As a battle over Queens votes amps up between mayoral hopefuls Eric Adams and Ray McGuire, Adams has declared himself “the Queens candidate.”
Shortly after a March McGuire endorsement by U.S. Rep. Greg Meeks (D-Queens), the chairman of the Queens Democratic Party and congressman for the predominantly Black, highly engaged Southeast Queens electorate, Adams began rolling out his own Queens strategy.
Last Thursday, Adams, the Brooklyn borough president and a frontrunner in the race, stopped in the Queens Chronicle office for an interview during which he said he is a “son of Queens.”
“Nobody knows the borough of Queens the way I know the borough of Queens. I’m the Queens candidate and Queens will have a Queens mayor,” he said, offering up his time after moving to South Jamaica at age 7, and remaining in the borough through his early 20s, as his Queens credentials.
As part of his bid to secure the largely center-left Black vote in Southeast Queens as well as a section of the borough’s conservative white Democrats, he’s honed in on the city’s spike in gun violence and said New York’s worldwide reputation has become tarnished by criminal activity.
“The prerequisite to prosperity is public safety. We can’t see this uptick in violence. When you have a tourist shot at Grand Central Station, that is going to send shock waves throughout the entire international traveling community,” he told the Chronicle.
Adams was a police officer for 22 years before entering politics. When he was 15 years old, he and his brother were arrested for criminal trespassing and beaten by NYPD officers in custody until a black cop intervened. Adams has said that the incident ended up prompting him to enter law enforcement, where as a cop, he co-founded a group called 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care to speak out against police brutality and misconduct.
Though he reportedly drafted a report that proposed cutting the NYPD’s budget over a billion dollars last summer, he’s since expressed skepticism over the defund movement. While he described some of the marches for racial justice prompted by George Floyd’s killing as legitimate, he also raised alarms over dangerous outside agitators and “anarchists coming here, just wanting to see our city burn.”
A pillar of his plan to get gun violence under control involves reinstating the NYPD’s anti-crime unit, a plainclothes team targeted at violent crime that the department disbanded last summer after the unit provoked civilian complaints and was involved in a disproportionate number of fatal police shootings.
Adams argues that the unit plays an integral role in combating gun violence. He said the city must “get them back into action and turn them into an anti-gun unit with the right officers assigned — zeroing in on gang violence, which is driving the violence in our city, and zeroing in on the flow of guns in our community.”
Beyond targeting residents concerned with public safety, at times during the interview, Adams spoke directly to the needs of small business owners.
“If you are a baker, I want you just to bake,” he said. “My chamber of commerce can do the backroom work for you, and this would allow you to just focus on stabilizing your businesses and get them back up and operating.”
When it comes to entrepreneurs, his pitch involves consolidating city data to address government inefficiency and better connect people to city services. Though not limited to business owners, Adams has created a plan around a digital platform called “MyCity” involving a special city ID that would share information between government agencies.
At the same time, his vision for an economic comeback revolves around office work. He said the next mayor needs to encourage businesses to bring their employees back to work in central business districts.
His housing plans also involve targeting dense parts of Manhattan. Adams assured residents of the “Staten Islands, the Baysides, the St. Albans” that he would not seek to add density to their neighborhoods in order to “keep the character of those communities.”
“I believe we have our rezoning wrong. We have rezoned and upzoned in poorer communities, displaced long-term tenants,” he said before suggesting upzonings in Soho or along 42nd Street and 14th street corridors of Manhattan.
On education, his proposals pose a compromise between two sides of the debate around the racial equity of screened public school admissions. Later in the day the interview took place, the Department of Education announced that the percentage of offers to the city’s vaunted specialized high schools had gone to even more disproportionately small groups of Black and Latino students the last year. In contrast to desires of the system’s fiercest critics, Adams said that he would not do away with the Specialized High School Admissions Test governing entry.
“I am not going to spend four years of my life battling with people over SHSAT. Keep the exams, keep those eight exams and open five more schools, one in each borough, and allow a cross section of how you determine who’s going to [be] admitted to the school,” he said.
Likewise, in the case of the exam determining admission into the city’s gifted and talented programs, which Mayor de Blasio has promised to revamp over the next year, Adams said that he was against entirely scrapping the exam but believes the admissions process should take into account more holistic criteria. He also called to expand the number of G&T programs across the city.
“We had districts in Bedford-Stuyvesant, where they had no gifted and talented programs. You have mothers that had to take their children to Manhattan, to the Bronx. That’s just unfair,” he said.