New York City
Eric Adams wants to “Get Stuff Done.” What stuff?
A close look at the core objectives among his endless policy ideas, as the mayor-elect enters his first year in office.
After a bruising, six-month Democratic primary season and another five months with Eric Adams as the presumptive mayor of New York City, we have a decent understanding of who the man is.
But what will he do as mayor?
Lately, Adams has simply been saying he’ll be a GSD mayor – one who will get “stuff” done. “This is my theme: GSD,” he told late night host Stephen Colbert while handing him a GSD NYC T-shirt. “I’m going to say get stuff done for you, but there’s another meaning with the ‘S.’”
If former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was the big business-minded technocrat (think: the 311 system), and if New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is the progressive focused on lifting up those that Bloomberg left behind (think: universal pre-K), then Adams is positioning himself as a little of both. The mayor who will take an efficiency minded-approach and reopen communication with big business in the city – but one who will direct the money he plans to save back to the underprivileged in the form of more services.
It’s a lofty goal, and his success will be determined, in part, by which of his endless policy ideas he will choose to devote resources toward and will be able to implement. Adams doesn’t have a single, signature, standout policy – but he does have a lot of thoughts. More than 100 of them. Some 106 short policy ideas ranging from a single sentence to a couple paragraphs were included in a document his campaign released in January 2020. Brevity does not mean they’ll be easy to implement. He wants to appoint an “efficiency czar” and reduce each agency’s budget by “at least 3-5%.” He wants to “rein in hospital costs” by standardizing pricing. And he wants to impose a “data tax on massive tech companies” and use the proceeds to guarantee high-speed internet access and help fund the expansion of a remote learning program where “top-flight educators” teach “students from all communities.” Other ideas seem relatively easy – and impactful. Screen all students in city schools for dyslexia. Keep expanding Citi Bike. Hire more Black and brown cops.
So what will Adams focus on? At this moment of infinite possibility, before the mayor-elect takes office, it’ll be a little bit of everything, explained his spokesperson, Evan Thies. Adams’ City Hall will be asking, “How are we improving government and government services with new policies and gradually improving the quality of life overall – rather than here’s the thing with the ribbon and the 25-page plan,” he said. “That 100+ steps document? You’re going to see a lot of things.”
But every mayor has some cornerstone policies. And from his campaign website, his speeches on the trail and conversations with his team, it’s possible to identify a few. (And City & State’s Annie McDonough highlighted some key ones in her story on how Eric Adams could revamp the way the city uses tech.) There’s no one guiding principle for Adams’ proposals, Thies said – there’s two. “Efficient and effective. It’s both.” So if Adams wants to get stuff done? Here’s the stuff.
Expanding direct cash assistance
Andrew Yang made universal basic income a topic in the Democratic primary – even if he himself wasn’t proposing it for New York City. But his opponents all felt like they had to share their own ideas for direct cash assistance. Adams’ NYC AID Plan, or Advanced Income Deployment, expands upon the federal government’s Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC, and gives money back to lower-income households. NYC AID would devote city funds to match up to 60% of the EITC, then spread it out over 12 monthly payments, rather than one lump sum when taxes are filed. Adams estimates that nearly 900,000 New Yorkers would qualify, getting as much as $250 to $333 per month, depending on income and family size – though most recipients would get much less. It would add approximately $1 billion to the city budget, which would be funded in part by across-the-board budget cuts of 3 to 5% to city agencies.
Cheaper child care & year-round school
Adams calls it “UCare,” for universal child care, and an issue brief calls it “a moral imperative that we provide universal child care for every parent who cannot afford it, starting with children ages 0 to 3.” But nothing in his proposal suggests it would truly be universal. Instead, his plan is focused on reducing child care providers’ costs by providing space in city-owned buildings and offering density bonuses to private developers who guarantee space in their buildings. That said, there are still big question marks when it comes to federal funding for child care, so Adams may be getting more help from Washington. Child care is also an issue for many older kids when they’re out of school in the summer, so Adams has proposed moving to a full-year school model. That huge proposal is also thin on details – let alone popular support.
Expanding wind power manufacturing
Adams hasn’t been shy about his interest in burnishing the city’s reputation as a budding technology hub – he’s professed goals of making New York City the “center of life science, the center of cybersecurity, the center of self-driving cars, drones, the center of Bitcoins.”But one of his slightly more detailed plans for boosting the economy would see New York City become a wind power hub – an industry he says could bring a windfall of jobs and cash to the local economy.Adams’ plan would leverage existing waterfront manufacturing sites – like Brooklyn Navy Yard and the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal – to design, build and ship turbines and other component parts needed for wind power projects across the Eastern Seaboard.Adams cites city capital dollars, as well as federal and state funds, as critical for getting manufacturing work off the ground quickly.But this plan also fits into a larger part of the incoming mayor’s economic vision. “There’s a bigger thing, which is significantly increasing the city capital plan to create green jobs,” Thies said, mentioning jobs that could be created out of climate resiliency projects and retrofitting wastewater treatment plants. Adams’ wind power plan, too, would see jobs training directed at low-income New Yorkers and people of color, including the creation of a wind power training hub in Sunset Park. Adams may not have to start completely from scratch in making the city a wind power hub; de Blasio announced in September a $191 million, 15-year investment in offshore wind projects, including manufacturing work.
Upzoning wealthy areas
The attempt to upzone the SoHo and NoHo neighborhoods of Manhattan this year has demonstrated that building affordable housing in wealthier, mostly white neighborhoods is no easy feat. But upzoning wealthy neighborhoods is a key part of Adams’ philosophy on affordable housing. While rezonings have largely focused on bringing more units to low-income neighborhoods in the past, Adams’ approach would prioritize adding affordable units to wealthier neighborhoods to allow lower-and middle-income people to move in – something like the opposite of gentrification. He has also proposed working toward the same goal by converting both city office buildings and hotels to affordable housing or supportive housing. Including wealthy enclaves of the city in upzoning projects is an idea groups like the Regional Plan Association have endorsed, but ushering these projects through the city’s Uniform Land Use Review Procedure is easier said than done. Still, the recent approval of the Gowanus rezoning shows that it can happen.
Targeting gun violence
Public safety is the platform issue that received the most attention in Adams’ campaign – and arguably in both the primary and general elections. Adams campaigned as a former cop who aimed to reform the department from within, and that balance – supporting law enforcement while securing reforms – is the same that Adams has said he will strike while in office. That starts with a sharp focus on gun violence. Adams has promised to revive the New York City Police Department’s much-criticized plainclothes anti-crime unit as an “anti-gun unit,” a vow that has already garnered backlash from advocates for police reform.(The anti-crime units had developed a record of disproportionately high fatal shootings and civilian complaints. Adams says his anti-gun unit would be staffed and trained with a focus on community relations and equipped with body cameras.) Stopping the flow and circulation of guns is part of his strategy too, including increased spot checks at transit hubs. Adams has also preached the importance of the nonabusive application of stop, question and frisk for getting guns off the street. “(It) is a necessary tool, whereby police approach someone who fits a witness description or otherwise appears to be carrying an illegal weapon,” Adams wrote of the controversial tactic in a recent op-ed.
Health care roadshow
Adams wants to bring health care services into underserved neighborhoods, investing in mobile units that act like doctors offices on a tour bus and have doctors set up shop in New York City Housing Authority complexes or setting up tables at school drop-off and pickup times. Adams’ plan calls it “a one-stop shop for basic exams, preventive care, and resources to live a healthier life” – and would be open to the uninsured and undocumented. Adams has also proposed expanding access to telehealth to cut down on emergency room visits.
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