Health

Eric Adams takes office as New York City’s 110th mayor

Adams, 61, the son of a house cleaner who was
a New York City police captain before entering politics, has called himself
“the future of the Democratic Party,” and pledged to address long-standing
inequities as the city’s “first blue-collar mayor,” while simultaneously
embracing the business community.

Yet not since 2002, when Mike Bloomberg took
office shortly after the Sept 11 attacks, has an incoming mayor confronted such
daunting challenges in New York City. Even before the latest omicron-fueled
surge, the city’s economy was still struggling to recover, with the city’s 9.4%
unemployment rate more than double the national average. Murders, shootings and
some other categories of violent crimes rose early in the pandemic and have remained
higher than before the virus began to spread.

Adams ran for mayor on a public safety
message, using his working-class and police background to convey empathy for
the parts of New York still struggling with the effects of crime.

But Adams’ first task as mayor will be to help
New Yorkers navigate the omicron variant and a troubling spike in cases. The
city has recorded over 40,000 cases per day in recent days, and the number of
hospitalisations is growing. The city’s testing system, once the envy of the
nation, has struggled to meet demand and long lines form outside testing sites.

Concerns over the virus caused Adams to cancel
an inauguration ceremony indoors at Kings Theatre in Brooklyn — a tribute to
the voters outside Manhattan who elected him. Instead, Adams chose the backdrop
of the ball-drop crowd, which itself had been limited for distancing purposes
to just a quarter of the usual size.

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Still, his swearing-in ceremony in Times
Square, shortly after the ceremonial countdown, was jubilant, and Adams said he
was hopeful about the city’s future.

“Trust me, we’re ready for a major comeback
because this is New York,” Adams said, standing among the revelers earlier in
the night.

Adams, the second Black mayor in the city’s
history, was sworn in using a family Bible, held by his son, Jordan Coleman,
and clasping a framed photograph of his mother, Dorothy, who died last spring.

Bill de Blasio also attended the Times Square
celebration and danced with his wife onstage after leading the midnight countdown
— his last official act as mayor after eight years in office.

Adams, who grew up poor in Queens, represents
a centre-left brand of Democratic politics. He could offer a blend of the last
two mayors — de Blasio, who was known to quote socialist Karl Marx, and
Bloomberg, a billionaire and a former Republican like Adams.

Adams narrowly won a competitive Democratic
primary last summer when coronavirus cases were low and millions of New Yorkers
were getting vaccinated. The city had started to rebound slowly after the virus
devastated the economy and left more than 35,000 New Yorkers dead. Now that
cases are spiking again, companies in Manhattan have abandoned return to office
plans, and many Broadway shows and restaurants have closed.

With schools set to reopen Monday, Adams must
determine how to keep students and teachers safe while ensuring that schools
remain open for in-person learning. Adams has insisted that the city cannot
shut down again and must learn to live with the virus, and he has been supportive
of de Blasio’s vaccine mandates.

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On Thursday, Adams announced that he would
retain New York City’s vaccine requirement for private-sector employers. The
mandate, which was implemented by de Blasio and is the first of its kind in the
nation, went into effect Monday.

Even so, Adams made it clear that his focus is
on compliance, not aggressive enforcement; it remains unclear whether he will
require teachers, police officers and other city workers to receive a booster
shot.

Adams has also said that he wants to continue
de Blasio’s focus on reducing inequality, even as he has sought to foster a
better relationship with the city’s elites.

“I genuinely don’t think he’s going to be in
the box of being a conservative or a progressive,” said Christina Greer, an
associate professor of political science at Fordham University. “Adams is
excited to keep people on their toes.”

©2021 The New York Times Company

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