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Eric Adams, a black ex-cop who has fought racial discrimination in the police force, is set to be elected mayor of New York next Tuesday, tasked with leading the city’s post-pandemic recovery.
The 61-year-old centrist Democrat and avid vegan will become the second African-American to lead the Big Apple, a job often described as the most difficult in the United States after being president.
It crowns a remarkable rise for Adams, who was born into poverty in Brooklyn and raced for a gang as a teenager before joining the NYPD and then pursuing a political career.
He is almost certain to defeat his Republican rival Curtis Sliwa in Tuesday’s vote in Liberal-majority New York and succeed the unpopular progressive Bill de Blasio, whose two-term term ends on December 31.
Adams sees himself as a strong leader: a champion of the working class and a fighter against racial injustice, but also a tough guy against crime and friendly to big business.
As mayor of more than eight million people, he will oversee the United States’ largest municipal budget, crippled by the pandemic, and its largest police force and public school system.
“This is a city where the mayor is the dominant political force. You need someone who knows how to use authority,” said Mitchell Moss, professor of planning and urban policy at New York University. , describing de Blasio as sometimes “undecided”.
“Adams has the personality that New Yorkers want in the office, he’s someone who’s going to be visible, who’s going to be in the communities, who’s going to come to work at the start of the day,” added Moss.
He will face a myriad of office challenges, primarily the rebounding New York City economy following the Covid-19 crisis that has killed more than 34,000 residents and shut down hundreds of thousands of people. companies.
He will also have to tackle keeping schools open, inequalities in wealth, a severe lack of affordable housing, fears about the impact of extreme weather events on crumbling infrastructure and violent chaos in the infamous Rikers Island prison. .
One of its most delicate balances will be trying to reform policing practices while keeping alongside a strongly unionized force that feels it has been underestimated and under-supported during the Blasio era.
Born in Bushwick, Brooklyn in 1960, Adams grew up in a large family in a working-class neighborhood in Queens. Her mother was a cleaning lady and her father a butcher.
When he was 15, two NYPD officers repeatedly kicked him in the groin after arresting him for criminal trespassing.
It was then that he decided he wanted to become a police officer.
“I didn’t want the kids to go through what I went through anymore, so I looked for a change from the inside out by joining the police department,” Adams wrote in The New York Times in 2014.
He joined the force in the mid-1980s when crime was rampant in New York City, serving a 22-year sentence and becoming a captain.
In 1995, he co-founded “100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care”, an advocacy group designed to combat racism in the police force and which still exists today.
He retired in 2006, winning election to the New York State Senate that year, where he served until 2013, when he was elected Brooklyn Borough President, providing a springboard for his ambitions as mayor.
The moderate candidate won the Democratic primary in June by pledging to fight inequality, reform the education system and crack down on violent crime that has skyrocketed during the pandemic.
He opposes police funding, a policy that is a rallying cry for many on the American left, and has slammed calls for increased taxes on the rich, a policy trumpeted by Blasio during his election campaign he eight years ago.
“Adams, I think, scares progressives,” Joseph Viteritti, professor of public policy at Hunter College, told AFP.
For Columbia University political expert Robert Shapiro, “Adams’ style will be that of a moderate, a pragmatist rather than an ideological liberal.”
Adams credits veganism for her 2016 diabetes diagnosis being overturned and last year published a book that aims to get African Americans to adopt a plant-based diet.
New York’s first black mayor, David Dinkins, ruled America’s largest city from 1990 to 1993.
© 2021 AFP