Mayor Adams, now is the time to transform NYC — before even more New Yorkers flee
Mayor Adams, as your administration’s second year begins, I have an irrational desire to give you advice. I know advice is annoying; it comes across as criticism, and it’s easy to lob from the cheap seats. But I wouldn’t bother if I didn’t believe in your potential to be a transformational mayor.
Nothing can prepare you for becoming New York City’s chief executive. It takes time to get your legs under you in what is reliably a tough freshman year — but you’ve handled it with diligence and aplomb. You now are in a stronger, smarter, more confident position to make your mark.
Always keep in mind New Yorkers hired a former cop to run the city. It’s a clear message they want a leader who understands the importance of safer, saner, more orderly communities. Own that. It’s a mandate to be bold.
I push back against critics who say you’re too much the man-about-town, with the sharp suits, great posture and confident swagger. These are good things! Your visibility helps build the connective tissue between a successful leader and his constituents. A strong personality and distinctive brand boosts morale among the people — especially in challenging times. Think Churchill’s homburg and cigar, FDR’s glinty glasses and jaunty smile, Robert F. Kennedy’s rolled-up sleeves and floppy hair.
Don’t be afraid to rely on your team. New Yorkers know no one can run this city by himself. You are a more effective Batman, out there saving Gotham, if we know Alfred (or Alfreda) is back in City Hall doing the boring but important stuff. You can and should be the public face, setting the tone, projecting the vision, selling it to the public — and getting the credit.
When British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan was asked about the most difficult part of the job, he answered, “Events, my dear boy, events.” How you and your team handle the inevitable unpredictable crises just may define your mayoralty. (See Rudy’s 9/11 vs. Lindsay’s Snowstorm.) You will need a deep reservoir of trust and respect, with your team and with the public, to be able to lead New Yorkers through whatever natural or manmade storm is coming.
A steady diet of bold initiatives — like your plans to help the mentally ill homeless, put more cops on the subway, wage war against rats — helps build that trust. It shows you get what concerns real people, and you’re committed to tackling real problems, not just spouting ideology like so many other politicians.
You inherited a city crippled by COVID, but jobs and tourism are roaring back. There were an estimated 56 million visitors in 2022, a 70% bump from 2021. Continue to cultivate strong bonds with business leaders in all sectors to figure out how the city can help them succeed. Their success is your success (in the form of increased tax revenue).
Don’t procrastinate tackling the most thorny issues. The City Council made it illegal to house inmates on Rikers Island after 2027, so you need to communicate to the public a workable plan. Sooner is better, but get it right first. You will not please everyone — communities don’t want jails in their midst, and the “decarceration” folks will whine about whatever you do — but a safe, functional jail system is crucial for public safety, in reality and perception.
“Broken windows” has become a dirty phrase in progressive circles, but taking care of the small things — the low-hanging fruit — gives people a sense of order and optimism. You’ve increased garbage collection. That’s great. You can do more. Something as simple as cracking down on turnstile jumping will not only make the subways safer, it will tell paying commuters they’re respected.
Speaking politically, it’s frustrating that many Dems don’t have your back. Some have blamed you for giving cover to Republican talking points about crime. Which is insane. You, Mayor Adams, did not pass the raft of criminal-justice reforms that are hurting public safety, but you and your police have to deal with the results. Stay strong in the face of the sniping and insults. Keep fighting for your residents — they are at the top of your organizational chart. You report to them, not to other politicians.
All children, no matter where they live, deserve to be safe and secure in their neighborhoods and schools. I am disappointed Albany pols did not heed your call to revise the bail laws — even as they managed to secure themselves a hefty pay raise.
You can show Albany what a real agenda for Democrats looks like — one that’s practical, not ideological. As you said about woke culture: “Some of us never went to sleep!” Fighting for working people is what Democrats do.
Working New Yorkers desperately need affordable housing. It takes serious diplomacy to work with progressive pols, community leaders, labor unions, city bureaucracy and developers to get these units built. Your initiative to streamline building regulations is a great first step. Keep pushing.
Stay true to your principles and fight back against policies that would send more businesses fleeing and make New Yorkers’ lives less safe. Mr. Mayor, you’ve got what it takes to turn New York City around. Now is the time.
Former Nassau County Executive Laura Curran hosts the “Cut to the Chase with Laura Curran” podcast.