In his first 100 days, Mayor Eric Adams is enjoying a 61 percent approval rating among New Yorkers. His passion for the city and enthusiasm for the job have already blown away the “tale of two cities” sophistry of his identity politics-peddling predecessor, Bill de Blasio.
Adams sends mostly the right signals. Signals matter — a lot. But so does substance. Nobody could expect an overnight reversal of city fortunes in his first months on the job. He waded into a twin cyclone of the Omicron peak and bloody gunplay that left five cops dead or wounded, neither of which can be pinned on him. (Murders through March 13 fell from 82 to 76 over the same period in 2021 but rape, robbery, felony assault, burglary and grand larceny all rose by double-digit percentages).
But for all his upbeat urgings to New Yorkers to get back to work that make him sound more like a red-state governor than the leader of the woke Big Apple, the mayor has been all over the map on crucial issues and goofy ones, too. He wasn’t elected to turn our kids into vegans or make marijuana a growth industry. Nor did his jaunt to Miami last weekend for a cryptocurrency conference suggest a laser focus on the city’s ills. And he already sounds wobbly on crime — the one issue he should be fighting with all his might.
Adams waters down his every statement about cracking down on the homicidal “homeless” by emphasizing the need to get them help — a point on which we might well agree but not the main point, which is to keep the law-abiding millions safe from the terror of a relative few crazies even if a crackdown cramps their style.
And yet, to his credit, he complains about the turn-’em-loose bail “reform” laws almost every day. He made a pilgrimage to Albany to lobby Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins, who doesn’t “want to incarcerate people because they are poor.”
After the meeting, he correctly said, “I still have an obligation to keep the city safe” even without help from Albany and, “That’s why we’re putting in place our anti-gun unit.”
It took Adams nearly three months to get his anti-guns unit — now innocuously named Neighborhood Safety Teams — onto the streets. It must deal with restraints that earlier incarnations did not until it was dissolved by de Blasio over “police brutality” complaints in the summer of 2020. Officers will no longer wear plainclothes but NYPD duds with name tags, and 168 cops will patrol the 28 areas where shootings have risen most sharply with 300 more officers soon to join them.
Whether Adams remains popular rests entirely on the success of this unit. Even though partly emasculated and despite the no-bail law, the safety teams can get lots of guns off the street and instill fear among potential offenders. Safer streets will win Adams the political capital he needs to roll back the woke tide.
He will, of course, be scrutinized over every perceived, imagined or fabricated micro-violation of each suspect’s rights. For a taste of what we’re in for, look no further than the recent New York Times headline, “NYPD Rolls out New Version of Anti-Gun Unit With Violent Past.”
This is not the first time ideological winds flew against a mayor. When Rudy Giuliani was facing over 2,000 murders in a single year in the early 1990s, few believed that better policing could make a difference. He proved the doubters wrong. But he had a three-touchdown handicap compared with what Adams faces: not merely a criminal-coddling political and media culture, but criminal-coddling laws which Adams can’t wish away.
Adams’ pleading might have done some good. Gov. Kathy Hochul is at last proposing changes to the bail law that would, among other steps, give judges discretion to set bail and hold suspects based on their criminal histories.
He must stay strong — and keep going. Whatever the critics say, our mayor needs to remember what the public wants: to see the number of shootings fall swiftly, especially in minority neighborhoods that suffer the most from bloody mayhem.
For that to happen, he must conduct his next 100 days without the hair-splitting of his first 100 and with an unyielding commitment to locking up the bad guys whether the Times likes it or not.