Anxious New Yorkers wonder if Eric Adams is the man of the moment

Outside Liberty Pool in Jamaica, Queens, near the home where Mayor Eric Adams was raised, Rosa Soriano watched her 6-year-old son play in the heat of a midsummer heat wave ‘summer.

Ms Soriano, a manicurist, thought of Mr Adams, the challenges he faces in his first year in office and his seemingly sincere interest in improving the city. But then she reflected on her own set of difficulties. She worries about the crime and says she was careful not to visit the park after 7 p.m., fearing “someone might rob you”.

She would like her son to learn to swim, but the city canceled a program that offered free lessons, in part because of a shortage of national lifeguards. And she wants more from her son’s education: her class was too big, she says; the mayor opposed a state bill to reduce class sizes.

Seven months into Mayor Adams’ term, the hope and excitement felt by many New Yorkers after his election is giving way to concern that he has not taken the bold steps needed to resolve the the city’s most intractable problems.

Their list of concerns is long: rising crime, high inflation, a new wave of coronavirus cases and an outbreak of monkeypox. There is unease over the city’s overwhelmed homeless shelter system, growing anxiety about its economic recovery from the pandemic and complaints about piles of harmful waste lining the streets.

Many New Yorkers support Mr. Adams, a former police officer who ran for mayor on a public safety message. Even so, more than 55% of residents said in a recent poll that the city was heading in the wrong direction.

The New York Times interviewed New Yorkers at city parks, pools, playgrounds and street corners to get a sense of what Mr. Adams did in his freshman year.

Mr. Adams clearly enjoys the job, immediately becoming the town’s leading cheerleader and a notable presence in the town’s nightlife, but some have argued that he can’t run the town with charm. His Affordable Housing Plan has been criticized as too weak and his budget cuts to schools have raised concerns about his commitment to improving education.

“I love him – I think he’s wonderful,” said Mitzie Clarke, 68, a retired teacher who lives in Jamaica. “It’s one of ours.”

As she exercised in the park one recent morning, Ms Clarke said she was very concerned about homelessness and supported the mayor’s campaign to get homeless people off the streets. She said she had been praying for years for a woman living outside a subway station who recently moved out.

“When the mayor took them out completely, I said ‘hallelujah,'” she said.

Ms. Clarke also appreciates the mayor’s style and the way he expresses empathy.

“I like the way he dresses,” she said, adding, “His heart is good. He’s compassionate.

A teacher, Maria Mohammed-Richards, 28, said her school was affected by proposed budget cuts which were recently overturned by a judge. Enrollment plummeted and the director had to make tough decisions.

“He was asked to remove eight teachers,” she said, speaking at the Liberty Pool where she brought her young daughter, Sehven. “I would have been on the list, but she knew how to keep me.”

School budget cuts became a political issue for Mr. Adams, and he fought with the city council to restore some of the money. Adams said cutting more than $200 million for the next school year was necessary because around 120,000 families have left the school system over the past five years, mostly during the pandemic.

The mayor opposed a bill to reduce class sizes — approved by state lawmakers in June but not yet signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul — because he said the school system doesn’t didn’t have the money to fund the limits and that many classes had already been reduced. by a decline in enrollment.

Mr Adams called himself “the future of the Democratic Party”, but his approval rating in New York quickly plummeted. Only 29% of New Yorkers rated his performance as good or excellent in the recent poll by NY1 and Siena College.

The mayor has focused on crime more than any other issue and says he is making progress. Murders and shootings are down this year, but major crimes are up more than 35%.

His team has highlighted other achievementsincluding a new funding plan to improve public housing, rebounding tourism figures, universal dyslexia screenings for students and reduced fares for poor and disabled ferry passengers.

Still, the poll found only 21% of New Yorkers thought Mr. Adams was doing a great or good job at fighting crime, and 45% rated him mediocre on that issue. It received higher marks for encouraging tourists to visit and for managing city services.

Mr. Adams had a higher approval rating among black residents – about 39% rated him as good or excellent, compared to 25% of white residents. Among the boroughs, his strongest support was in the Bronx.

In the Bronx’s Hunts Point neighborhood, an area Mr Adams won in the primary, Jade Figueroa, 20, said the mayor had had no impact on her life. While Mr Adams has pledged to make childcare more affordable, Ms Figueroa said she was unsuccessful in getting help paying for childcare through the 311 service from the city.

“The app was so complicated that I gave up,” Ms Figueroa said as she played with her one-year-old daughter in a playground. “It would be nice if the city didn’t make services so hard to get.”

Mr. Adams has received some of his worst homelessness polls. Only 18% of New Yorkers rated it excellent or good at addressing homelessness, and 49% said it did a poor job.

He cleared homeless encampments while pledging to add 1,400 beds in homeless shelters. He released a plan in June to invest billions of dollars in affordable housing, but he declined to say how many units the city was aiming to create.

Julio Rivera, 38, a fast-food worker who lives in the Bronx’s Morrisania neighborhood, said he thinks the mayor isn’t doing enough to help the homeless. Mr Rivera said he had spent most of his life in and out of shelters and many of his homeless friends had not received housing vouchers.

“The mayor just wants to make homelessness go away,” Mr. Rivera said as he waited for his son’s school bus. “That’s not how it works. You give them shelter and you offer them employment opportunities and services so that they don’t end up on the streets.

The Siena poll showed strong support for some of the mayor’s policies: 85% of residents supported adding police officers to the subway; 60% supported the dismantling of homeless encampments.

Sarah Grassi, 23, sat among the sea of ​​office workers and tourists in Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan on a recent afternoon. She works at a logistics company in Manhattan and said she feels lucky to live in a rent-stabilized apartment in the Glendale neighborhood of Queens.

Ms Grassi said she voted for Maya Wiley, the left-wing candidate in the Democratic primary for mayor, and did not support the mayor’s ‘very pro-police mentality’ and his the removal of the homeless.

“Just because something becomes less visible to you as a resident doesn’t mean the problem goes away,” she said.

One of the reasons for the homelessness crisis in the city is the dire lack of affordable housing. Rental prices have skyrocketed this year, and the average Manhattan rent for new leases has risen to $5,000.

Arturo Hernandez, 22, grew up in New York and returned this spring after finishing school. Having recently climbed a fifth floor without an elevator during the heat wave to see a small apartment in Manhattan that he could barely afford with two roommates, he felt defeated.

“The cost of living in the city is insane,” he said as he sat in Bryant Park, adding that he was considering moving to Chicago because it seemed more affordable.

Mr. Hernandez does not blame the mayor for the current housing market, but he said he was not convinced that Mr. Adams was acting aggressively to solve the problem. The mayor seems more focused, he said, on enjoying the benefits of work.

“He goes out and thinks he’s some kind of celebrity,” he said, “when he should be on the floor rolling up his sleeves to get the job done.”

Sadef Ali Kully contributed reporting.

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