Fasten your seat belts. Eric Adams has arrived

OPINION: He is the second African-American mayor of the largest city in the U.S. and, in just a few short days, has already proven to be a wild card

New York City Mayor Eric Adams (Photo by Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Shortly after midnight at the new year’s celebrations in Times Square, Eric Adams was sworn in as the 110th mayor of New York City. He is the second African-American mayor of the largest city in the U.S. and, in just a few short days, has already proven to be a wild card. Fasten your seat belts because this ride may be long and bumpy.

I like to withhold criticism until people actually settle into a job. The first days and weeks of governance are difficult and complicated. Adding a global pandemic to the mix, a certain level of grace and patience should be applied to our dedicated public servants. Therefore, I will withhold severe judgment and criticism of Adams until he settles into the job. However, there are a few yellow flags that are keeping me up at night.

Get a speechwriter.

Adams has a level of confidence that is quite robust, even for a politician. Adams has been quite loose-lipped when speaking to the press and has already made missteps when referring to low-wage workers as not academically sophisticated or imploring New Yorkers to get their “swagger” back in the face of COVID.

Adams is quite a brilliant orator and politician, so some of these misstatements may not be as accidental as they seem. Adams is currently in his honeymoon period, and the dedicated New York City press corps is allowing the new mayor to get his footing. However, if Adams wants to be successful and not distracted by minor misstatements, he must be more deliberate in his speech and think about how his words affect roughly nine million New Yorkers (as well as the international financial markets in NYC).

Get a proper security detail.

During the campaign season, Adams stated he would not need the traditional NYPD security detail because (1) NYC would be so safe he wouldn’t need one and (2) he would carry his own gun (which he is allowed to as a former NYPD officer). Sigh. I would implore Mayor Adams to remember he has a new job—as mayor. He is no longer a cop on duty. That is his former job, and many New Yorkers are a bit nervous that his cop identity still seems to be his primary identity.

As mayor of New York City, he must recognize that his safety and the safety of all New Yorkers is a priority. Therefore, why would he need to carry a gun? Is he going to get into a shootout or standoff while walking the streets as mayor? I worked at TGIFridays when I was younger, but I don’t walk around convincing folks to try the hot wings each day. It would be wise for Adams to begin to think more like a mayor and less like a NYPD officer.

Do not reinstate solitary confinement.

A few weeks ago, Adams unilaterally said he would reinstate a version of solitary confinement in NYC jails, something historians, political scientists, sociologists, and psychologists have all agreed is a terrible punitive policy. Locking human beings in a cage for 23 hours each day should be a thing of the past. What is concerning is Adams proposing its reinstatement when no one asked for it.

Do not get defensive when questioned about your policies.

When Adams was questioned about his proposal to reinstate solitary confinement, he became defensive. He argued that if those questioning him had not worn a badge for 22 years, then they could not question his decision. Let’s unpack this. First, as a New York resident, I most certainly can question the mayor on any and all of his policies. Second, his logic does not hold. What does wearing a badge have to do with the physical, mental, and emotional practice of imprisoning Black and Latinx young men and women for days, weeks, and even months in damp, rat-infested, small cells by themselves for 23 hours each day? Third, why bring back a proposal that advocates have worked tirelessly to curtail due to the myriad data showing solitary confinement is detrimental to the individual involved in the short and long term. 

Do not surround yourself with individuals of questionable character.

There have already been questions about some of the individuals being considered for leadership positions in an Adams administration. I’ll be blunt, “Don’t Ray Nagin yourself!”

Adams is in his first week as mayor of making the rounds with the local and national press outlets. I am rooting for Adams because, in the words of Issa Rae, “I’m rooting for everybody Black.” I truly hope I don’t regret that stance. Time will tell. What we do know is Adams has many obstacles and opportunities in front of him and it is my sincere hope he will rise to the occasion he has been preparing for himself for over three decades. 


Christina Greer Headshot thegrio.com

Christina Greer is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Fordham University, a political analyst at thegrio.com, and the author of “Black Ethnics”. Her research and teaching focus on American politics, black ethnic politics, urban politics, and campaigns and elections.

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