Mayor Eric Adams just had a bad week. It wasn’t that anything particularly awful happened last week, fortunately — no subway terror attacks, no mass-casualty fires. It’s that without the constant stimulation of crisis, all the mayor’s worst traits were on display. If he wants to be a successful mayor, he’d better stop using it as a crutch.
Bad trait #1: hiding behind techno-gimmicks. Adams, the mayor who converted his first paycheck this year into cryptocurrency and once displayed a vat of drowned rats to hype a new way of controlling rodents, thinks that unproven tech is going to save the subways.
Last Monday, nearly a week after the Brooklyn attack, Adams repeated his call for subway metal detectors. “I’m excited about the technology that’s associated with keeping people safe,” he said, promising “foolproof” tech. And he put Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Phil Banks in charge of the project.
C’mon. New York’s subways aren’t getting metal detectors — not unless we want to push ridership even lower than it is (just shy of 60% of “normal”). Even the most expensive weapons-detection technology available is cumbersome, requiring an attendant at each pass-through gate. New Yorkers aren’t going to wait in line for 15 minutes to enter a subway station.
Plus, the subways already have an entry-control system — the turnstile. As of late last year, about 8% of “customers” were evading it, either jumping over or walking through the exit gate. How will presumably unarmed attendants keep people from waltzing right through metal detectors?
We don’t need a gimmick to make the subways safe again. Adams’ police need to stop more people from jumping over turnstiles, and they need to stop more people with large, bulky bags for a respectful search — something they have the right to do in the subway system.
Nope, Adams is wielding a gimmick to distract from the fact that in March, according to Metropolitan Transportation Authority figures out last Friday, violent felonies in the subways, at 105, were a whopping third above the level last March (77). They’re 59% above what they were in March 2019 (66).
Also in March, arrests in the transit system were still 29% below what they were three long years ago — and civil summons for farebeating were down 9%.
As for tasking Phil Banks with finding “foolproof” technology that does not exist?
Banks has a record of accepting gifts from people wanting favors from the city and then lying about it. Putting him in charge of choosing a nonexistent technology for a lucrative city contract is a recipe for corruption.
Onto the second flaw: hiding behind supposed racism. Threatened with a full federal takeover of Rikers Island, Adams implied that such a move would be racist because Rikers inmates, he said, “look like me.”
No, the inmates don’t look like him at all — they’re about 40 years younger than him, to start with.
No one expected Adams to turn the Rikers mess around in four months. What we did expect was that the mayor would choose a competent corrections commissioner, one who would show up to scheduled meetings with the existing federal monitor and wouldn’t name a convicted drunk driver his “confidential assistant.”
Finally, erraticism. Adams was supposed to go to the memorial service for 12-year-old Kade Lewin, killed by a “stray” bullet in Brooklyn. The mayor didn’t show and blamed a meeting that he had already canceled twice.
OK, so cancel it a third time, then. Or did the mayor no longer want to associate himself, four months into his mayoralty, with the bloodshed happening on his watch?
Adams wasn’t shy, though, about hiding behind “babies being shot” when a reporter followed up with a question about why he hadn’t released his taxes.
Come to think of it, why hasn’t he? Adams’ accountant shouldn’t have too hard a time closing the books on the income of a salaried government worker with a pension and a few modest real-estate investments.
Adams still has a lot of public goodwill, his 62% favorable rating shows. To keep it, he should cut out the bad habits.
Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.