Pop Culture

“Let’s Be Orderly. That’s How I Operate”: Eric Adams’s Personality Quirks Are About to Collide With Political Reality

New York City’s likely next mayor has a Giuliani-like streak to him—and even allies wonder if he’s up for the job. “I fear he’s in over his head,” one predicts.

Eric Adams stands ramrod straight at the crash site. His white shirt and black pants are pressed so crisply they could cut wood; his black leather shoes are buffed to a military gleam. Adams has come to the Brooklyn street corner for a campaign event, to express his sympathies to the family of a three-month-old girl killed by a driver barreling the wrong way up a one-way street—a driver with 160 violations on his vehicle—and to vow that if he’s elected, things will be different. “The red lights and speeding violations of automated—is attached to the vehicle and not the person,” Adams said. “So it is imperative, I believe, that we play a more active role in using technology better than—”

His words are suddenly drowned out by a car roaring through the intersection directly behind him, blowing through a red light and past a parked NYPD vehicle. Nicole Murray, a transit activist with the Democratic Socialists of America who happens to live nearby, starts shouting. She has heard the current mayor, Bill de Blasio, mouth many of the same platitudes as Adams for eight years, only to see conditions on the streets grow more dangerous recently. “Cars are running red lights! The NYPD is sitting right there!” Murray yells. “You know the solution! What are you doing to get cars off the roads?”

Adams stares her down and raises his own voice. “Let’s be reasonable—I’m gonna chase a car that’s running a light? And what we should not do, what we should not do, is attack those of us who are on the front line of position.”

“The dead baby is on the front line!” Murray replies, incredulous. “Not you!”

“That’s what we should not do,” Adams continues. “We should not attack, yell down, and try to criticize those of us who have put our lives on the line to fight this issue. All of us are feeling this pain.”

Which is an oddly grandiose response, but fine: I’ll ask Adams a thoroughly unemotional question. He supports expanded use of traffic cameras. Adding more of them, however, requires state legislative approval, and in the past has been opposed by city police unions. As mayor, what will Adams, an ex-cop himself, say to those union leaders to change their minds? “The police unions represent their members,” Adams says. “They don’t determine what laws are passed and not passed. That is determined by the lawmakers.”

Next Tuesday—barring an upset that would outstrip Donald Trump beating Hillary Clinton—Eric Adams will dispatch with Curtis Sliwa and be elected the next mayor of New York City. Lately there have been a whole lot of words devoted to analyzing Adams the person—which makes sense, because he is a complicated, fascinating character, up from poverty to power, a hard ass and a vegan, given to embellishing and inventing his own history. But there has been considerably less attention to what Adams actually wants to do once he takes office on January 1, 2022. Oh, he’s in favor of reducing crime and increasing prosperity; how Adams intends to lead the city to those promised lands is murkier. He is something of an ideological moving target, talking at times like an old-school Republican and at others proclaiming himself “the original progressive.” Which is why, ever since Adams won the Democratic primary in July, so many influential players, including a top adviser to former mayor Michael Bloomberg, have been so eager to offer advice.

The intervening months have also handed Adams a large, unexpected opportunity. Instead of contending with Governor Andrew Cuomo—who was obsessed with increasing the state’s power over the city, and with undercutting de Blasio—the new mayor will be greeted by a nearly new governor, Kathy Hochul. She very much wants to win a full term in 2022, and Hochul, who is from Buffalo, is badly in need of votes from the city, especially from Black voters. Hochul has strong incentive to help Adams—at the expense of her most likely Democratic primary rival, state attorney general Letitia James. Both houses of the state legislature now have solid Democratic majorities, which could also boost Adams’s agenda.

So what will he ask of Albany? Adams has already talked with Hochul’s team about fixing the state’s emergency rental assistance program, plus money to repair public housing and to retrofit hotels as housing. Mayoral control of the city’s public schools is set to expire in 2022; Adams wants it renewed. Adams will probably press for the creation of a new state “data tax”—a small levy on the sale of consumer information that could yield billions for the city. And Adams is likely to prioritize one of the thorniest policy issues of the past two decades: congestion pricing, which could both raise revenue and reduce traffic tragedies.

It’s a long wish list—one that, even with the suddenly favorable Albany political conditions, will require a deftness Adams has not needed to demonstrate before. His answer about how to deal with police unions was strangely opaque—perhaps Adams was suggesting he could go around union leaders and appeal to members, but it’s the leaders who donate big money to state lawmakers. Who Adams hires for the new administration will of course be crucial to his chance for success—especially because Adams sounds dismayingly willing to hand off hard decisions. “It’s going to be a joy knowing I don’t have to manage the $98 billion budget—I have an OMB director,” he recently told The New York Times. “I don’t have to manage the Police Department. I have a commissioner.” An Adams ally sighs. “Eric has a lot of good political instincts,” the Democratic operative says. “But running a government? I fear he’s in over his head.”

The two men are very different in a bunch of ways, but Adams has some Rudy Giuliani in him. Both men’s public personalities were formed as oddball outsiders—Giuliani a conservative Yankees fan growing up in Brooklyn, Adams an outspoken Black NYPD officer. And both have a deep disciplinarian streak. Twenty minutes into the Brooklyn street corner event, an Adams press aide announces that it is time to switch from “on topic” questions about traffic safety to “off topic” questions—about everything else. One pesky reporter persists: “I actually have an on-topic question.” 

“To who?” Adams says.

“For you.” 

“We’re on off-topic right now. I have other things to do today.”

“People have said that with this accident, this vehicle—”

“Let me try this again,” Adams says, bristling. “Let me try this again. We are on off-topic right now. Disorder is what causes incidents. Let’s be orderly. That’s how I operate.” Perhaps. But New York politics, as Giuliani and all his other City Hall predecessors can tell Adams, has a way of laughing at order.

More Great Stories From Vanity Fair       

Mike Pence Is Already Cashing In on His Potential 2024 Run
— Katie Porter and Her Whiteboard Are Just Getting Started
Trump’s New Social Media Company Is His Biggest Scam Yet
— Former Bush Guy Matthew Dowd Is Trying to Turn Texas Blue
Joe Manchin Is About to Make Life Worse for His Own Constituents
— David Zaslav Is Angling to Become America’s King of Content
— Colin Powell’s Death Has Officially Been Hijacked by Anti-vaxxers
— Rigged State Governments Are Steadily Undermining Democracy
— From the Archive: Rupert Murdoch’s Tumultuous Third Marriage
— Not a subscriber? Join Vanity Fair to receive full access to VF.com and the complete online archive now.

Products You May Like

Articles You May Like

Queer man beaten in ‘homophobic’ attack on London tube
“Will This Institution Survive the Stench?”: Gutting Abortion Rights Could Damage the Supreme Court’s Own Legitimacy
Oscar Contenders Lady Gaga, Power of the Dog Soar With New York Critics Awards
Landmark Takes Over Former Arclight Cinemas Glen Town Center Location In Illinois
Kanye West Working with L.A. Leaders to Solve Homeless Problem

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *