Dear Mayor Adams,
It’s late summer in New York City, and while many of us are taking off and checking out, you, sir, are the mayor who never sleeps in the city that doesn’t either. And no wonder: If my to-do list at work looked like yours, I too would be unable to rest. Summer’s almost over, and you’re still scrambling to put together an annual budget for the city’s schools. The transit system is, once again, in a fiscal quandary and cutting services. Your solution to our homelessness crisis—encampment sweeps—doesn’t seem to be helping, which is particularly unfortunate now that, thanks to the governor of Texas playing politics with human lives, we have a whole new population of migrant New Yorkers in need of housing and services. And I haven’t even gotten to the glut of vacant office space! Or polio! Or monkeypox! Or crime—up more than 30 percent, year over year, in July! Just thinking about it all makes me want to go back to bed.
The crime thing, for any mayor, is a bad look. But it’s a particularly gnarly piece of gristle for you, the ex–NYPD officer who ran on a law-and-order platform. It was, as I’ve written here before, a risky strategy to employ, and not because I don’t think you have the chops to deliver on it. Rather, the crimes of post-2020 New York are simply not so black-and-white. Way beyond mere bad guys versus good guys, what we are experiencing now is more like law and order and unrest and mental health and homelessness and economic disparity and gangs and Pandemic Trauma. In this regard, to paraphrase a lyric from Hamilton: Winning was easy, Mr. Mayor, but governing is harder.
The term unprecedented is overused these days, but I think it’s safe to say you inherited a New York City experiencing a series of complex, interrelated challenges the likes of which had not been seen before in either of our lifetimes. There will be no silver bullet to fix the ills of our city, but a series of strategic, tactical decisions that will take some time to deploy, and even more time to render visible effects. (I suspect affordable housing will be a big piece of this puzzle.)
But I am not writing to chide you for things not done or roads not (yet) taken. I am here to help you get a win. Put some points on the board. A simple way to get New Yorkers back in your corner. Two words, one person: rat czar.