Eric Adams will likely be NYC's next mayor. Here's why it matters

by Matthew Lavietes | @mattlavietes | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Thursday, 8 July 2021 17:10 GMT

Eric Adams, Democratic candidate for New York City Mayor, reacts as people gather for the Hometown Heroes ticker tape parade, to honor essential workers for their work during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), up New York City's "Canyon of Heroes" in lower Manhattan in New York City, New York, U.S., July 7, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Image Caption and Rights Information

The former police captain is tasked with narrowing racial inequalities and helping New York recover from the turmoil of COVID-19. And the policies he enacts could have ramifications well beyond the Big Apple

• Former police captain Adams plans to revive public transit, housing

• Adams says will build on the city's climate goals and narrow racial inequities

By Matthew Lavietes

NEW YORK, July 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Eric Adams, a former police captain and the borough president of Brooklyn, declared victory in the Democratic nomination for mayor of New York City on Tuesday, all but guaranteeing he will head the largest city in the United States.

He has a formidable task on his hands: Adams will have to steer the city out of economic devastation caused by the pandemic which crippled its sprawling public transit system and deepened longstanding inequalities.

The policies enacted by New York's next mayor could have ramifications that stretch well beyond the Big Apple

Here is how Adams suggests he will tackle some of New York City's most pressing issues:

Public transit

One of the biggest tasks for the city's next mayor will be to revive and improve its vast public transit system, New York's coronavirus-hit Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA).

Amid the pandemic, New York's subway system, considered the lifeblood of the city, saw a sharp decline in ridership.

As of June 18, the city's subways had roughly 2.57 million riders, or roughly 46% of the 5.5 million riders that the subways averaged pre-pandemic in February 2020, according to data from the state of New York.

"The great challenge facing the mass transit system is having people return to work," said Mitchell Moss, the Henry Hart Rice Professor of Urban Policy and director of the Rudin Center for Transportation at New York University.

"People are not going to be riding the MTA five days a week anymore. They may come in three or four days a week," Moss told the Thomson Reuters Foundation, referring to the agency that runs the city's subways.

Suburban commuters who have become accustomed to working from home or commuting by car will be the most difficult to lure back to using New York's transit system, Moss said.

To get commuters to ditch their cars, Adams said he would back a state-approved congestion pricing plan.

Similar to those of cities around the world, such as London, the plan would charge fees for people driving into the busiest parts of Manhattan. If passed, New York would become the first American city to impose such a fee.

Adams has also proposed to add 150 miles of bus lanes and busways over four years. The city currently has 138 miles of bus lanes, less than other major cities such as London, which has roughly 180 miles of busways.

Passengers ride aboard the MTA's New York City Transit subway, in New York, U.S., May 3, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Housing

New York City has long been plagued with high rents and a shortage of affordable housing.

The median market-rate rent in New York City was about $2,500 in May, according to StreetEasy, a local real estate marketplace, or well over the suggested amount for New York's median household income of roughly $64,000 per annum.

In the second half of 2020, about 72,000 units of affordable housing were available in New York City, nearly double that of the same time period in 2019, according to StreetEasy.

However, there are as many as 148,000 New Yorkers on the waiting list, according to some estimates.

And despite a moratorium on evictions amid the pandemic, high rents and a shortage of affordable housing have fueled the potential eviction of tens of thousands of residents.

"The only way to solve the housing problem is to have more housing," said Moss. "There are many portions of the city where we can certainly accommodate more housing."

On the campaign, Adams said he would push for converting dormant hotels and office space into affordable housing units. Specifically, he proposed rezoning larges swaths of midtown Manhattan for more homes.

Adams has also proposed investing in the city's housing authority, or NYCHA, to help the poorest New Yorkers. To do so, he proposed raising $8 billion for NYCHA by selling some of the city's so-called air rights to private developers.

The 77 story One Vanderbilt office tower, the latest super-tall skyscraper to grace New York's iconic skyline, is set to open while the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) keeps the largest and richest U.S. office market almost empty, in midtown Manhattan, New York City, New York, U.S., September 9, 2020. Picture taken September 9, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar REFILE - CORRECTING NUMBER OF STORIES

Climate change

New York's next mayor will also be tasked with building on ambitious legislation passed by the City Council in 2019, which set the goal of reducing 40% of carbon emissions in the city by 2030.

Adams will also be responsible to fulfill legislation passed by New York state lawmakers in 2019, which calls for the state to all but eliminate carbon emissions by 2050.

On the campaign trail, Adams laid out a roadmap to upgrade the city's electrical grids to renewables, launch a fully-funded recycling campaign at NYCHA developments and transform the city into a "wind power hub."

Adams climate scheme includes a green jobs plan that aims to recruit and train New Yorkers from low-socioeconomic backgrounds, specifically targeting communities of color, to fulfill his environmental goals.

While campaigning, Adams also said he would push the MTA to add more electric buses to its fleet to reduce pollution, saying that an electric bus fleet would be "an investment that will save the city money on fuel and maintenance."

FILE PHOTO: General view of the Walney Extension offshore wind farm operated by Orsted off the coast of Blackpool, Britain September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Phil Noble/File Photo

Racial inequality

A year following widespread demonstrations across the city over racial inequality and police brutality, Adams, who is Black, will be tasked with bridging the economic divide between white New Yorkers and New Yorkers of color.

To help lift communities of color, Adams laid out a 25-piece plan of proposals on the campaign trail, which includes "one stop" app for underserved communities to access government benefits.

The plan also includes proposals for cash assistance to working-class New Yorkers, subsidized or free childcare, and the promotion of minority-owned businesses.

Adams, who is a vegan, also vowed to provide low-income New Yorkers with better access to quality foods, aiming to reduce the city's rate of diabetes, which Black and Hispanic New Yorkers suffer from at disproportionate rates.

Older Black and Hispanic New Yorkers, 78% and 79%, reported suffering from hypertension or diabetes at higher rates compared with White New Yorkers of the same age group, 56%, according to a 2020 study by New York University.

On the issue of childcare, a key driver of inequality in the city, Adams said he would also expand vouchers for parents and install a childcare czar to delegate the issue.

Adams also pledged to desegregate New York City's schools, which rely on admissions tests that are thought to favor wealthier and white students.

Related stories:

U.S. Supreme Court extends CDC eviction ban by one month. Here's what to know

Surveillance technology seen worsening U.S. eviction crisis

Tech issues hobble U.S. tenants fighting eviction in remote hearings


(Reporting by Matthew Lavietes @mattlavietes; Editing by Rina Chandran and Tom Finn. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.