First Job for New NYC Mayor Eric Adams: Tame Omicron
(Bloomberg) -- Eric Adams was sworn in as the 110th mayor of New York just after midnight on New Year’s Day, his election-winning pledge to improve quality-of-life issues overshadowed by a public health crisis that has again made the city the epicenter for the nation’s Covid-19 pandemic.
Adams, 61, became the city’s second Black mayor minutes after the ball dropped in Times Square, where he took the oath of office surrounded by his family and a sea of multicolored confetti. As he was sworn in, he held a framed photo of his mother.
In an interview streamed by the Times Square Alliance, Adams said his New Year’s wish was to serve as a steward of the city’s “unbelievable comeback.” He called Covid a “very painful period” and praised the city’s residents for their resiliency.
On Saturday morning, Adams plans to take the subway to City Hall, hold a cabinet meeting and deliver an address to city residents at noon, according to his public schedule. In the afternoon, he will lead roll call at the 103rd police precinct, where he said an officer beat him and his brother as teenagers.
His ascent to mayor caps a decades-long ambition for the office that began during Adams’s 22-year stint in the New York City Police Department, where he rose to the rank of captain. He spent four terms in the New York State Senate before becoming Brooklyn borough president, a position he held since 2013.
The Adams team initially planned an indoor inauguration event at the 3,000-seat Kings Theater in Brooklyn, but was forced to cancel in late December as Covid infections soared to their highest point since the start of the pandemic.
Instead, Adams swapped one historic locale for another, choosing to take the oath of office with family at a scaled-back New Year’s Eve celebration in Times Square. The celebration was pared to 15,000 attendees, who were required to be vaccinated and wear masks, in viewing areas that typically hold four times as many people.
The compromise underscored the test the new mayor faces in balancing the fight against the new outbreak and the work his administration will have to take on to ensure New Yorkers’ overall safety.
It’s a jarring turn from the summer and fall campaign, when cases were receding, vaccines were being distributed and the city was returning to a semblance of normalcy as concerts, indoor events and tourism began to come back. That backdrop framed Adams’s run for office and his campaign focus on improving the quality of life in a city eager to emerge from the depths of the pandemic.
To accomplish his public safety mission and “transform” the police force, Adams hired Keechant Sewell as the first woman to lead the NYPD. Adams has also pledged to hire a deputy mayor for public safety, and in a Thursday press conference he said he was still going through resumes. That comes after he was said to be considering former NYPD Chief of Department Phil Banks, who resigned from that role in 2014 amid a federal money laundering probe.
Covid Climbs Back
But the virus has dominated all other considerations. New York City is reporting a daily average of 25,000 confirmed and probable cases of Covid, meaning Adams must focus on its pandemic response. The city has recently broken records for daily cases, while New Year’s celebrations and the tail end of holiday travel are expected to push infections still higher.
Adams released a six-point Covid plan this week that emphasized keeping schools and businesses open.
“We must learn to be smarter, live with Covid and ensure that we protect everyday New Yorkers,” Adams said at a press conference. “We can’t shut down our city again. We can’t allow the city to go further into economic despair.”
Adams will keep Dave Chokshi as the city’s chief health official through March, as he seeks continuity with the pandemic response of his predecessor Bill de Blasio.
He also said he would keep de Blasio’s private-sector vaccine mandate, which went into effect on Dec. 27, and said he would ramp up testing and distribution of personal protective equipment. Still unknown is whether he’ll impose a vaccine mandate for schoolchildren, an option he said his administration would study.
Students are set to return to the nation’s largest school system on Monday, and Adams partnered with de Blasio and Governor Kathy Hochul to ensure the return of in-person classes. That includes a plan to double Covid testing in schools, with the state delivering 2 million take-home testing kits for families.
Change Versus Continuity
Many of the other picks for major roles in his administration echo the theme of continuity, with appointees coming from the administrations of de Blasio and former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.
Adams will need to lean on his new team as key financial filing dates are approaching. The preliminary budget is due by Jan. 16 and the executive budget is expected in late April.
Complicating that process is the fact that over the next two years, the city’s roughly 100 labor contracts are set to expire. Adams will have to renegotiate these contracts -- and any potential raises -- while also dealing with a budget that ballooned to $100 billion from roughly $72 billion when de Blasio took office. Adams said he would ask every agency to enact cuts of 3% to 5%, excluding layoffs.
The recent Covid outbreak means Adams may have to scale back visits to New York City hot spots like Manhattan’s members-only club Zero Bond. He’s already been crowned the city’s next “nightlife mayor.” But on Saturday, after his swearing in, he said he plans to relax with family and take a bubble bath with rose petals.
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