NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – CBS2 is holding in-depth conversations with the 2021 New York City mayoral candidates.
We are asking each of them the same questions, so you can compare.
The order was chosen at random.
Here’s Marcia Kramer’s interview with Democrat Eric Adams.
Marcia Kramer: From ending gun violence to recovery from the pandemic, the next mayor of New York City will have a lot on their plate. We’re speaking with each candidate and an in depth conversation to see where they stand. We’re asking each candidate the same questions, so you can compare. Joining me now is Eric Adams. Eric, thank you very much for joining me today.
Eric Adams: Thank you, Marcia, good to be here with you.
Kramer: So the first question is this, should you get elected, what would your top three priorities be on day one?
Adams: Public safety, I believe is the prerequisite to prosperity and justice. I believe that the second is getting our economy back and operating, and that includes employment and building out our workforce for the future. And third, getting COVID under control. We’re far from vaccinating all of our citizens, and we don’t want to spiral backwards. And those are probably our three top priorities, with others, also waiting to accomplish.
Kramer: Which one is gonna be the hardest?
Adams: Probably dealing with the issues of public safety and building back trust in our police department and our communities. It is so important that we build that trust back, and there are so many scars on both sides. And I believe that with the right leadership and the right man that has been on both ends of public safety in the criminal justice system, that’s a unique perspective that I bring to this conversation and this latest type of leadership.
Kramer: Well, you’re talking about your being a cop at one point in your life?
Adams: You know more than just being a police officer. Many people know that I experienced police brutality as a child, I was arrested and assaulted by officers. And instead of saying woe is me, I say why not me? Civil rights leaders asked me to go into the police department and I did, started 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement who care to fight for justice and safety. They both go together. And taking a look at that I know how we can continue to move forward.
Kramer: So talking about public safety, how do you square reducing the size of the police budget, which the city has already done with the need to keep the city safe and to get gun violence under control?
Adams: Well, we could do a better job of managing our manpower. I’m sure if you have ever entered the subway system, for example, you see five or six officers really standing together at a token booth, or at the entry of the station. That’s a poor management and deployment of police officers.
Then we can look at how officers are using overtime. We have about $400 million a year in overtime. That is too much. We could allow officers who have to testify in court, instead of doing that on overtime, we could use technology like Zoom and WebEx. We should civilianize our department. We probably have about $500 million that we are using in offices who are doing civilian titles and civilian jobs. I say let’s have them do the jobs we hire them for. Hire civilians to do their job, which is cheaper in comparison to a uniform officer.
And then let’s look at how we define our public safety ecosystem. Officers don’t have to be at parades at the large numbers they’re there. They don’t have to do traffic accidents, unless, I believe, there’s a serious physical injury. They don’t have to do past crimes and fill out reports. And so we can better use our manpower. The money we save, we can become more proactive in law enforcement, instead of just reactive.
Kramer: So if you got elected, would you consider cutting the NYPD budget?
Adams: No, I would better use the money as part of the public safety ecosystem. I am not part of the individuals who believe disband police departments, or look at public safety through bumper stickers and slogans. I believe we need to look at all the city agencies and their budgets, make sure that we’re more efficient, and that includes the police department. No sacred cows. Everyone must do their job efficiently and in a cost effective manner. And so we can look at using the budget of the police department better without hurting public safety. We should never do anything that’s going to jeopardize public safety, we should be willing to do so.
Kramer: Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says that one of her prerequisites for endorsing any candidate is their willingness to cut $3 billion from the NYPD budget. I wonder if you would want her endorsement?
Adams: Well, she laid out her prerequisite for endorsement. I would never do that just to state, to cut dollars amount of $3 billion, just to state that. We must look at all of our agencies again, including the the police department, and make sure it is efficient. And that efficiency means a half a billion dollars, if it means a billion dollars, whatever that number is. We should never do anything that’s going to impact on public safety. And I’m not going to do that as a mayor.
Kramer: In other words what you’re saying is you’re not going to cut the number of police officers in the NYPD? You might have them going from administrative to on the job, or I mean to street work, or would you actually cut the number?
Adams: Well, I believe that we can can actually utilize attrition. You can reduce the patrol, you can reduce the police count, which is 90% of the budget without hurting patrol strength. We should never drop patrol strength down. But if there are officers who are retiring, and you don’t have to fill those jobs without hurting patrol strength, I am in support of that. We should never decrease patrol strength. We want our officers on the ground, providing the public protection for serious crimes in this city.
Kramer: I just have to follow up on that. Because there have been a number of police officers, because of what’s been going on, who have resigned and attrition is high. Would you fill any of those positions or you would just not hire anymore?
Adams: I wouldn’t hire any more, as long as we are not reaching a level where patrol strength is in jeopardy. My focus for my police officers – I want them on patrol, protecting the city. I don’t want them behind a desk somewhere doing clerical duties or not operating on the primary function of public safety. Far too many are not on the streets protecting New Yorkers. And that is the focus that a mayor that understands policing could properly deploy our police officers to do the job of public protection.
Kramer: So the police commissioner argues that bail reform has to be changed so judges feel that they can find a way to keep people accused of terrible crimes in jail. Your position on that?
Adams: Well, the first bill that came out that dealt with bail reform, I looked at the crimes that stated no bail could be handed down. And I stated clearly that those crimes on the list, such as burglary, robbery, carrying weapons on school grounds, and others, I’ve stated that those crimes should not be on the list. The state lawmakers went back they re-examined the crimes, they removed a lot of those serious crimes off the list. I was pleased with that.
But we have to go one step further. We need to look at judges and have them do two things. One, they need to better utilize the Kendra’s law for those who are dealing with mental health crisis and illnesses to ensure that they’re taking their proper medication. And second, we must give judges the discretion for imminent threats or dangers to our society. A person who’s arrested with a gun on Monday should not be out of jail Monday night. I believe those who are possessing, or showing a real threat, to our public safety, an imminent threat, we must have the discretion to hand down bail.
Kramer: So the number of homeless New Yorkers is out of control. I wonder what you think the answer is? And I wonder also, do you think homeless shelters should be put in neighborhoods where people don’t want them?
Adams: Well, first let me answer the number of homelessness that’s out of control.
Homelessness falls into three categories: Children and families, which is the largest number of homeless individuals who are going into shelters. Second is single adults. And third are the mental health men and women who you see on the street, who, they’re dealing with mental health illnesses. Rach one of those areas, we must have a proper approach.
For children and families, we need to, number one, stop the large number of people who are being displaced due to inability to pay their rents. We can do that by giving the one shots that are needed, and giving assistance. It’s cheaper to keep someone in their apartment or their home than having them displaced into a shelter.
Single adults, I’ve called for using micro units, renovated hotels, to turn them into kitchenette apartments and smaller units. We can really zero in and help the single adults.
And lastly, those who are dealing with mental health illnesses. We have a revolving door system that is ineffective. A person that that deals with mental health illness, we wait until they have committed crime, or if they do something that is dangerous to themselves or others. We arrest them take them to Rikers Island. Forty eight percent of our inmates on Rikers Island have mental health illnesses. And even if we take them to a psychiatric facility, which we have witnessed a decrease in beds, we give them medicine for one day, and bring them back into the street. That doesn’t work. We need to invest in organizations like Fountain House, give supportive services, built that trust, allow people to be in permanent housing, so we can make sure they get their medical care, their emotional, psychological care. And this way, we’re not just continually having a revolving door system.
Kramer: And what about putting shelters in areas where the neighborhoods where people don’t want them?
Adams: It’s all about a conversation. I believe we all must share our responsibility of the homeless crisis. You cannot have certain communities carry the weight of all the homelessness that we have. But the goal is, in a real conversation we should be having, is how do we get people out of shelters into permanent housing. And we can do that with the combination of looking at the various hotels in the outer boroughs, turning them into permanent housing. Not hotels, in homeless shelters, but into permanent housing. Having a reexamination of office buildings in our city. We know the footprint is going to shrink. Let’s start using and changing our zoning laws so we can build housing in those locations as well. And then look at apartment sharing with seniors. Many seniors are living in homes where they have extra bedrooms. This is a great way of a combination of them having additional income and having a housemate to deal with the social determinants of health with some of the areas of loneliness. So we must be more creative in how we deal with the homeless crisis. Even basement apartments and other areas to really address the homelessness in this city and cycle off of the shelter system. Too expensive, too bureaucratic, and is not a pathway that we should be looking at.
Kramer: So people who send their children to charter schools really loved them. What’s your position on charter schools? And how would you deal with the Jewish parochial schools that some say don’t do enough in terms of secular education?
Adams: Well, I believe in scaling up excellence. That is the goal. And parents should have choices. It doesn’t matter if it’s private or public or district schools, we need to duplicate excellence. And I believe that we have been having the wrong conversations around pitting charter schools and public schools against each other, instead of looking at the successful schools, and all of these areas.
And let’s be clear, 40% of the students in charter schools are not meeting proficiency. Sixty five percent of the students in district schools, I should say Black and Brown students in both those areas, are not meeting proficiency. And so we still have a substantial population of students who are not proficient. And the goal is is to look at both those schools, figure out who’s not meeting proficiency and duplicate the excellence of those who are doing a successful job. And that’s what I believe is scaling up excellence in our educational system. Because if you don’t educate, you will incarcerate and that is rebuilding 80% of men and women’s on rack in Rikers Island who don’t have a high school diploma or equivalency diploma.
And when you look at the yeshivas, we have to be honest, that there is just a small number of yeshivas that are not reaching a level of proficiency. And it’s important to give them the support to do so. And then really think about education in our city. There’s a real call for culturally sensitive education of Jewish students, African American, Chinese, Hispanic students, all these various ethnicities. They want to start seeing themselves in the textbooks, in the languages, in the culture, and I think that the yeshivas as part of that compensation. How do we start rethinking education in this city and state?
Kramer: So what would what measures would you put in place to make sure there’s no sexual harassment in an Adams administration?
Adams: Exactly what I’m doing now, at Borough Hall. I’m one of the few elected officials in this probably the country that has a compliance attorney. A former prosecutor is on staff with me. And this compliance attorney, she has a four person staff. And the goal of that compliance attorney is to create a safe environment where we comply with all rules, all regulations, and at the same time, allow my staff to feel comfortable in coming to her, as well as my HR person. It’s something that I have done throughout my time in government, I have an open door. My employees and staffers are extremely comfortable with coming to me reporting anything that they’re not receiving the results that they they deserve. A safe, healthy environment is crucial for me. And I will always ensure that I have a compliance attorney that reports directly to me so that we can immediately identify any problems within an agency.
Kramer: So given ranked choice voting, who would you tell your supporters to choose in second place?
Adams: I’m still looking at that. Many of the candidates I have been extremely pleased with some of the information of, they’re visionaries, and their vision towards the city. I’m still zero zeroing in on who I am going to have as a second or even third choice, I will allow that to be told, or I will give that announcement, as we get closer to election day. But I do want them to pick me as one.
Kramer: So we come to the segment of our show that we’re going to call “in one word.” So every question I’m gonna ask you in one answer in one word. So in one word, what do you consider your best leadership quality?
Adams: A deep listener.
Kramer: In one word, friends and family would describe you as?
Kramer: What’s your favorite comfort food?
Adams: Probably carrots. Remember I’m a vegan.
Kramer: Maybe there was like vegan chocolate or something, no?
Adams: Actually, I make it, three ingredient ice cream, that is something to die for, Made out of frozen bananas, peanut butter freshly made, and cocoa powder. It is great.
Kramer: I’m coming for a taste. Name a unique skill or talent?
Adams: I am a great dancer.
Kramer: And lastly, you like to do this when faced with a difficult situation?
Adams: Ride my bike. That is my therapy. Along the waterfront. And it clears my head. And I do it in conjunction with meditating.
Kramer: Well, we’ve come to the end of our show. Thank you so much for participating. Eric.
Adams: Thank you look forward to it. Take care.
You can watch our New York City mayoral debate with leading contenders on CBSN New York and on CBS2 hosted by Kramer and Maurice Dubois on Thursday, June 10 at 7 p.m.