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Eric Adams’ Weird and Wild First Month

There’s never a dull moment with the mayor who vowed to restore “swagger” to New York City.

John Teufel Feb 8

It started, as so many unfortunate things do, in Times Square.

Standing over a sea of half-aware tourists — their faces masked in a desperate attempt to avoid catching a deadly virus, despite attending one of the largest New Years Eve celebrations in the nation, their hands gripping Planet Fitness signs in a defiant rejection of non-commodified human relations — Eric Adams took the oath of office. He gave no speech, but later spoke with Ryan Seacrest, host of “Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest.” Clark, of course, has been dead for years.

The next afternoon, Adams gave his inaugural address, in which he introduced the “theme” of his first 100 days: “G.S.D.,” which, he patiently explained, was an acronym for “Getting Stuff Done.” He did not reveal why an acronym was necessary, nor how the idea of doing stuff differentiated him from prior mayors or, for that matter, accountants, plumbers or serial killers. Later that day, Adams narked to 911 on some fighting teenagers. Police responded promptly by driving past the kids. No arrests were made.

By Jan. 3, Adams had moved on from G.S.D. to the new concept of “swagger,” putting forth a thesis that New York did too much plague time “wallowing” which, it would seem, made it difficult to build up sufficient amounts of swagger. As part of an effort to re-balance New York’s swagger/wallow levels, Adams demanded that everyone get back to the office, where workers can purchase sweetgreen and briefly lower their masks to eat it six feet away from their terrified colleagues. It is unclear if Adams’ anti-wallow, pro-office position stems in part from his closeness with the real estate titans that have backed him so strongly.

Adams spent his fourth day as mayor pivoting from swagger to “grit,” which is definitely a new word to say, and grittily and with swagger refusing to take any steps to stop the uncontrolled spread of coronavirus throughout the city. Adams, it bears reminding, notoriously forced his borough president employees to report to the office in the darkest pandemic days of March 2020, even though borough presidents don’t do much of anything and the position could be eliminated tomorrow without anyone, possibly including the borough presidents themselves, noticing.

The latter half of Hizzoner’s first month has been reactionary — both to genuine tragedies and a New York Post-manufactured narrative of the city as a shooting gallery. 

Adams’ week devolved from there. He claimed to be the first mayor to wear a hoodie, even though we all still have nightmares about Bill de Blasio’s gym routine photos. He fired the well-regarded top internal watchdog for corrections officers after the union asked him to, a poor omen coming on the heels of his weirdly virulent defense of solitary confinement, which (in theory at least) has been banned in New York City. He called our city’s wage workers “low skilled,” the sort of casual insult that often reveals a broader outlook on world affairs.

And, in a fun capper for Week 1, he announced the appointment of his brother — a retired NYPD sergeant whose most recent gig was assistant director of parking at a college — as an NYPD deputy commissioner, prompting debate about whether Adams was (already!) violating nepotism laws. Week 2 was largely consumed by this self-inflicted wound, which Adams eventually walked if not back then sideways, by demoting his brother to executive director of mayoral security.

Nor was his brother the first controversial appointment for Adams, who spent time defending his decision to hire Philip Banks — not the gruff but lovable uncle from Fresh Prince, but rather the unindicted co-conspirator who in 2014 resigned in shame from his job as NYPD chief after an FBI corruption investigation — as a deputy mayor. Mr. Banks’ brother David Banks, of course, is Adams’ schools chancellor; Adams’ school chancellor’s wife, Sheena Wright, is another of Adams’ deputy mayors. You can here imagine the butterfly meme, with the butterfly labeled corruption and the guy, Adams, asking, “Is this grit?”

Adams received his first mayoral paycheck on Jan. 21 (don’t you hate that three-week waiting period for a new job?), and, foolishly, converted it to Bitcoin and Ethereum, both of which promptly plummeted in value. I am unsure what political message Adams’ was trying to send with this choice. That he doesn’t need money to live? Must be nice. Or perhaps he is gunning for Bitcoin to build a new office park in Long Island City, even though that’s not how any of this works. Regardless, we can hope the mayor makes his money back in private jet flights from shady crypto billionaires.

The latter half of Hizzoner’s first month has been reactionary — both to genuine tragedies and a New York Post-manufactured narrative of the city as a shooting gallery. The lingering power of the Black Lives Matter movement means Adams can’t simply fling open the cage doors and let the cops go full Judge Dredd (roughly the Giuliani through de Blasio approaches to crime). At the same time, Adams won his election at least partly because conservative elements here convinced New Yorkers that only Former Cop Eric Adams could effectively address the city’s alleged dangerousness.

Adams has threaded this needle with vagaries and deceit. The terrible murder of two officers in Harlem didn’t lend itself to easy demagoguery — the killer hadn’t been arrested since 2003, and appears to have been mentally unwell. And so Adams latched on to another incident, where a kid was tackled by cops and accidentally shot himself along with an officer, to falsely categorize it as the result of that ever-ready scapegoat, “bail reform.” Since then, Adams has harped on our bail laws as the reason for rising crime rates, despite overwhelming evidence that the two are not linked.

The second piece of Adams’ crime plan is reinstating the disbanded “anti-crime” units who formerly terrorized Black and brown communities, but warning them not to be evil. If they do bad things, Adams says he will fire them, but of course he legally cannot do that, and he hasn’t signed on to changes in the law that would allow him to, making this less of a threat and more of something to affix to a vision board.

Eric Adams’ first 31 days as mayor have been at turns comedic and tragic, enraging and deeply strange. He is in many ways a continuation of de Blasio — personally odd, casually corrupt and with a milquetoast politician’s desire to be all things to all people. Some of us wanted change. The best Adams can give us is swagger. Forty-seven months to go.

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