Democratic New York City mayoral nominee Eric Adams is promising to turn the page on the era of Bill de Blasio. In 2014, de Blasio kicked off his tenure with harsh words for his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, frequent visits to his beloved Park Slope YMCA, and threats to declare war on financiers. Not so Adams. He plans to work with Bloomberg (who is fundraising for him). He’s hobnobbing at elite social clubs. And rather than promise to impoverish finance workers, he attended Highbridge Capital Management’s annual SALT conference to promise a return to a pro-business New York.
At the top of Adams’s agenda is restoring the quality of life that frayed under de Blasio and especially plummeted in the last two years. He says he’ll bring a “laser focus” to reducing gun violence and wants to address homelessness and housing affordability, too. He also hopes that wealthy New Yorkers who fled south will return, with their tax dollars.
The fact that Adams won last summer’s primary on this agenda suggests that New Yorkers don’t want to hear progressive platitudes anymore; they want a well-run city. In the 1970s and 1980s, crime and trash felt like the inevitable downsides of city living. Today, most New Yorkers remember a better way of life that existed only a few years ago. They know that failing schools, high crime, and street trash come from bad leadership, and they deserve better. They also know that deteriorating public safety and sanitation will prevent a full rebound. As we’ve seen during the pandemic, businesses large and small will fight to survive even under the harshest conditions, but they can only hold out for so long.
Will Adams’s agenda be enough? New Yorkers still face some of the highest taxes in the country. Those who moved out because of high taxes may now be accustomed to not handing over half of their income each year. To a large extent, taxes are not under Adams’s control, since Albany sets most tax policy. This puts more pressure on the Adams administration to provide a higher quality of life and better services to match the high costs.
And while Adams is less hostile to the finance industry than his predecessor, like most Democrats he favors building an economy around electric cars and “green jobs.” Successful economic policy does not cherry pick favored political industries; it lets all legal businesses flourish.
Still, Adams offers a refreshing change of tone—perhaps one that could mark a shift in the Democratic Party, which, in Washington, D.C., at least, remains skeptical of highly productive and high-paying industries and ambivalent about fighting crime. If Adams delivers on his words, New York could see a return to pragmatic, pro-business centrism—and his success would be the city’s as well.
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