NEW YORK — With just over a week to go until New York City voters head to the polls, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Republican competitor Curtis Sliwa sat down with PIX11 News to talk crime, COVID, schools, storm preparedness and more.
Adams, as the Democratic candidate in a city that swings blue, has been widely favored in the polls, including in a Monday poll from PIX11 News. Meanwhile, Sliwa, as founder of the Guardian Angels, has promoted himself as the candidate best suited to handle the upswing in crime in the city.
Democrats outnumber Republicans 7-to-1 in the New York City, but Sliwa still sees a path to victory in a city that elected Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg.
Want to see it for yourself? Watch the full interviews with Adams and Sliwa at the bottom of this post.
Here are five takeaways from PIX11’s mayoral forum:
1 – CRIME, REFORM AND CORRECTIONS
Both Adams and Sliwa have law enforcement chops: Adams is a former member of the NYPD and Sliwa, a victim of gun violence himself, founded an anti-crime patrol group in 1979.
Despite the shared background, the pair have divergent views from the top down when it comes to crime, police reform, and the city’s Department of Correction.
Starting at the top, Adams has committed to selecting a woman as the city’s next NYPD commissioner. Sliwa said he’s focused on selecting a Hispanic man or woman for the top spot, though the two names he’s currently considering — former Deputy Inspector Richard Breyer and former Chief of Patrol Fausto Pichardo — are both men.
“The mayor needs to keep his nose out of the running of the police department,” Sliwa said. “If you appoint a police commissioner, it is his or her job to oversee the department, not the mayor.”
Adams is a strong believer in residency requirements for the NYPD.
“I want you to pay your taxes here. I want you to spend your money here,” he said.
Sliwa would hire 3,000 additional people for the NYPD using money he would get by raising property taxes on city owners who currently do not pay any property taxes. With those officers, he would flood the subway system. Sliwa rides subways on a daily basis and said he doesn’t see officers in stations and on trains. When they come, a major focus will be fare evasion.
“If you’re not going to protect the turnstiles, you’re basically giving a license to criminals and gangbangers to come,” he said.
Adams doesn’t want to see groups of officers standing around booths in subway stations; he said he wants them on trains and getting off at platforms to inspect stations
Sliwa called for a return of stop-and-frisk to combat gang violence, though he noted it was previously used incorrectly and too often.
“Shame on us for not using that tool,” he said.
Sliwa also wants 16- and 17-year-old suspects charged as adults.
“Look at where most of the shootings are coming from,” he said. “The older gang members understand there are no consequences for the teenagers.”
Sliwa called for the much-maligned Rikers Island jail facility to stay open, despite delayed plans by current Mayor Bill de Blasio to shut it down. Staffing has been a major issue and Sliwa wants 2,000 more correctional officers. He said that by sending emotionally disturbed inmates to other facilities and breaking up gangs in Rikers, correction officers will feel safer.
“You don’t house Bloods with Bloods, Crips with Crips,” Sliwa said.
Sliwa supports the return of solitary confinement as a deterrent to inmates. He would also bring a court to Rikers so inmates don’t need to be bused around.
Under Adams, the city would go forward with the plan to shut down Rikers under the timeline that’s already in place, but he said he wants to make sure replacement jails in boroughs aren’t just “mini Rikers.”
He called for more services for jailed inmates around the city and more protection for officers.
“The correction officers did not commit a crime to get there,” he said. “We should treat them with the professionalism and dignity they deserve.”
2 – COVID
While Adams supports the vaccine mandate for city workers, Sliwa said it would not remain under him. Sliwa would reinstate suspended workers and give them backpay.
Adams, despite his support, said he would have handled it differently and spent more time working the rules of the mandate out with unions.
“I believe we’re going to get New Yorkers to take the vaccine and we’re going to make sure our city continues to survive,” he said.
Adams would not require workers to get booster shots.
He also backs a vaccine mandate for school children if there’s full FDA approval and a recommendation from city health professionals.
Adams supported de Blasio’s decision to restrict indoor restaurants, gyms and entertainment venues to people who have proof of vaccination.
Sliwa, on the other hand, criticized the vaccination-proof requirement for indoor dining. He noted he can head over to New Jersey for a meal without having to show proof he’s been vaccinated, though he pulled out his card as evidence of his vaccination status during the forum.
3 – SCHOOLS
The school year under Sliwa would be longer; he supports a school year that lasts from Labor Day through the end of July. Sliwa would also bring back snow days, which were ended when education officials determined they could handle those days remotely.
Students would not see a return of snow days under Adams.
“Remote learning has taught us that we should continue education,” he said. “We’re going to continue the instruction no matter what the weather is.”
Going forward, Sliwa would keep vaccinated and unvaccinated kids in the same classrooms and offer remote learning only as an option for those with severe medical conditions.
“If they have to wear masks, let them wear masks – they need to learn,” Sliwa said.
Adams had a much broader view when it comes to remote learning. Determined to keep the city from moving backward as COVID continues to be an issue, he supports a remote option for unvaccinated students, though he said he would do everything he could to get kids in classrooms.
“We must think differently and we must be open to conform this new ground that we’re on,” he said.
He’s also said that he does not intend to get rid of the city’s program for gifted and talented students, nipping plans that de Blasio announced.
“It is imperative that we give opportunities to children who learn differently,” Adams said.
When it comes to safety at schools beyond COVID, Adams wants safety agents that are trained, paid well and great at safety resolution at schools.
“We should use the new technology – there’s technology out there that you don’t have to dehumanize children. You can identify a gun without the scanners and without the devices,” he said.
Adams also wants to involve kids in public safety plans.
Sliwa would send more officers to schools. He wants school safety under the purview of the NYPD and supports metal detectors in school buildings.
“Gangbangers would run amuck if they knew that there was no chance that they would be stopped with a loaded gun,” he said.
4 – HOMELESSNESS
More than 50,000 people were homeless in the city at the end of 2020, according to city data.
Adams wants city agencies to work together to handle the crisis.
Sliwa would appoint five borough leaders in charge of homeless services in those neighborhoods.
“Each borough is unique and different and the whole goal is that you take care of your own,” he said. “That has not been the Bill de Blasio policy.”
Sliwa would have someone other than Steven Banks, the current head of homeless services, in charge of the borough heads. Adams has praised Banks, but didn’t name his choice for leadership if he’s elected.
“I’m considering every New Yorker that’s committed, that’s fair, that’s emotionally intelligent and that’s dedicated to this city,” Adams said. “I am taking no one off the table. I’m going to get the best, those that love the city.”
During a PIX11 News debate, Sliwa pointed to “empty space in upstate New York” as an option for housing the homeless. During the forum he compared it during the forum to camp for children, retreats for rich individuals and rehab facilities for addicts.
“Why wouldn’t we offer that opportunity to men and women who are single, able-bodied, and we can restore them and get them back on track?” Sliwa asked.
Adams said he’s focused on permanent housing and not just shelters, some of which will be based out of hotels.
He plans to start with outer boroughs, specifically “with those hotels that are boarded up.”
“Many of those hotels in the outer boroughs, they were built to be shelters,” he said.
5 – STORM PREPAREDNESS
In September, Tropical Storm Ida devastated New York even though the city had done a lot since Superstorm Sandy to improve infrastructure and resiliency. As a nor’easter headed toward the region on Monday night, Adams and Sliwa shared what they would change going forward.
Adams, in the recent mayoral debate, called for a three-step forecast system warning residents and city agencies of the threat and a plan to more quickly warn those living in flood-prone basement apartments, particularly illegal cellar apartments without ample exits.
Sliwa called for building seawalls to prevent against coastal flooding as seen after Superstorm Sandy nearly a decade ago, along with better cleaning of drains and basins.
He would not evict tenants from basement apartments, but said he wants landlords to fix them up or face fines.
Adams would not evict them either. He would want to work with the Department of Buildings and FDNY to make the apartments safer.
“We have a housing crisis,” Adams said. “We need to make those basement apartments safe.”
Watch Dan Mannarino’s interview with Eric Adams:
Watch Dan Mannarino’s interview with Curtis Sliwa:
The Associated Press contributed to this report.