Mayor Eric Adams is in the infancy of his term as New York City’s second Black mayor. Even so, his controversial stances on how to handle crime in the city and his recently published op-ed about the general election have kicked up a haze of critics calling him a “Republican” as his first year as mayor comes to a close.
The Amsterdam News reached out to electeds and various organizations to get their thoughts on this narrative and where it stems from.
First on Elon Musk’s Twitter, a grassroots Democrat organizer tweeted that Adams “knew crime panic would hurt Dem chances” but kept “fear-mongering right wing talking points” throughout his campaign and the following election cycle. Then on Nov. 10, a Daily News city hall reporter’s tweets sparked a conversation about Adams and bail reform.
Both threads devolved into blatant accusations that Adams is a “Republican.” Many commented that his secret conservatism is not surprising considering his stances on cashless bail being linked to high crime rates, something that many have statistically disproven.
Brooklyn Assemblymember Latrice Walker, who’s been somewhat at odds with Adams, said that it’s disingenuous for the mayor to help “spread lies” to voters across the state about crime and bail reform. “It’s like setting a fire inside a structure, running outside and then pontificating on the origin of the blaze. The impact of the mayor spewing falsehoods about the relationship between crime and bail reform is impossible to measure accurately,” said Walker in a statement. “But, I’m sure his right-leaning narrative didn’t help.”
Adams posted an op-ed in USA Today on Nov. 13 about Democrats losing working class voters in the 2022 general election. Some traditionally blue Democratic Party seats in Brooklyn went ‘red’ this year.
“A majority of Americans are in a precarious economic position, many just one illness or job loss away from financial ruin. They will vote for candidates who acknowledge those problems, even if the solutions on offer are less than effective,” wrote Adams. “So, despite an overall better-than-expected showing for Democrats on Tuesday, working people continued the long trend of voting more often for Republican candidates. We cannot ignore the continued erosion of their support while we celebrate avoiding electoral disaster. Democrats’ support—and base—is wavering.”
Though Adams made valid points about reliable Black, Latinx, and Asian voting blocs for Democrats changing as of late, the op-ed did not seem to help make him appear less “right-leaning.” He was again criticized via Twitter for “not helping” and “undermining” Democrats in his city.
Walker did add that she too is a little concerned about areas of the city and state that have long been Democratic strongholds with low voter turnout, despite Democrats winning every statewide race. She pointed out that preliminary numbers show there were more than 520,000 fewer voters statewide, compared to four years ago, with much of the decline happening in New York City. “We absolutely should embark on a thorough study to determine whether apathy, poor messaging or simple voter discontent contributed to the low turnout,” said Walker.
To be clear, Adams earned a degree from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice among others. He was a transit NYPD officer, a captain, and co-founded 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement. He has made no effort to hide his law enforcement background and fierce support from cops and police unions. He has consistently spoken about battling crime in the city since he started campaigning for mayor last year and he never fails to mention the influence his cop experience has on his decision-making. His chief technology officer, former NYPD officer Matt Fraser, even stayed strapped with a gun at work.
Adams has ran and won on the Democratic ticket for mayor, Brooklyn borough president, and four times for state senator in District 20. However, it is known that he has registered as a Republican at least once in New York City.
Fellow John Ketcham at The Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, a conservative think tank focused on domestic policy, offered an analysis. He said that Adams’ rhetoric hasn’t created a “crime panic,” but sharply rising crime has. Ketcham noted that transit homicides and crimes have increased since 2020, several of which involved people pushing someone onto the tracks or stabbing people unprovoked.
According to NYPD data, as of Nov. 16, that trend continues to tick upward with a 38% increase citywide in transit crime since 2021.
“Adams ran as a Democrat, but as mayor, he’s the chief executive—the top law enforcement official—for all New Yorkers. If voicing concern about a real deterioration in public safety is ‘leaning into Republican narratives on crime’ as Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and her allies claim, then their logical conclusion must be that Democrats cannot take the statistics seriously,” said Ketcham in a statement. “That would not only reject voters’ genuine fears, but it would amount to a dereliction of the mayor’s duty.”
In Adams’ op-ed, Ketcham inferred that it reveals a Democrat fighting for his vision of what it means to be a Democrat against his “socialist detractors.” Because New York is usually a “one party town,” factions within the Democratic Party essentially represent the only meaningful political competition available for voters, he said.
“If the city’s electoral system were structured to allow more competitive parties in general elections, the progressive faction could instead form its own party, as socialists did a century ago with the American Labor Party,” said Ketcham. “Until then, the soul-searching will continue.”
Of course progressive groups like VOCAL-NY and the Justice Committee weighed in heavily on the opposite side of Adams’ views and the ongoing battle between Democrats and Republicans.
VOCAL-NY Political Director Kim Smith said that both conservative Democrats and Republicans have created violent crimes against communities. Smith said that state and local officials have failed over the years to deliver meaningful legislation for poor working families and in Black, brown and low income communities still most impacted by an unjust judicial system.
“Instead of investing in living wage jobs and stable housing and other viable solutions, politicians often create an illusion and distraction by forcing us to believe that more police is the answer to our safety. We demand more from them,” said Smith. “Stop hiding behind the police and using them and crime as scapegoats and cover for the lack of political will to invest in our communities.”
Justice Committee Executive Director Loyda Colon said that Adams’ approach to public safety too often seems like he’s taking a page out of a conservative, right-wing playbook. Colon said that is not what poor and working-class New Yorkers of color want and need.
“His reliance on failed, abusive policing tactics like Broken Windows policing and his revamp of plainclothes anti-crime units, and his policing of homeless and other poor New Yorkers, harken back to the Giuliani and Bloomberg eras and the height of the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk abuses,” said Colon. “Over the past year we’ve seen the mayor use misinformation and fear-mongering instead of using the power of his administration to create the immediate and long-term solutions we know will drive down inequality and crime.”
Colon added that until Adams adopts a public safety approach that’s rooted in equity, the only “stuff” he’s “getting done” is increasing the challenges faced by low-income communities of color and helping the right sell a false narrative.
Adams’ office didn’t respond to a request for comment by post time. However in a presser on Nov. 14, Adams remarked that the city has made “good changes” to public safety, criminal justice reforms, cost of childcare, and the NYCHA land trust that Democrats aren’t selling to blue-collar, working-class people.
“We need to sell our product. I think that Democrats have a good product. We need to sell our product and do a better job in selling our product. I don’t think we did a good job in doing that,” said Adams when asked about his op-ed. “I believe we need to create a system that is going to make sure people get justice on both ends of the spectrum.”
Ariama C. Long is a Report for America corps member and writes about culture and politics in New York City for The Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep her writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift of any amount today by visiting: