic city. He will be the city’s second-ever Black mayor, if elected.
Curtis Sliwa – a radio personality and founder of the controversial Guardian Angels volunteer subway patrol – faces difficult odds of winning as the Republican candidate in a city where Democratic voters outnumber Republicans nearly eight to one.
Early voting is underway and Election Day is on 2 November. Several other long-shot mayoral candidates join the ballot, which also includes elections for city council, public advocate, district attorney and other ballot measures.
Who is Eric Adams?
Mr Adams, 61, was one of six children raised by a single mother in South Jamaica, a neighbourhood in the borough of Queens.
His political origin story, one he has often used to chart his trajectory, begins with his arrest at 15 years old, and an officer assaulting him while in custody. Later, as an officer himself, he protested against police violence and promoted “culture” reform from within the ranks. He formed 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care to campaign against racial profiling.
He retired from the NYPD in 2006 after 20 years on the force to make a run for a seat in the state Senate, where he represented parts of central Brooklyn in Albany until 2013. He was then elected as the first ever Black man to represent Brooklyn as its borough president.
From 1997 until 2001, he was registered to vote as a Republican, though he pursued a more traditional Democratic platform as a state senator in Albany, where he supported efforts towards marriage equality in 2009 and 2011.
With a reputation as both a self-aggrandising opportunist and meditative executive, Mr Adams has campaigned as “the people’s candidate” and as a “moderate” blue-collar New Yorker connected to the lives of working people. But he has also secured the backing of Democratic Party bosses, real-estate developers, labour unions and other powerful politicians, with a campaign war chest totalling nearly $8m by the time early voting opened, according to the New York City Campaign Finance Board.
Amid his pro-business campaign, which has sought to lure Big Tech and grow the city’s burgeoning technology sector, Mr Adams also collected endorsements from police and fire unions, as well as from the editorial board of Rupert Murdoch’s right-wing New York Post, with whom he also dined earlier this year.
Between 2015 and 2019, while he was Brooklyn borough president, Mr Adams also reaped at least $322,750 in donations to his One Brooklyn Fund organisation or his political campaigns from lobbyists and developers who were also appealing to his office for favours, according to a review by The City.
During the pandemic, he set up a temporary residence at his office in Brooklyn Borough Hall, a point he has brought up in debates to demonstrate his commitment to the city during the public health crisis.
He also owns a home in Brooklyn and a condo in New Jersey, though reporters have repeatedly tried to get a clearer answer as to where he actually lives full-time. In response, Mr Adams held a press conference and a tour of his Brooklyn address.
Mr Adams has capitalised on his experience as a former police officer to contrast from his opponent, who has been criticised as leading a “vigilante” group for decades, in his approach to combating crime. He has proposed a limited return of much-maligned stop-and-frisk efforts and reinstating a plainclothes undercover police unit – which was dissolved in 2020 following a number of fatal shootings and civilian complaints – to target “gangs and guns.”
Mr Adams supports the current city plan to close the Rikers Island complex by 2026 and replace it with a network of borough-based jails following a growing humanitarian crisis at the jail.
Mr Adams – who is vaccinated against Covid-19 – would also maintain recent vaccine requirements for city workers and law enforcement, saying during a recent debate that “we can never go back to what we were when Covid hit the city.”
With roughly 48,000 people experiencing homelessness on a given night in New York, including nearly 15,000 children, Mr Adams proposes turning underused hotels in outer boroughs into permanent single-room occupancy housing, bringing roughly 25,000 rooms online.
Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism
By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists
Already have an account? sign in
Join our new commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies