New York City Mayor Eric Adams, although just having come into office in January of 2022, has already come under fire in particularly progressive circles as a response to his policing background and “fascist” rhetoric. There is widespread criticism of Mayor Adams as being too pro-police and ignorant of the issues affecting minorities living in New York City, despite being black and born in New York himself. For a young liberal, there is nearly zero positive news on Mayor Eric Adams since the debut of his tenure. Upon being fed by the media of how “fascist”-like Mayor Eric Adams is, it seems apparent that he is just not doing well with New York City’s Left. Yet to me, his governance signals much more than just his stance as a former police officer.
Mayor Eric Adams, in his rhetoric when speaking about rising levels of crime in New York City, represents both the generational gap and the need for a multi-party system opening up the spectrum that we see present in New York’s left. Firstly, Mayor Eric Adams is indeed a democrat and in favor of traditionally progressive values of increasing social safety nets for New York’s most disadvantaged. His career with the New York Police Department (NYPD) was characterized by his aim of being a police reformer, citing influence from police encounters he had in adolescence. His story, although far from common, also fits a certain narrative. Growing up in poverty in Brownsville, Brooklyn will signal to most New Yorkers that he truly has plenty of experience and exposure to the injustices inherent in life in New York’s impoverished neighborhoods. Yet his experiences with police, which simultaneously left him traumatized, motivated him to join the force as a reformer with the goals of being that black police officer that changes the system.
This fits the narrative of the noble minority police recruit that aspires to change the system from within without ever truly being allowed to create that change. Yet what we have seen time and time again from testimony to police brutality cases is that the police force acts as a gang itself. The police system protects police and is principally concerned with the prolonging of the police force, a stark contrast from the mantra we are all fed that police “protect and serve” the community. Ultimately, the concept of imprisonment and police force as an answer to petty crimes is exemplary of the larger justice system’s inability to address social problems at its root. Consequently, police are the soldiers of this justice system which fails to isolate root causes of social inequalities that cause petty crimes. This consequent war against the poor makes it so that the police, whether individually or not, are consistently engaging in the subsequent marginalization of already disenfranchised and disadvantaged peoples.
While his goals are honorable and representative of a subsect of the left that seeks to create positive change through slow reform in already existing systems, it is clear that this route will never sponsor the progressive change it seeks to achieve. Mayor Adam’s claims that distributing more support and money to the police force is an appropriate response to “rising” levels of crime in New York City is extremely naive. That is quite literally what we have been doing since the beginning of the creation of the police force, yet evidently crime has not disappeared, it merely comes and goes in different forms and with different strengths as a response to the social climate we are in. His efforts to be the mayor that will “save us from crime” and one that we can simultaneously relate to does not resonate with progressives or the youth because it is tone-deaf. It is a continuation of mainstream Democrat social policies that believe merely identity politics and mainstream centrist ideology will continue consolidation of political power and the status quo. Mayor Adam’s rhetoric is one that can be seen throughout his generation: a nostalgia for a New York City of order, business and bureaucracy. In fact, his stance on increasing police presence to reduce city crimes is exemplary of what his generation believes is truly the best option for New York City’s future. Evidently, however, what we have seen is that this philosophy is quite exactly the reason we are in this current situation of inequality and injustice in the justice, prison and police system.
Consequently, his governance demonstrates the spectrum of New York City’s left in which we simply cannot all be wholly represented by a singular party. His rhetoric is not nearly as shocking or as fascist as online media seems to say it is, but it is representative of the need to open up our party system to include our voices that need to be heard and allow the opportunity to spring into action. While Mayor Eric Adam’s current governance is a hindrance to New York City’s progression, it simultaneously brings to mind the real conversation we’re having about continuing the implementation of future policies that are actually inclusive and progressive.