A Talk with Mayor Eric Adams

By Herb Boyd
Special to The Positive Community

Mayor Eric Adams and I promised to see each other in person in Harlem. We hadn’t been face-to-face since Harlem Week 2019 at Grant’s Tomb for Harlem Day, the highlight of the festive week. “I haven’t had the opportunity to attend as many of the events this year as I wanted to, and I certainly look forward to the tribute for Harry Belafonte,” he said during our Zoom interview. “Each year the week gets longer and more exciting and I think the Board there, the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce (GHCC), and the leadership of my brother Lloyd Williams continue to do a good job of sustaining and preserving Harlem’s glorious legacy, as they celebrate their 125th anniversary.”

The GHCC, he noted, has been tireless in its building and developing Harlem through various programs, “and to this end, Lloyd has been an incomparable visionary, carrying on the tradition and commitment established by Percy Sutton, Charles Rangel, Basil Paterson, and David Dinkins.”

Harlem, along with the other sectors of the city— particularly where Black and Brown people are in the majority, will be the focus of his newly devised hiring program. “We are very much aware of the disparity facing members of marginalized communities and people of color, you have to understand that we’ve lost 12,000 jobs in the city government.” When I pointed out similarities between his new hiring policy and the one launched by his predecessor, Bill de Blasio, Adams elaborated. “We will continue to build on what the previous mayors did, including Mayor Bloomberg. Yes, we have wheels already operating and they include some of the ideas they instituted, but we plan to add to what they did.”

Gun violence has certainly been a pressing issue and Mayor Adams, as a former police officer, is not a stranger to the current dilemma. In fact, he won his election by assuring a renewed effort on public safety. “Gun violence is a real issue, especially when you think about businesses on 125th Street,” he said. “I see no disparity between public safety and justice, and we are certainly going after those quality of life issues.” He explained that gun violence is not the only crime problem plaguing our community. “Some non-violent crimes impact the homeless, and those unable to afford proper nutrition. And our young people need to have a stipend so they can continue to grow and then contribute to the community. It’s just not a general response to crimes but what kind of preventive measures can be used to stop the crimes from happening.”

Mayor Adams agrees that his hiring proposals, like his plans to reduce crime and gun violence, cannot be successful without a collaborative approach— his administration in conjunction with community organizations.

He recounted his Blueprint for Community Safety announced back in July. “We are taking our efforts to end gun violence to the next level with an investment of more than $485 million dollar in a plan that will double down on our public safety efforts, invest in our most impacted communities, support our young people, and get them on the right path—and activate every level of city government to prioritize prevention-based approaches to public safety.” This plan, he added, will include collaboration with a number of community organizations, such as Iesha Sekou’s Street Corner Resources, and other local ground groups dealing with the day-to-day problems confronting their neighborhoods.

“We are doing some things that have never been done before in expanding our contacts with the media in order for them and our residents to know some of the accomplishments of our administration,” he began. In other words, he said, explaining his new initiatives via an ancient proverb about the hunter and the lion and whose story is told, “We’ve got to tell our version, let people know that the crime rate is down, that the economy is flourishing, and that public safety measures are in effect.” Mayor David Dinkins, who Adams is often compared with as a second coming, used radio and tabloids to get his message out. The city’s second Black mayor extends his reach to the community through podcasts, radio shows, and social media platforms.

Another unique occurrence of the Adams administration is the raising of the flags of different nations and ethnic groups. One of which he is extremely proud—the red, black, and green flag, symbolizing Black Nationalism. “We did this on Juneteenth Day,” he recalled, “and let me repeat a bit of what I said then, because those words continue to resonate for me today and always. We have an obligation as we acknowledge Juneteenth, our liberation, our freedom, our fight, our fortitude, our discipline, our resiliency. We have an obligation to make sure that these young boys and girls grow up to understand the contributions we have made to this country. America is America because of the Black and brown people who built this country. As Dr. King would say, we made cotton king. We built the foundation of this country, and we did not build this foundation to watch it turn to violence across this entire nation.”

His final comments centered on an unavoidable subject—the indictments of Trump. “What we have to be mindful of,” he warned, “is that with the indictments he has lost none of the support of his base. And, his quest for the presidency may gain even more momentum if he’s convicted.”