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Top StoriesEight candidates spar on policing, recovery in virtual NYC...

Eight candidates spar on policing, recovery in virtual NYC mayoral debate


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The eight Democratic candidates running for New York City mayor squared off Thursday evening on numerous issues, but their focus was largely on policing and economic recovery.

This was the first debate before the June 22 primary in which the candidates could explain their visions to voters. Whoever wins that contest is likely to win in the Nov. 2 general election, given the city’s large Democratic voter base. However, turnout tends to be low in New York City primaries. Roughly 700,000 New Yorkers voted in the 2013 primaries, which is about 20 percent of registered voters. For the first time, the city will use ranked-choice in a primary, giving voters the option to select as many as five candidates in order of preference.

A recent poll by Change Research placed Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams slightly ahead of former 2020 presidential contender Andrew Yang, a businessman, 19 percent to 16 percent. Former city comptroller Scott Stringer, who has faced and denied sexual assault allegations, is at 9 percent. The remaining candidates — civil rights attorney Maya Wiley, former city sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia, former Obama Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan and businessman Raymond McGuire are tied at 7 percent. Former nonprofit executive Dianne Morales is at 5 percent. The poll also found 22 percent of voters remain undecided.

However, another poll put Yang ahead with 21 percent and Adams at 17 percent. Stringer and Maya received 10 percent. Garcia received 8 percent, while Donovan and McGuire each won support from 6 percent of voters surveyed. Morales received 4 percent.

Adams, a former NYPD captain, took most of the jabs from his competitors on policing in the city, particularly from Wiley and Morales over his deep ties to the department and the size of the city’s police force. Morales also slammed Adams for dismissing young, Black political organizers who are working on police reform.

“Safety is not synonymous with policing,” said Morales, adding that the city has one of the largest police departments in the country. “Our communities are over-policed and under-resourced.”

Wiley, a former aide to New York City mayor Bill de Blasio and ex-head of the city’s police misconduct board, excoriated Adams for suggesting bringing back the city’s controversial anti-crime unit and for his support for using stop and frisk, a program that was halted by a federal judge after data revealed racial inequities, as a policing tool.

“As a civil rights lawyer, all I can say is that there was nothing OK about [stop and frisk],” Wiley said.

Adams then said her questions show “your failure of understanding of police enforcement.”

Wiley said she “certainly” understands misconduct, citing her experience heading the NYPD misconduct board. Adams shot back: “I certainly know how much of a failure it was under you.”

“I told you all at the beginning of this race, when candidates start getting desperate, it’s going to get very nasty,” Adams added.

Yang, who has been consistently seen as the front-runner, took jabs in the two-hour.

McGuire pressed Yang about his reported comments that Black applicants may not be “the best fit” for his business venture, but Yang refused to apologize and said he did not remember making the remark.

“My administration would reflect the incredible diversity of our city,” Yang said. Moderators also leaned on Yang about his long absence from city politics. But the businessman demurred, saying he built a life with his wife in the city.

Stringer was queried on a sexual misconduct allegation against him made by a former aide. He denied the assertion but said women should have their claims heard.

“This is an allegation that is not true,” he said. “I hope the voters will listen to me.”

The candidates also discussed affordable housing, homelessness and public education. In February, the number of single adults sleeping each night in New York City shelters reached a record of 20,822, according to an April report from the Coalition of the Homeless, a local nonprofit. The single adult shelter population also reached records in 10 of the 12 months during 2020, the organization found.

Nearly every candidate agreed that decreasing homelessness was a priority with slight distinction to solve the issue, including the need for increased mental health services in the city. Yang, for instance, called for expanding supportive housing and building or preserving 250,000 affordable units. Morales called for converting office space to create space for the homeless, Garcia called for increasing the number of housing vouchers to get individuals out of shelters.

Wiley said she would shift $1 billion from the NYPD’s budget and invest in trauma-informed care in schools to help communities that grapple with violence. Also, Adams and Stringer were the only candidates to raise their hand when asked whether they would keep all-virtual school as an option in the fall for the city’s more than 1 million students.

The candidates themselves were asked to pick their second choices, however, only four answered. Garcia, who was endorsed by the New York Times Editorial Board, appeared to be the favorite. Donovan picked Wiley, Yang and McGuire picked Garcia and Wiley picked Morales.

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