On Jan. 1, Mayor-elect Eric Adams will become Mayor Eric Adams. Compared to two Christmases ago, he faces a murder rate that is up 48 percent, and 418,100 more people unemployed. Adams has now named most of his top commissioners — and each of them has a unique strength that he or she can put to use to tackle the city’s top problems. Here is what Adams’ appointees must do during their first days on the job.
Keechant Sewell, the incoming police commissioner, is an outsider who knows New York. That’s a rare combination. We have plenty of NYPD insiders, and there have been many outsiders who are totally clueless about the city’s unique politics and culture (see Mayor Bill de Blasio’s failed schools chancellor, Richard Carranza).
As a Queens native who made it near the top of the Nassau County force, though, Sewell can bring a fresh, but not naïve, eye to the NYPD.
To get guns off the streets, Sewell will need to immediately “reinstate proactive policing strategies disbanded under the de Blasio administration,” says my policing-expert colleague Hannah Meyers. And Sewell will have to do so “without the support of consistent prosecution.”
For example, incoming Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg wants to go easy on some gun crimes, let alone “small” offenses like chronic shoplifting.
This is daunting, but as an early first step, Sewell should constantly walk the beat herself, making sure her officers are energized and engaged. Police in the subways cannot be looking at their phones; officers should be constantly walking Times Square, not standing in the corner chatting. If she cares, they’ll care.
Louis Molina, corrections commissioner
New corrections chief Louis Molina is another current outsider who understands New York. A former NYPD officer and Rikers Island monitor, he’s been heading up public safety in Las Vegas.
Molina’s most pressing task is basic discipline on Rikers. Adams has already said he’ll bring back solitary confinement when warranted for violent inmates. Molina should consider asking the governor for National Guard medics to ensure inmate safety: Sixteen inmates have died this year.
In the longer term, Molina must level with the “Close Rikers” advocates: The city’s $9 billion plan for four borough jails is unworkable. Inmates would be better served with new buildings on Rikers, complete with modern medical facilities and outdoor space for farming, animal husbandry and green-jobs training.
David Banks, schools chancellor
David Banks, schools chancellor to be, is a smooth insider. His six Eagle Academy for Young Men schools (one in each borough as well as one in Newark) require students to wear shirts with ties.
But the Eagle schools are traditional public schools, not charter schools. That means Banks has worked with the teachers’ union before — experience that will be important in hammering out a new contract. But from Eagle, a school system within a school system, he also understands the benefits of autonomy, which charter schools more readily provide.
Banks MUST push the state to lift New York’s cap on high-quality charters, says my education colleague Ray Domanico. Right now, though, he should take a “growth approach” to “academically selective high schools” all over the city, rather than obsess over tests for existing exam schools like Stuyvesant. He should also expand “the city’s currently all-too-limited supply of gifted and talented programs pre-high school.”
Ydanis Rodriguez, transportation commissioner
Ydanis Rodriguez, appointed transportation commissioner, brings empathy and spirit to his new job. As city council transportation chairman, he always showed deep concern for the victims of traffic crashes, particularly the family of Josbel Rivera, a 23-year-old man killed by a hit-and-run driver 10 years ago in the Bronx.
Rodriguez’s job is comparatively easier than those of Sewell, Rivera and Banks. The DOT is a reasonably functional department with good morale. Until the whole city fell apart last year, Vision Zero, to cut traffic deaths, was working: Pedestrian deaths had fallen 29 percent since the Bloomberg administration.
Rodriguez has to do more of that — but he’ll also need to confront the unaccountable food-delivery apps such as DoorDash and Grubhub. The apps send their “independent contractors” out on motorized bikes with no training or experience, forcing them to work under appalling safety conditions to meet speed pressures.
This year, at least 12 delivery cyclists died through November, and another delivery worker died two weeks ago. No other low-wage industry in New York racks up such a predictable, preventable death toll.
To confront this business model, Rodriguez will have to show the same iconoclasm he showed in 2015. He was one of the only city officials willing to question Uber’s business practices, years before cabbies started committing suicide. For his willingness to question the emperor’s clothes, many transit “experts” made fun of him.
Rodriguez must ALSO ensure he doesn’t leave the people who live along the Cross-Bronx Expressway in limbo. Congressman Ritchie Torres has said he wants to use federal funding to “cap” parts of the Cross-Bronx. Either cobble together a real federal, state and city plan in 2022, or don’t — but make sure people suffering from asthma and noise get an answer either way, come 12 months’ time.
This piece originally appeared at the New York Post
Photo by SeanXu/iStock