Eric Leroy Adams was sworn in as New York’s 110th mayor early Saturday in a festive but uncluttered ceremony in Times Square, a sign of the formidable task that awaits him as he begins his term as coronavirus cases multiply.
Mr Adams, 61, the son of a housekeeper who was a New York City police captain before entering politics, called himself “the future of the Democratic Party” and pledged to tackling long-standing inequalities as the “city’s first blue collar mayor,” while simultaneously embracing the business community.
Yet it is not since 2002, when Michael R. Bloomberg took office shortly after the 9/11 attacks, that a new mayor has faced such daunting challenges in New York. Even before the latest Omicron-fueled push, the city’s economy was still struggling to recover, with its unemployment rate 9.4% more than double the national average. Murders, shootings and some other categories of violent crime increased at the start of the pandemic and remained higher than before the virus began to spread.
Mr Adams ran for mayoralty for a public safety message, using his background in the working class and the police to express empathy for those parts of New York which still struggle with the effects of crime.
However, Mr. Adams’ first task as mayor will be to help New Yorkers navigate the Omicron variant and a disturbing spike of cases. The city has recorded more than 40,000 cases per day in recent days, and the number of hospitalizations is increasing. The city’s testing system, once envied by the nation, has struggled to keep up with demand, and long lines are forming outside testing sites.
Concerns about the virus have caused some reshuffle in inauguration plans: Alvin Bragg, the first black to serve as Manhattan District Attorney, postponed his inauguration ceremony to March 6 due to concerns over Covid ; he was sworn in in a private ceremony after midnight.
Mr. Adams canceled his inauguration ceremony inside the Kings Theater in Brooklyn, which was to be a tribute to voters outside Manhattan who elected him. Instead, Mr Adams chose the backdrop of the ball crowd, which itself had been limited for distancing purposes to just a quarter of the usual size.
Still, his swearing-in ceremony in Times Square, shortly after the countdown ceremony, was jubilant, and the new mayor said he was hopeful about the city’s future.
“Believe me, we’re ready for a big comeback because it’s New York City,” said Adams, standing among revelers earlier in the night.
Mr Adams, the city’s second black mayor, was sworn in using a family Bible, held by his son, Jordan Coleman, and holding a framed photo of his mother, Dorothy, who died in last spring.
As Mr. Adams left the stage, he proclaimed, “New York is back. “
Mayor Bill de Blasio also attended the Times Square celebration and danced with his wife on stage after leading the midnight countdown – his final official act as mayor after eight years in office.
Mr Adams, who grew up in poverty in Queens, represents a center-left brand of Democratic politics. He could come up with a mix of the last two mayors – Mr. de Blasio, who was known to quote Karl Marx, and Michael R. Bloomberg, billionaire and former Republican like Mr. Adams.
Mr Adams narrowly won a competitive Democratic primary last summer when coronavirus cases were low and millions of New Yorkers were getting vaccinated. The city had started to rebound slowly after the virus devastated the economy and claimed more than 35,000 lives in New York City. Now that cases are on the rise again, Manhattan businesses have abandoned plans to return to the office, and many Broadway shows and restaurants have closed.
With schools set to reopen on Monday, Adams must determine how to keep students and teachers safe while ensuring schools remain open for in-person learning. Mr Adams insisted the city cannot close again and must learn to live with the virus, and he supported Mr de Blasio’s vaccination mandates.
On Thursday, Adams announced he would maintain New York City’s vaccine requirement for private sector employers. The mandate, which was implemented by the mayor of Blasio and is the first of its kind in the country, entered into force on Monday.
Even so, Mr. Adams made it clear that he was focusing on compliance, not aggressive enforcement; It is still unclear whether he will demand that teachers, police and other city employees receive a reminder.
Mr Adams also said he wanted to pursue Mr de Blasio’s goal of reducing inequalities, even though he sought to foster a better relationship with the city’s elites.
“I really don’t think it’s going to be in the box to be a conservative or a progressive,” said Christina Greer, associate professor of political science at Fordham University. “Adams is happy to keep people on their toes.”
When Mr. de Blasio took office in 2014, he and his allies made it clear that his administration would offer a clean break with the Bloomberg era; he called New York a “tale of two cities” and pledged to narrow the inequality divide he said had widened under Mr Bloomberg.
For the most part, Mr. Adams has pointed out that his administration will not differ much from that of Mr. de Blasio. Several of his recent cabinet appointments have worked in Blasio’s administration.
There will be a few differences: Mr Adams said he has no plans to end the city’s gifted and talented program, as Mr de Blasio had planned. Mr Adams also pledged to bring back an undercover police unit that was disbanded in 2020, with the goal of removing more guns from the streets.
Mr Adams will take charge of the city during a period of racial reckoning, after the pandemic exposed deep economic and health disparities. At the same time, calls for police reform and measures to combat the segregation of the city’s public schools are increasing.
New York Mayor Eric Adams’ new administration
During the campaign for mayor, Mr Adams faced important questions from his opponents and the media over issues of transparency, residency and his own financial transactions. Mr Adams said he was not taken aback by the reviews and was focused on ‘getting things done’.
Adams, who served four terms as a state senator before being elected Brooklyn Borough President in 2013, will need to forge relationships with city and state lawmakers, including some want to push it to the left. He faced a setback last month when his pick to be the next city council speaker lost to Adrienne Adams, a Democratic member from Queens who was backed by left-wing members. Yet Mr Adams is close to Ms Adams, who supported him as mayor, and the couple recently posted a photo together on social media outside of high school they attended in a show of unity.
Mr Adams has sought to establish a friendly relationship with Governor Kathy Hochul, who appeared on stage with him during his victory rally on election night in November. Working together – unlike their famous warring predecessors, Mr. de Blasio and former Governor Andrew M. Cuomo – could have political benefits for both.
His mayoral campaign focused on public safety, but he also released a series of proposals on other issues, including keeping schools open year round, offering tax credits to New – Poor Yorkers and the creation of “universal day care centers” for children under 3 years old.
But his recent comments on bring back a form of isolation in prisons, which he describes as “punitive segregation”, set up his first big battle with the city council.
“I wore a bulletproof vest for 22 years and protected the people of this town,” Adams said. “And when you do that, you have the right to question me on matters of security and public safety. I think I know a little something about it.
As Mr. Adams prepared to take the J train to City Hall from Brooklyn on Saturday morning, he saw a brawl break out in the street under the subway platform – an example of the violence he is trying to combat by as mayor.
He called 911. “I have an assault in progress – three men,” Mr. Adams told the dispatcher before providing his name: “Adams, Mayor Adams.”
Mr. Adams, who has been careful with his personal life, will reside at Gracie Mansion; his longtime companion, Tracey Collins, a senior official in the city’s Department of Education, will not be living there. Ms Collins appeared alongside him in Times Square – a rare public appearance together.
Stylistically, Mr. Adams might be the most flamboyant mayor New York has seen in decades. Mr. Adams is an early riser, vegan, and wellness enthusiast who maintains a hectic schedule; it is an elegant dresser that shirtless campaign in Orchard Beach in the Bronx; he socializes with Republican billionaires and celebrities; he wants to take his first salary in Bitcoin.
After his election night victory speech, Mr. Adams partied at Zero Bond, a private NoHo club, where guests on that night included comedian Chris Rock, actor Forest Whitaker, rapper Ja Rule. and business leaders like Eric Schmidt, former Google chief executive, and James Dolan, owner of the Knicks and Madison Square Garden.
“Yeah, I love my Ferragamo, and yeah, I’m going to Zero Bond. But you know what? I’m also going to Sugar Hill on Nostrand Avenue,” Adams said at a Democratic fundraiser in November, referring to a dinner club in Brooklyn, “Yes, I hang out with the boys at night, but I get up with the men in the morning.”
Mr. Adams has promised to make the city fun again. He recently visited “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” with a fake bag of marijuana in the trailer – a nod to legalization efforts.
“We were the coolest place in the world,” he said. “We’re so boring now. “
Nate Schweber contributed reporting.