When mayoral candidates Eric Adams and Curtis Sliwa face off in their first debate Wednesday, the pair will confront issues ranging from soaring subway crime to the fate of the schools’ gifted-and-talented program.
Adams, a Democrat, is the heavy favorite to win the Nov. 2 general election, given his party’s 7-to-1 voter-registration advantage across the five boroughs.
But the mostly sleepy election season has been heating up in recent weeks, with Adams declaring the Republican Guardian Angels founder a “racist” who has turned the competition into a “circus.”
Sliwa, in turn, has claimed that the Brooklyn borough president uses that attack as a “fallback position” against anyone who disagrees with him.
The outspoken pair will be featured in a one-hour televised debate on NBC on Wednesday at 7 p.m. A second TV matchup is slated for Oct. 26 on ABC.
Here are the key issues the city’s next mayor will face upon taking office Jan. 1, 2022, and where Sliwa and Adams stand on them:
1. Street crime
Adams, a former NYPD captain, made public safety central to his primary-race campaign. Though a longtime critic of stop-and-frisk, Adams has said he will bring back the recently disbanded plainclothes NYPD unit and vowed to crack down on quality-of-life nuisances such as ATVs and graffiti.
Sliwa, who founded the famed street patrol group the Guardian Angels in the late 1970s, has repeatedly blasted Mayor Bill de Blasio’s approach to public safety in the five boroughs. He’s vowed to revive “old-school ways” of policing including stop-and-frisk. He also wants to reinstitute the anti-crime unit and crack down on quality-of-life offenses.
2. Subway crime
The candidates have both argued for more cops in the city’s public transit system. Adams, who began his police career as a transit cop, said more officers should be taken off desk duty and put on underground patrols. TWU Local 100, which represents nearly 40,000 transit workers, endorsed Adams.
Sliwa, who’s also no stranger to straphangers, rode the subway for 24 hours straight during the primary to highlight safety concerns. His five-point plan to tackle subway crime includes flooding the system with 4,500 uniformed and 500 undercover NYPD officers.
Both Adams and Sliwa oppose de Blasio’s controversial plan to get rid of the city Department of Education’s Gifted and Talented program. Instead they’ve both said they want to expand the 2,500-student program.
While Sliwa and Adams both favor expanding charter schools, the Brooklyn borough president has stopped short of saying he’d fight to lift the state-mandated cap on new charters. Sliwa is against the cap.
Adams and Sliwa agree that the city has a homelessness crisis — but they differ on how to solve it.
Adams has proposed converting outer-borough hotels into supportive housing for people living on the street, while Sliwa wants to bus the homeless to a work camp upstate.
5. Housing and NYCHA
Adams has said he would support the de Blasio administration’s efforts to rezone Soho and other neighborhoods to allow for more housing.
Sliwa is opposed to “up-zoning” in general, including the Soho plan, which would add 3,200 new apartments, including 800 affordable ones. Sliwa says “it changes the residential makeup of a community” and would only benefit developers.
As for the more than half-million New Yorkers who live in public housing, Adams believes air rights could be sold or leased to private developers to fund improvements for the residents, while Sliwa wants the home-dwellers to be able to purchase their units.
6. Mental illness
Both Adams and Sliwa want to expand the use of Kendra’s Law, or the court-ordered psychiatric treatment for dangerously mentally ill people. They also agree on increasing counseling for people struggling with mental illness in homeless shelters and other housing.
Sliwa wants to dismantle and investigate ThriveNYC, a $1.25 billion plan launched by de Blasio’s wife Chirlane McCray that’s come under attack for its lack of transparency and metrics. Adams hasn’t commented specifically on ThriveNYC or its successor program but has said he wants to focus on serious mental illness.
7. Congestion pricing
The candidates have starkly different views on the congestion-pricing plan that would charge drivers to enter Manhattan.
Adams is urging that the plan implemented as soon as possible but wants to be sure it doesn’t hurt poor and working class New Yorkers.
Sliwa is an unqualified opponent, saying, “This is just another tax, another fee, another fine on the hard-working people coming from the outer boroughs, and the tri-state area, into Manhattan.”
8. Vaccine mandates
Adams supports vaccine mandates for school kids, pending FDA approval of them, while Sliwa is against the move. The Brooklyn borough president said he’d work with unions to discuss vaccine requirements for all city workers. Sliwa opposes that plan.
9. Rikers Island
Neither candidate fully embraces de Blasio’s $9 billion plan to close the city’s notorious lockup by 2027 and replace it with smaller jails in four of the five boroughs except Staten Island.
While Adams wants to close Rikers, he says he’d also focus on addressing root problems that lead to incarceration such as dyslexia. Sliwa wants to keep Rikers open but have state officials take it over.
10. Economy and jobs
Adams and Sliwa have promised to make the city more friendly to businesses. Adams has said he’d “partner” with the business community, including large companies, to address factors that affect them, such as crime, COVID-19 and homelessness. Sliwa has focused on cutting bureaucratic red tape to boost mom-and-pop shops.
In terms of unemployment, Adams says he would match out-of-work New Yorkers with local employers using a common application system. Sliwa wants to use property-tax reform to hire 3,000 more cops.