After more than 20 people were shot during another bloody weekend in New York. Andrew Yang, a leading candidate to declared the city’s next mayor, stood outside a Bronx housing project and called for an immediate gain in the number of police officers who investigate gun crimes and patrol subways.
The city, Yang said on Thursday, is failing us. We can do better.
A year ago, protests over police brutality and racial injustice rocked cities across the country. Screams of defunding the police and calls for reform echoed throughout the Democratic Party. But New York’s mayoral contest indicates a different political reality is taking hold among Democrats as urban areas federal dig out from the coronavirus pandemic.
The pandemic triggered massive job losses, left streets deserted, strained local budgets, and contributed to a national rise in violent crime. The murder rate in U.S. cities jumped 25% or more in 2020, FBI statistics show and is continuing to escalate this year. Last week, the Biden administration launched an initiative to help combat the spike in gun violence and homicides.
The debate over the future of policing is putting up with place daily in New York. As a bevy of Democrats jockey for the party’s nomination ahead of the June 22 primary that will likely decide who becomes mayor. So far, nominees who have adopted a pro-law enforcement message and pushed back against developed calls to reduce funding for police departments seem to have the upper hand.
The election’s outcome may give a window into how voters prioritize issues in a post-pandemic society. That has important implications for Democrats as they head toward the 2022 elections when their control of Congress will be at stake — and as they proceed to grapple with tensions between the moderate and more liberal voices within the party.
What happens in New York goes elsewhere. This is a precursor of what’s to come, said Douglas Schoen, a Democratic pollster and longtime adviser to former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
NEW YORK IN CRISIS
For many in COVID-scarred New York, indelible images of a city in crisis came last May, when peaceful protests over racial injustice descended into several nights of looting and mayhem on empty avenues in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
More recently, the city has been rattled by a series of violent incidents. Shootings are up 90% since the same time a year ago.
A poll performed this month by the Manhattan Institute, a conservative think tank, found that nearly half of Democratic primary voters rank public safety as their top question and that just 18% said they want fewer police patrolling their neighborhoods. A recent Emerson College poll also listed public safety as voters’ top problem.
This mayoral race is a window into what New Yorkers want to see in a city reborn, said Michael Hendrix, the Manhattan Institute’s director of state and local policy. They want recovery to financial growth and jobs. They want safe roads and a sense of some kind of municipal order.
That has given a vacancy for moderate candidates such as Yang, an entrepreneur and former presidential candidate; Eric Adams, a former police officer and current Brooklyn borough president; and Kathryn Garcia, a longtime civil servant who ran the city’s sanitation department.
Polls have exhibited them among the top of the field, with moderns such as civil rights lawyer Maya Wiley lagging, although the race remains fluid.
Adams has made public safety a centerpiece of his campaign, often showing up at crime scenes around the city. He has vowed to revive a controversial anti-crime unit within the New York Police Department and supports a revised version of a police tactic known as “stop and frisk” that has been widely criticized by activists as inferior and unfair.
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Progressives in the city hope the election’s new ranked-choice voting system will allow competitors such as Wiley to emerge as other candidates are eradicated. And that perhaps the highly popular progressive U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will endorse a like-minded candidate soon.
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