A Busy New Mayor Vows NYC Won’t Be ‘Controlled by Crises’
(Bloomberg) -- New York City “will not be controlled by crises,” Eric Adams declared in his first speech as the city’s 110th mayor, during a frenetic first few days in which he visited a police officer hit by gunfire and dialed 911 after witnessing a fight from the subway.
Adams, 61, was sworn in just after midnight on Saturday morning, piggybacking on one of New York’s most iconic events, the annual New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square. He said he wanted to remind “New Yorkers and the world” that “despite Covid-19 and its persistence, New York is not closed.”
In a series of briefings and events over the weekend, he pledged to unite New Yorkers and root out waste and inefficiency, all while overcoming a resurgent Covid-19 outbreak that’s hitting the city hardest in the state. He pledged to reset relations with the city’s business community and reduce violent crime.
“It’s still open and alive, because New York is more resilient than the pandemic,” said Adams, the city’s second Black mayor after David Dinkins in the 1990s. Dinkins died in November 2020 at age 93.
The scope of the challenges Adams faces became clear within hours of his taking office. The first meeting of his cabinet focused on the city’s viral outbreak, with an average of 22,000 new cases recorded each day the past week. Later Saturday the state reported a record 85,476 daily infections.
The Democrat kept up a brisk pace throughout the weekend, riding a Citi Bike to work on Sunday and raising the possibility of mandating booster shots for the city’s public workforce.
“It’s our next move and decision,” he said of boosters on ABC’s “This Week.” “If we feel we have to get to the place of making that mandatory, we’re willing to do that.”
He also urged parents to “put your children in school” when the U.S.’s largest school system reopens on Monday after the holiday break, despite a third of Covid tests coming back positive across the city. Unlike cities like Washington, D.C., New York has no requirement to show proof of a negative test before attending classes.
Adams has mayoral control of city schools, but said he didn’t have authority to mandate tests in a press conference on Sunday. He said he supports mandatory testing but that the authority to require tests rested with New York Governor Kathy Hochul, who is encouraging testing in schools but not requiring it.
The city’s seven-day Covid positivity rate surpassed 32% on Dec. 30 and reached nearly 45% in some areas of the Bronx, according to city data. The seven-day average hospitalizations more than tripled since mid-December to 447 on Dec. 30.
View From Subway
As he prepared to board a subway train in Brooklyn to make his first official trip to City Hall in lower Manhattan on Saturday morning, Adams saw a fight taking place on the street below the platform and called 911. Police officers drove by, but didn’t intervene.
On the train, Adams encountered an apparently intoxicated man and another sleeping on a bench.
A few hours later, the new mayor’s planned schedule was derailed by news that a police officer had been shot and injured, a symbol of the city’s growing gun violence problem. Adams and new police commissioner Keechant Sewell visited the officer at a hospital in upper Manhattan.
Addressing reporters outside the hospital, Adams said he wanted to send a “clear message” that “this is not a city of disorder, a city of violence.”
The new mayor suggested a sharp break in tone from his predecessor Bill de Blasio, even though Adams has retained many current officials, at least for now, including health commissioner Dave Chokshi; budget director Jacques Jiha; and Lorraine Grillo, the city’s former Covid recovery czar, whom Adams appointed his first deputy mayor.
Adams said his administration would focus its first 100 days on the theme of “get stuff done.”
“Now is the time to be radically practical,” he said.
Adams promised to reach out to businesses and focus on rooting out waste and inefficiency in city government. He said that for many years “New York’s government struggled to match the energy and innovation of New Yorkers. That changes today.”
Adams’ inaugural speech on Saturday, delivered from the Blue Room at City Hall, wasn’t part of his original plan. Less than a month ago, he said he’d be sworn in at Brooklyn’s Kings Theater, before a crowd of 3,000 people. But the surge of Covid cases driven by the omicron variant foiled those plans.
‘Live Our Lives’
The Times Square swearing-in was just the first of several pieces of political theater during Adams’ first hours in office.
His packed schedule, with events that began before 8 a.m. and spanned three boroughs, was also a departure in style from the de Blasio era. The former mayor had a reputation for arriving at City Hall after 10 a.m. and rarely used public transit. Adams also traveled with a smaller, less visible security detail than de Blasio’s.
“It’s not only again substantive but it’s symbolic,” Adams told reporters Saturday afternoon. “I don’t want to live in a bubble. I want to enjoy my city the way I always enjoyed it.”
Adams takes office at a time when more than 35,000 residents have died from causes related to Covid-19, and almost two years of closures still threaten the once-thriving tourism economy and commercial districts. The city’s unemployment rate, at 9%, is the highest since 2013, and more than double the U.S. average.
Even as the omicron variant shadows the city, Adams said New Yorkers needed to be less fearful, for the economy and their own mental health. “We’re saying let’s be smart and practical, but we have to live our lives.”
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