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What Eric Adams Can Learn from de Blasio

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What Eric Adams Can Learn from de Blasio

New York Post January 2, 2022
Urban PolicyNYC

Eric Adams would be wise to review former Mayor Bill de Blasio's final week in office.

“Live each day like it’s your last” is not normally wise advice. But on his first weekday in City Hall, Mayor Eric Adams would be wise to review former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s final week in office. No matter how long a mayoral tenure lasts, your last week always looms, and it comes faster than you think. 

From Christmas to New Year’s, de Blasio was suddenly the busiest, most ambitious man in town.  

He released a $5 billion to $7 billion “climate-resilience plan” for Lower Manhattan — a “blueprint for comprehensive flood defense.” His racial-justice commission unveiled its “landmark proposals.”

His property-tax commission announced “recommendations to create a simpler, clearer and fairer property tax system.” His design and construction agency revealed “six firms to compete to build four borough-based jails.”

De Blasio launched a “digitized placard reader program in north Brooklyn, a major step toward cracking down on abuse and ensuring public servants use their parking privileges appropriately.”  

Even his wife pitched in, with Chirlane McCray declaring that New York would move a Faith Ringgold painting from Rikers Island because, she said, Rikers is closing.  

All mayors spend their last week in office congratulating themselves. 

Eight years earlier, Michael Bloomberg cut the ribbon on the first completed phase of the Times Square pedestrian plaza and boasted of record-low murders and record-low incarceration rates, plus the extension of the 7 train. In 2001, Rudy Giuliani, in a much more somber exit, boasted of record drops in crime and welfare numbers (but devoted most of his parting message to praising New York City’s 9/11 response). 

De Blasio couldn’t boast of a record-low murder rate. Pre-K was eight years ago. And, though the ferries are useful, he has no major infrastructure project to mark his place. 

What was striking about most of de Blasio’s late-December announcements is that most sounded like they came from a brand-new mayor: things to be done, not already done, and pretty hard things at that. 

A multibillion-dollar climate resiliency plan, a tiny hint of (illusory) progress on nearly awarding contracts to build four-borough jails, big ideas for property-tax reform and hefty new crackdowns on parking abuse: De Blasio wasn’t taking a low-key victory lap, like most mayors do as they wind down. 

Rather, he was proposing or updating a slew of new or delayed projects that would take an entire mayoral term, or even more, to accomplish.  

McCray can talk about moving a jail painting, but Rikers will remain open through Adams’ entire first term, maybe more. 

There was something almost touchingly manic about it. De Blasio realized, too late, that he could have done so much more with the six prosperous years that he had until 2020 — a gift that no first-term and early-second-term modern mayor has gotten.  

No mayor ever finishes what he started, but de Blasio started so few big things in the first place.

As he prepares his concrete first-year goals, Adams ought to take a look, once in a while, at his predecessor’s too-much-too-late slew of news releases. This is not how a successful mayor wants his final week in office to look.

Adams’ time, too, will go fast.

Even the best mayors accomplish just a few big things. Adams should ask himself, for example: Do I really want four-borough jails to be my big infrastructure project? Because you only get one, maybe two.

Or does he want his signature infrastructure project to be something else? If he doesn’t decide early in his first term — like today — he won’t get to cut the ribbon when he leaves. 

Likewise, how much political heat is Adams willing to take in implementing more assertive policing?  

That’s a function of whether, in four years or eight years, he wants to be able to say, as Giuliani and Bloomberg (and even David Dinkins) were able to say in their last days in office, that he turned the trend on crime and kept it turned.  

Finally, Adams should take another lesson from de Blasio: Don’t waste time on stupid stuff.

Even in his last month in office, de Blasio was still trying to figure out a way to ban Central Park horse carriages. How much practical and political energy did the now-former mayor spend on this idiotic and ultimately unsuccessful quest, energy that he could have spent on improving people’s lives? 

On New Year’s Eve, as the sun set on de Blasio’s long, strange, much-squandered tenure in Gracie Mansion, the horses were obliviously doing a brisk business.

This piece originally appeared at the New York Post

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Nicole Gelinas is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and contributing editor at City Journal. Follow her on Twitter here.

Photo by David Dee Delgado/Getty Images

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