“I’M GOING TO put in long hours—no one in this city is going to outwork me,” Eric Adams said on day one, and he went on to rack up at least 47 public appearances in his first ten days as mayor—traveling to work on a Citi Bike and the subway, shoveling snow off the steps of his Brooklyn brownstone, sliding down the pole at a firehouse, making guest appearances on national news programs, and solemnly attending a vigil in the Bronx following a horrific fire that claimed 17 lives.
“It’s not about showmanship—it’s about showing up,” he said in his first address to the city. Like Mayor Ed Koch, who took the reins at City Hall four decades ago in the shadow of a fiscal crisis that required massive layoffs and belt-tightening, Adams is making hard choices—his budget chief has already ordered agencies to outline plans to reduce spending by at least 3 percent before the end of the month—but he is also trying to cheer up a weary city in need of a morale boost as we head into the third year of the pandemic. “When a mayor has swagger, the city has swagger,” Adams said in unscripted remarks at a school in the Bronx, flashing a big bright smile. “We’ve allowed people to beat us down so much that all we did was wallow in covid,” he added. “This is a city of resiliency.”
New Yorkers should expect to hear more pep talks from City Hall as our economy struggles to get on its feet. Right now, the city’s 9 percent unemployment rate is more than double the national average, and we still have 350,000 fewer jobs than before the pandemic and aren’t expected to fill them until 2025.
Adams, pleading with city employers to end remote work and reopen offices, raised eyebrows at a press conference by making a tone-deaf reference to “my low-skill workers, my cooks, my dishwashers, my messengers, my shoeshine people, those who work at Dunkin’ Donuts—they don’t have the academic skills to sit in a corner office.” The mini-gaffe is likely to be remembered by the chattering classes but surely did nothing to shake Adams’s connection to the working-class families that make up his political base.
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