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Where NYC Mayoral Candidate Eric Adams Stands on Six Jewish Issues
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Mayoral Race 2021

Where NYC Mayoral Candidate Eric Adams Stands on Six Jewish Issues

The Jewish Week asked NYC mayoral candidates about fighting anti-Semitism, relations with the haredi Orthodox community, specialized high schools and other topics.

Eric Adams (ericadams2021.com, design by Grace Yagel)
Eric Adams (ericadams2021.com, design by Grace Yagel)

The Jewish Week asked the top candidates in June’s Democratic primary for New York City mayor where they stood on a range of issues. Find the other candidates’ responses here.

Eric Adams, born in Brownsville and raised in South Jamaica, Queens,  was elected Brooklyn Borough President in 2013. Prior to that he served in the State Senate, representing sections of central and Brownstone Brooklyn, and is a former member of the NYPD.

After a year in which concerns about anti-Semitic hate crimes rose, we are now seeing increasing reports of attacks against Asian Americans. How would you prevent and punish hate crimes, and how would you balance calls for solutions from law enforcement with those that seek less police involvement and more education and community outreach?

  • An Adams administration will have a zero tolerance policy toward hate crimes, and that includes anti-Semitic attacks.
  • I will direct the NYPD to work in partnership with our district attorneys to ensure that they have the resources they need to swiftly identify, apprehend, and prosecute those who prey on innocent New Yorkers through these cowardly acts.
  • The NYPD must prioritize language justice for non-English speaking victims to make it easier to safely report
  • I will take a more robust approach with my Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes that includes rapid graffiti removal
  • Support for expanded anti-hate curriculums in our public schools
  • Support innovative cross-cultural dialogue initiatives like our “Breaking Bread, Building Bonds” program at Brooklyn Borough Hall that brings together everyday people each from all various ethnicities, identities, and faiths around a dinner and conversation.

This summer, the relocation of homeless men to hotels on the Upper West Side became a topic of debate within the Jewish community living there. Some supported the move as a gesture of compassion and a necessary solution to a housing crisis, and others objected that it had been done without sufficient community input and it presented a danger to the area’s permanent residents. How do you intend to address the plight of those sleeping unsheltered on the streets and in the subways, along with the safety and quality of life concerns of the city’s residents and business owners?

Any solutions to homelessness need to acknowledge the different types of people who are homeless. Each requires different solutions.

New Yorkers on the brink of homelessness and in shelters need far greater assistance than is available now to transition into permanent housing. One way we will accomplish this is by increasing the value of the city FHEPS housing vouchers so they reflect the value of the housing that is actually available in our city. There was a time when $1,323 for a one bedroom and $1,580 for a two bedroom was sufficient, but that time is long gone. And when the cost of a person in the shelter system is $124, and the cost of a family is $196 per day, increasing the value of vouchers is common sense governing. I also believe that HPD should set a policy to fill open affordable units within 60 days of a new building’s certificate of occupancy or for vacancies in existing buildings, with a priority for those in our shelter system and temporary housing.

For single adults who are experiencing homelessness, we need to build options of housing that allow them to get on stable footing. Right now, there is an excess capacity of hotels in the outer boroughs, and the city should purchase them and retrofit them into dorm-style housing with wraparound services.

For those who are on the street, we need to help them get the care they need and mental health services. During my time as Borough President I fully funded the first mobile shower and care bus in Brooklyn that provided services and a place for street homeless individuals a place for a hot shower. We need more of these buses throughout New York City. Regarding safety concerns on our streets and in our subways, I have proposed a four-point plan including expanded mental health outreach aboard the subways by conducting routine inspections and engaging with those in need, greater coordination between transit patrols and street patrols with a focus on redirecting mentally ill individuals to proper treatment; an expanded the role of 311 to allow straphanger to more easily report situations aboard our trains and a strengthened use of Kendra’s Law to allow for more court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment.

Also, in concert with my late colleague and friend Lew Fidler, I prioritized support for Runaway Homeless Youth by leading the charge to extend the age of designation from 21 to 25. RHY are largely LGBTQ+ individuals and are some of the most vulnerable among our homeless populations.

For families with children, we must provide additional priority to students for affordable housing in areas where they are attending schools even if they are currently in shelter elsewhere. We must create stable housing solutions for our young people so we do not perpetuate the cycle of instability for future generations.

Communities across the city are crucial partners in all of this. We must listen to what they have to say, they will tell us what is working and what needs fixing, who is effective and who is being helped. By listening, we will ensure that we can implement sound policies that we can implement across the city.

At the height of the Covid crisis, some sectors of the city’s haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community were seen to be flouting safety guidelines. At the same time, leaders of the community felt singled out by the mayor, health department and law enforcement for public censure and fines. What lessons in governance did you draw from this issue?

This is a diverse city with many different languages and many different cultures. We have to communicate in those languages and cultures to get the message out. As I’ve said multiple times, we should have used credible messengers and the city’s Census campaign infrastructure to communicate effectively on the ground, while collaborating actively with trusted newspaper, radio, and digital media outlets. Additionally, enforcement should be done in a precision manner, so as not to penalize the large portions of the community that are abiding by the restrictions.

Jewish students have historically been disproportionately represented in the city’s specialized high schools, and Jewish alumni of these schools are justifiably proud of the education they received and excellence they represent. At the same time, the number of Black and Hispanic students has been vanishingly low and has plummeted in recent years. How would you increase diversity in the city’s specialized schools? Would you eliminate the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test?

As a young man I was among the first classes of students to be bused to high school — from South Jamaica to Bayside. This is personal to me. To desegregate schools, I will:

  • Build five new specialized schools — one in each borough — and automatically offer seats to the top students from the incoming classes of each middle school, guaranteeing that those schools will be diverse;
  • Invest far more resources in tutoring and extra education for students in lower-income areas to improve performance;
  • Create the best remote learning experience in the country to provide more education options for students at struggling schools.

I would also limit geographic preferences for school selection, and replace the current screening process with one that focuses on how students learn to create a pathway for every student to go to a middle school and high school that best suits them.

The Covid crisis caused many New Yorkers to question their commitment to city life, and to consider relocating to the suburbs or other parts of the country. What’s your best case for convincing Jewish New Yorkers to stay or come back, and what specific policies will you pursue to keep them or welcome them back home?

In order to ensure that New York City remains a livable city, we must tackle the issues of public safety as outlined above but we must also ensure that our public school system is the envy of the world. In order to do this we must implement core reforms that adapt our school system to the modern era and ensure that student outcomes are preparing them for the future economy and the challenges that our society will be facing.

I will be laser-focused on making this city work better by putting all agencies on one unified Digital Platform and tracking success through a real-time scoring model that allows the city and all New Yorkers to see how we are performing on public safety and public health metrics on a daily basis and our progress toward quarterly goals on quality of life issues.

By streamlining government to improve city services, and reinvesting the savings into improvements to public safety and public health in our local economy we are going to make the city more livable and more desirable for New Yorkers, visitors and those looking to invest or move here.

Finally, we must continue to evolve in diversifying our economy by continuing to attract new out-of-town businesses and supporting the economy of the future. For example, the Relocation Employment Assistance Program (REAP) has successfully drawn new businesses here from outside the state by providing a tax credit per employee per year if they locate in certain areas of the city. We will expand that to bring more business to New York.

We will also encourage startups in industries of the future to locate here. It is far too difficult for innovators and entrepreneurs to start their businesses in New York City. Real estate costs and high costs of living have made some of the most brilliant talent turn to other cities. We have suffered as a result because we have missed out on the job opportunities and the birth of fast-growing industries. So we will incentivize startups to move to our outer-boroughs where property costs are more affordable and to develop fellowship programs with CUNY schools in exchange for tax credits. We will also interview failed start-ups to see how the city could better serve entrepreneurs.

Finally, the City, in partnership with investors and businesses prepared to invest in the long-term success of New York, will start an incubator to fund innovators focused on solving systemic citywide problems that lead to inequities. New Yorkers do not need another meal delivery service or another social media sensation nearly as much as we need our brightest minds to come together and solve issues such as job placement and outer-borough transportation.

From whom do you seek advice on Jewish communal affairs? Who on your staff serves as a liaison to the Jewish community?

Jewish groups/leaders I will work with:

  • A robust group that reflects the diversity of the Jewish community
  • And that includes groups such as the Anti Defamation League, New York Board of Rabbis, UJO of Williamsburg, Crown Heights Jewish Community Council
  • Rabbi Andy Bachman (Jewish Community Project Downtown)
  • Michael Miller (Jewish Community Relations Council of New York)
  • Rabbi Rachel Timoner (Congregation Beth Elohim)
  • Rabbi Linda Goodman (Union Temple)
  • Rabbi Stephanie Kolin (Union Temple of Brooklyn)
  • Rabbi Bob Kaplan (The Center for Community Leadership)
  • Evan Bernstein (Community Security Service)
  • Maury Litwack (Orthodox Union)
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