Eric Adams, in State of the City Speech, Says NYC Is ‘Back From the Brink’

Eric Adams, in State of the City Speech, Says NYC Is ‘Back From the Brink’

After facing mounting challenges in his second year in office, Mayor Eric Adams on Wednesday used his third State of the City address to deliver a rah-rah overview of his tenure, highlighting improvements in public safety and jobs while playing down the migrant crisis that has overwhelmed New York City’s shelter system.

Mr. Adams contended that the city was moving in the right direction and chose not to dwell on his earlier warning that the migrant crisis would destroy it. He focused on three themes: protecting public safety, rebuilding the economy after the devastation of the pandemic and making the city more livable.

“The state of our city is strong, far stronger than it was two years ago,” Mr. Adams said at the speech at Hostos Community College in the Bronx. “I want to thank every hard-working New Yorker out there for helping bring our city back from the brink.”

Mr. Adams, a Democrat, acknowledged the need to address the city’s affordability and housing crisis. And while he did not unveil any major initiatives, he announced a plan to build 24 affordable housing projects on city-owned properties.

Other proposals included an advisory designating social media as a public health hazard and a plan to shorten the timeline for resolving disciplinary complaints against police officers.

Mr. Adams, a former police officer who ran for mayor on a public safety message, is gearing up for re-election next year. As his approval rating has fallen sharply in recent months, more Democrats are considering entering the race.

The speech felt like a campaign rally, and the auditorium was filled with cheering union workers, including members of the Hotel and Gaming Trades Council and 32BJ-SEIU, which represents building workers, security guards and airport workers. Some of them enthusiastically parroted several of the mayor’s call-and-response chants from the stage.

Mr. Adams has repeatedly focused on crime and jobs, unveiling a theme that “crime is down” and “jobs are up.” But overall crime is down only slightly in the city while crime is dropping across the country, and the city was slower to recover jobs than much of the nation.

A large crowd of protesters gathered outside the speech to call on Mr. Adams to close the Rikers Island jail complex and to assail his budget cuts that would affect the city’s libraries, schools and public housing.

Chanting slogans like, “The mayor’s budget is the worst, time to put the people first,” and “housing not handcuffs,” protesters banged on drums, shook tambourines and waved picket signs.

James Davis, the president of a union that represents faculty at the City University of New York, criticized the mayor, an alumnus of City Tech and John Jay Colleges, for holding the speech at the community college while cutting funding for CUNY.

“The state of CUNY is not strong right now,” Mr. Davis said, noting that city colleges have cut courses and enacted a hiring freeze.

Affordability and housing are likely to be key issues in the 2025 mayor’s race, and Mr. Adams seemed to acknowledge that he must address them more forcefully. Rents have soared, and many Black families have left the city because of the rising cost of living.

Earlier this week, Mr. Adams announced a plan to erase medical debt for as many as 500,000 New Yorkers.

“These are the types of creative ways we want to really alleviate some of the challenges of living in the city,” Mr. Adams said at a news conference on Tuesday. “Cities are becoming more and more expensive. Government must find ways to bring down the costs and put money back in the pockets of everyday taxpayers.”

Mr. Adams announced a new “tenant protection cabinet” to help keep New Yorkers in their homes, and the expansion of a “homeowner help desk.” But the mayor has received criticism over his housing policies, including supporting rent increases for rent- stabilized apartments and vetoing a City Council bill to expand a housing voucher program.

The mayor also announced the redesign of a plaza in Manhattan’s Chinatown and plans to create a department to regulate delivery workers.

The migrant crisis has presented an enormous challenge for Mr. Adams as more than 170,000 immigrants have arrived in the city, an influx that has continued this winter and pushed some families to sleep in the snow.

After enacting several rounds of unpopular budget cuts that the mayor has blamed on the migrant crisis, Mr. Adams recently announced that the city’s financial outlook had become less dire.

Despite his cheerful tone, Mr. Adams faces daunting obstacles this year: a federal investigation into his campaign fund-raising; a threat by leaders in the City Council to override his veto of two bills that seek to document police stops and end solitary confinement in city jails; and a looming battle with state lawmakers over extending mayoral control of schools.

Basil Smikle, director of the Public Policy Program at Hunter College, said the mayor was wise to focus on his accomplishments, such as his successful partnership with Gov. Kathy Hochul. Mr. Adams and Ms. Hochul, who holds great sway over the city’s finances, have a better working relationship than their predecessors.

“New Yorkers don’t know enough about his actual successes,” Mr. Smikle said. “He needs to set priorities for a year in which the country will be focused on national politics.”

Mr. Adams ended the speech by acknowledging that many New Yorkers were struggling despite his rosier predictions for the city’s future.

“Our city is full of questions and contradictions — the safest big city in America but one where too many feel vulnerable and afraid,” he said. “It’s a place where the economy is booming but too many are not getting their fair share. These contradictions and so many others are what we are working to change.”

Reporting was contributed by Erin Nolan, Jeffery C. Mays and Dana Rubinstein.

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