Eric Adams Credit: Bill Moore photo

With this week’s latest poll declaring a 61 to 25 percent split, according to those numbers it looks like a man called Leroy, may just become New York City’s next mayor.

In under a week the mayoral election numbers should be in, and Board of Elections usual hiccups notwithstanding Eric Leroy Adams will…or will not be declared mayor of Gotham.

Eric Adams, the current Brooklyn borough president, is the man who would be Big Apple’s chief executive. In a one-on-one interview with the Amsterdam News, Adams said he will hit the ground running if elected mayor, with statements like:

“I control who is going to be fired or not in the police department, and I tell people that they are not going to have to wait long periods of time before we get rid of those abusive officers.”

And he said;

“I made it clear that I want the comptroller to do his job. Audit the agencies. I think the city is dysfunctional. I’m going to do everything I can to be as transparent as possible.” 

And also, he said his raison d’être is:

“Making sure that the city remains fair, affordable and safe.”

The Curtis Sliwa mayoral campaign twice pulled out of scheduled interviews with the Amsterdam News. The election is next week, one day after Black Solidarity Day, November 2nd, 2021

Quietly confident, Adams declared himself mayor and the “face of the Democratic Party” when he won the primary announced in July.

The New York City Board of Elections states that there are an estimated 3.7 million registered Democrats, 566,000 Republicans and 1.08 million independents.

During their last of two one-on-one televised debates on Tuesday night, Republican rival and Guardian Angel founder Sliwa is still putting on a confident front.

Meanwhile, Adams is plowing forward. His story is cemented now, “one of six children, born in Brownsville and raised in South Jamaica by a single mom who cleaned houses,” he says going to school he carried clothes in a black bag for fear of eviction. His campaign has established his journey from “when he was beaten by police in the basement of a precinct house at 15, Eric faced a life-changing act of injustice.”

Educated in New York, Adams is a graduate of Marist College, New York City Technical College, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and Bayside High School in Queens.

An NYPD officer for 22 years, Adams started out as a transit cop with the NYPD and retired as a captain after 22 years. 

As a founder of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care he portrayed himself as challenging the department on issues of stop-and-frisk and police misconduct.

Representing Brooklyn’s 20th Senate district from 2006 to 2013, Adams was then elected to Brooklyn Borough President in 2013, and was re-elected in November 2017. Now he has his eyes on Gracie Mansion and the Big Apple mayoralty.

Even though Adams often walked the streets in a bulletproof vest checking youth, riding anonymously in cabs when drivers were getting assaulted, demanding parents go through their children’s bedrooms and backpacks; the same streets have mixed responses to his record. Some older New Yorkers say they feel comforted with a law enforcer taking the reigns over the city; but some younger residents say that what with police and community relations being taut over the years, they are less excited by the notion that a career cop may become mayor next week.

To the disdain of current Mayor Bill de Blasio and Curtis Sliwa, Adams met with President Joe Biden at the White House mid-campaign––before the June primary result.

As the two discussed solutions to law and disorder, Adams came away with great optics for his road to Gracie Mansion; and declared himself  “the Biden of Brooklyn.” Reaction was mixed as to what was seen by some as his practically being pre-ordained by Biden––the co-architect of the notorious 1994 crime bill.

Inching towards the finish line Adams is staying on message:

“We went through a grueling primary where we had some very smart, articulate, focused people, and I emerged as the victor through the primary, because I was very clear on my plan and message for the city.

“I believe now it’s imperative to continue to explain to New York what my vision is as a different caliber of a candidate, when [the other candidate is] not focused on issues, but on antics. We’re not going to allow that to determine the outcome of this race.”

Asked to respond to Black folk who have said that they have not seen Adams campaigning much in the neighborhood, Adams told the Amsterdam News: “I think that’s a narrative that my opponent tried to create, but it is clear that I’m doing the same hours that I did during the campaign: up at 5 a.m. in the morning working until 1 a.m., with a very full schedule. I’m no longer running just to be the Brooklyn borough president, I’m running citywide. This is a big city, a lot of ground to cover, from the thousands of churches to the thousands of community events, to the thousands of block parties etc. I’ve been in every borough, and I’ve shown my face. And, so of course someone may say, ‘I didn’t see Eric on my block’ because, as you know, there are hundreds of thousands of blocks to walk down. But I’m very present, as I’ve always been, and it’s about the policies I’m going to implement to make sure we are safe blocks. That’s what I’m running on, smart policies for the city.”

NYCHA has become the political football and/or Achille’s heal of many an administration, would Adams support a privatization or renter-buy option?

“NYCHA has clearly been a failure for the city and the people who live in NYCHA. I believe that failure is based on many different things. Number one; the management is not dealing with some of the low hanging fruit––things we can do every day to address the quality of life. Number 2; we need a NYCHA Stat, something that I have been calling for some time now. It’s a real time system that allows us to analyze how many open tickets are there, and where are they on the stage of being corrected. What repairs need to be done. We need to wrap our hands around the problem and right now we don’t.”

His plan: “A scatter and pray model is not an effective model. I think we should look at in-field building where we allow NYCHA leaders to build on the in-fields of NYCHA and allow the older tenants who have been there for years, allow them to move into the new units that are being built, so they can downsize.

“Many residents are living in 3-bedroom apartments, but they’re afraid to downsize because they will be moved out of their community. Let’s allow them to stay in their community, downsize, and allow the renovation of the older buildings, and allow new tenants to come into the older buildings. And then we must make NYCHA safe, much of our crime that we are seeing in the city is coming around NYCHA housing, and I think it’s due to number one, how me must police it more effectively; and number 2, we need to stop building the pipeline of incarceration by not having to right services or resources in NYCHA.”

A microcosm model of his plan for the city?

“We are failing to have an intervention and a prevention plan to public safety, and what that looks like for me is intervention is right now. We have to go after gang violence. We have to look at our communications that I share with the president, about having a tri-level implementation of a plan––on the federal level, state level, city level––with information sharing.  Having the ATF provider, us with the information we need to go after those illegal gun dealers that are really having guns coming to the northern state. And then we must also have an intervention plan of dealing with the violence with precision policing and targeting those dangerous gangs, getting them out of gangs, but also going after those who refuse to get out of gangs and are wreaking havoc and violence in our city.”

Amsterdam News readers asked us to get a direct response from the candidate as to whether or not he would bring back the controversial Street Crimes Unit or a facsimile thereof.

“There is a plainclothes anti-gun unit. Policing is supposed to be predictive, and it should be unpredictable, and that is the combination of proper policing. If bad guys believe they only have to look out for blue and white cars, that is a disadvantage to public safety.

We are not going to have a plainclothes unit that was aggressive, cowboy style. We’re going to have better trained officers with conflict resolution skills, and they’re going to wear their video cameras so we can video every interaction that happens between the public and police to make sure they are complying with the right rules.”

Comments from the community seem to present something of a generational split.

Some members of the older generation have said that they are quite comfortable and even excited about the Adams’ enforcement background. Some of the young people are a little more cautious about what that means for them given the oft-times dire history between the NYPD and the Black community.

Adams said, “Well, their feelings are due to the historical[ly] negative relationships with police and communities, but what I would encourage them to do is read my background, and not go based on soundbites or based on the political rhetoric. This is an opportunity to read and ask the question ‘What type of mayor will Eric be?’ Look at that after been arrested and beat by police officers [as a teen], I didn’t say ‘Woe is me,’ I joined the movement. I marched during the Clifford Glover shooting; a 10-year-old child. I marched when Randolph Evans was shot; when Arthur Miller was shot––and we’re talking about during the 1970s. So, the long history I have fighting on behalf of Black and Brown people and the injustices from law enforcement and continued as a police officer in the 1980s and 1990s.

“My testimony in federal court to end stop-and-frisk; my passing of bills in the State Senate to end the database––so when you look at my real contributions to police reform, only those who don’t know my history, or didn’t take the time to read it, is going to have a level of reluctancy on how I’m going to be on this reform issue. This is my life’s work.

“It’s like going to someone that has spent their lives in a particular field, and think that they’re not going to continue their work. I’m not I’m going to change as a 61-year-old when I’ve spent 40 years of my life doing this.”

With the current virtual judicial inquiry into the killing of Eric Garner police by then-police officer Daniel Pantaleo ongoing this week, the Amsterdam News asked what police reform would look like in an Eric Adams administration. His response was, “Sean Bell’s dad endorsed me. Patrick Dorismond’s dad endorsed me. The symbol of police abuse Abner Louima endorsed me. 

Look at the family members who lived through these tragedies, they are saying that the person we believe will stand up for us is Eric Adams. These are people who lived through it. They know that I have a real agenda for dealing with the police abuse.”

And police accountability?

Adam prefaced his answer with: “There are certain things that are in the span of my control, and certain things that are not in my span of control. I don’t control the courts and their determination of guilt or innocence through a trial.” Adams determined though, “I control who is going to be fired or not in the police department, and I tell people that they are not going to have to wait a long period of time before we get rid of those abusive officers. It’s not going to take to take 4 years to get rid of officers like Pantaleo who killed Eric Garner.

“It’s not going to take a long period of time to get justice within my span of control. Those things that are outside my span of control I can only use my voice to [bring an] expeditious conclusion to the criminal justice process. We will have due process in an expeditious way, so the families are not continuing to wait for the outcomes.”

As for addressing the grandfathered-in police culture, Adams replied, “I am the only mayor in modern times, that understands the police department. Every other has had to turn over the agency to a commissioner. I understand the police department, because I was a police officer. I understand the challenges of policing, but at the same time I understand how we must reform the agency, and I’m going to do that.”

Coy when asked if he would get a new police commissioner Adams said, “Yes I will. We would have to find the best person during these times to fit the position.”

Big issue in the Black community… Let’s talk real estate and gentrification.

His answer: “The real estate communities are not donating to me because they think they are going to run amok in our city…when you buy or rent in this city, there are two questions you ask; how safe is it? How good are the schools?

“An unsafe city with bad schools impacts real estate and property. My message around safety and my message around education is what the real estate industry embraces. They say this guy is going to make sure we have a safe city and good schools, and so in Brooklyn I have voted down many projects because it did not deal with affordability, it did not deal with the right message about diversity. But also talked about going after those landlords that fail to respect the voucher system. I also talked about going after landlords that illegally evict people and create crimes such as criminal mischief and arson to get people out of their homes.”

After rallies by organizations like the December 12th Movement protesting for years with the slogan “Gentrification is ethnic cleansing,” Adams acknowledged; “Any time anyone is forcefully removed from their community is wrong. It doesn’t matter what method is used; you can’t just displace long-term residents.

“My responsibility of my administration is to build housing that’s affordable; to make sure that people are not illegally displaced [because of their] rent; make sure that affordable units are not illegally removed from the rent rolls; the middle-class and low income housing; and come up with ways to do so––like my plan of retrofitting 25,000 units from hotels in outer boroughs into… housing.

“Making sure that the city remains fair, affordable and safe.”

 With condos being thrown up every 5 yards, would you look into converting some of those into abodes for the homeless? 

“I would love to, but we are in a city and country where people have the authority to build as long as they are not asking for zoning changes or anything from the government, we are limited on what we can compel them to give us. But, if we need to leverage the zoning changes, or any ask on the government to come with an agreement of building affordable units.”

What are his plans to handle issues of open drug dealing and taking on the streets of NYC?

“We could have the safety we need and justice we deserve, that’s the balance I’m going to bring.

I’m not going to surrender my streets to violent police officers, and I’m not going to surrender to violent people––and I’m talking about both of them when I talk about safety. So, I’m going to make sure police officers do their job, and not stand back and watch crimes take place. And I’m also going to make sure that they are not heavy-handed while they’re doing that job.”

What plans are afoot to improve police/community relations? 

“I have a clear plan to do that. Number one; we should diversify the department. I’m going to allow everything from school safety agents hospital police those who are H R police, all of those units which are predominantly Black, Brown and 100% New Yorkers I’m going to allow them to be promoted to the police department after 2 years of service.”

Adams said, he is “going to slowly change the demographics of the department. Second, I am going to have community groups and organizations play a role choosing precinct commanders. Right now, they don’t have any say so. They are going to interview precinct commanders and make the determination if they are suitable to be the commander is their community. It’s an important thing to do, and it’s going to really change the relationship between police and communities.”

Mayoral control of schools?

“I think it’s crucial. Bloomberg had it. [de Blasio] had it. I don’t think you should stop doing it once a person of color becomes mayor. I have a real plan for our schools, and I want to make sure that I have the authority without any barriers. We can’t go back to the days of school boards. We know what happened there. Educating our children should not be about adult conversation, we should focus on our children. And I’m going to need mayoral control to accomplish that.”

What would you think about specialized high school testing? 

“I think we have only eight specialized high schools, three are coming from the state, five are coming from the city.

“I don’t want to spend my political capital fighting over eight schools. We need to make all of our schools, good schools. Let’s leave those eight schools alone. Let’s open five more schools, one specialized high in each borough. Let’s do a cross-section of skill sets, to determine who gets into those five schools, not just one test. By doing that we will show that being special or gifted is not only an examination, but there are so many people who we are leaving without opportunities because we are defining gifted the wrong way.”

Adams was diagnosed with dyslexia while at John Jay College.

“Let’s focus on those children who are being missed, and those children who learn differently. We are spending so much on gifted students and specialized high schools, that we are ignoring those students who have learning disabilities, dyslexia, and dealing with other challenges. That’s where I want to spend my energy and my political capital.”

And what of the assailed gifted and talented program?

“Yes, let’s expand the gifted and talented program. The problem that I was hearing from poorer communities was the fact that we were not having seats in the various districts. There were too many zip-codes in school districts where we did not have the program. The gifted and talented program was too segregated. That does not help the student, and that does not help the community.”

Is he for closing Rikers?

“Yes I am. I am going to follow the plan, but I not only want to close down the building––I want to close down the pipeline that feeds Rikers. If you do an analysis of who’s on Rikers; five percent have learning disabilities. I don’t find it impressive talking about closing Riker’s Island, I find it impressive to close the historical pipeline of these children constantly having generation after generation serve time in jail because we’re not dealing with an upstream approach to the educational crisis we have.”

What’s your position on charter schools, and would you support an open enrollment?

“When we have these discussions about charter schools, and public schools, and district schools––those are adult conversations. Parents want their children to learn. So, 65% of Black and Brown children don’t meet proficiency in district schools; 40% don’t meet proficiency and charter schools––so they’re both failing.

“I say that we need to look at what methods have been successful––the scale of excellence, so if there’s some charter schools, or some district schools like Bedford Academy that have got it right, let’s duplicate it.

“It’s not the type of school that we should be focusing on, we should be focusing on the successful schools. Just as you have unsuccessful district schools, you have unsuccessful charter schools. We need to stop focusing on the name of the school, and focus on which schools are successful…because they are all public schools. They are not private schools. So, when we have a charter school that has proven successful, we scale it up.

“Many of them have longer classroom days. They start earlier in the summer months. They do different things, so maybe we need to duplicate some of those things in district schools as well.”

Stating previously that in general he supports having remote options for some businesses, when the paper asked him about supporting small and small Black businesses, Adams responded;

“Pro small business. My plan is a clear one; we need to leverage procurement that’s done with the city. We need to zero in on allowing the Chamber of Commerce to do the backroom work of small businesses––something as simple as doing their payroll, then HR work so that their businesses can focus on their business. And then we need to stop being so bureaucratic. It’s so difficult, too expensive to do business in this city with our agencies getting in the way of businesses operating. We need a more business-friendly environment, and we’re specifically talking to those businesses that were impacted by COVID-19 so that they can get back on their feet, so that they can hire locally.”

Will his be a transparent administration for compliments and complaints?

“I made it clear that I want the comptroller to do his job. Audit the agencies. I think the city is dysfunctional,” said Adams. “I’m going to do everything I can to be as transparent as possible. I don’t believe that when people discover that something is wrong with the agencies in our city that it is an attack against me, because I started from a place that we’re not doing a good enough job. We can do a better job; I encourage the transparency. Some people are going to use it to help us move forward; and other people are going to play ‘gotcha.’ I got that, that doesn’t bother me. Either way I want to do everything possible to have a successful city.”

Does he have a thick skin for the gritty, witty, lovable NYC temperament? The Brownsville-born, Queens-raised New Yorker replied deftly, “Yeah New Yorkers attack. But I attack also. I’m not going to be punching bag, but I don’t mind positive enforcement on what we can do better.”

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