Crime

New York City's Mayoral Reality Check

Gotham voters are trending toward candidates who acknowledge that violent crime is up, and that school closures were terrible.

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New York City on Wednesday night held its final Democratic mayoral debate before the Tuesday ranked-choice primary election that will almost certainly end up determining the eventual successor to term-limited Bill de Blasio in this deep blue metropolis. (Early voting is already underway.)

There were eight candidates on stage at 30 Rock, but only four who have been consistently polling in double digits: Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, former city Sanitation Department Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, longshot 2020 Democratic presidential challenger Andrew Yang, and civil rights attorney/commentator Maya Wiley, in roughly that order. The mercurial Yang held the early lead in the race and then faded; the taciturn Wiley has vaulted into contention after being endorsed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.), the no-nonsense Garcia has climbed steadily while racking up newspaper endorsements, and the inscrutable ex-cop Adams has been the front-runner for weeks.

Given New York's size and status as a media capital, there is an almost irresistible temptation to read national implications into the low-turnout race. Like de Blasio's ill-fated presidential bid, such an exercise is fraught with potential humiliation for all involved.

Yet the campaign themes and voter concerns that keep pushing to the forefront are issues that are familiar in many Democratic-controlled big cities this year. And the gap in the treatment of those concerns between candidates/voters on one side and journalists/twitterers on the other suggests an interesting mismatch that may extend far beyond the five boroughs.

This post-debate tweet from The New York Times illustrates the dissonance succinctly:

"Together," clucked the Gray Lady, "the comments reflected the aggressive rhetoric Mr. Yang has been using in recent days when talking about social issues and crime." Readers are left with little doubt about what good New Yorkers are supposed to think about that.

And yet voters—in a Democratic New York City primary, remember—are stubbornly refusing to meet the expectations of the local journalism gentry. A May 17–31 Spectrum News NY1/Ipsos poll showed crime/public safety dominating the list of voter concerns at 46 percent, compared to just 20 percent for fifth-ranked "racial injustice," and 12 percent for the eighth-ranked "police reform." With a polling exception or two, that has been the case throughout this campaign.

Shootings are up 77 percent and murders 16 percent this year, the latter after already increasing by 45 percent in 2020. Felonies on the subway have increased from one per million riders in the first quarter of 2019, to 1.48 per million in the first quarter of 2020, to 1.63 per million this year.

Anecdotally, too, the sketchiness factor is something New Yorkers have observed and talked about increasingly in recent months. I watched a severely intoxicated young man fall and crack his skull on a subway platform seven weeks ago, and then vomit and soil himself while we waited anxiously for the EMTs. The last time I took my 12-year-old daughter on the subway, a man peed on the platform 10 feet away from us on a Saturday morning. Another friend's 10-year-old daughter, typically New York tough, burst into tears recently at the mere thought of riding a train she'd been on countless times before.

The three mayoral candidates most vocal about the rise in violent crime and sense of pedestrian/commuter unease are the three that have led the most in polls: Adams, Yang, and Garcia. They also happen to be the three candidates most vocal about the avoidable pain inflicted on public K-12 students this year by school closures and remote learning. Their repeated comments about these issues are at direct odds with the dominant journalist/activist take on policing and education, which tends almost monomaniacally to focus on the roles of systemic racism and implicit bias, while advocating for a sharp reduction in punitive measures that are disproportionately meted out against poorer communities and people of color.

"The political class, I think, thought that the party, that the voters, had moved very, very far to the left…That they were at a moment where they wanted to do radical, radical change. I just never believed that that was true," Garcia told the Times last month, in a piece under the anxious headline of "Has New York Hit a Progressive Plateau? The Mayor's Race Is a Key Test."

The last great progressive hope is Wiley, who has been campaigning explicitly against the (noxious) New York Police Department union, and talking vaguely of replacing police officers with "violence interrupters." Wiley, a former talking head on MSNBC, was part of the de Blasio School Diversity Advisory Group that backed removing gifted and talented programs, phasing out admissions criteria, and aiming for each school to have the exact same socioeconomic and racial mix within 10 years.

Wiley may yet still win, and her presence near the medal stand provides some salutary skepticism about the unleash-the-cops ideas of Adams in particular. But her rhetoric about the admittedly difficult problem of dealing with occasionally dangerous mentally ill homeless is as fuzzy as The New York Times thinks Yang is "aggressive."

But when there's such a chasm between how the political class sees the world and how the (also left-leaning) electorate experiences it, specific policy choices inevitably take a back seat to clear populist signaling. Those alarmed by the sudden sharp reversal of the three-decade decline in violent crime want to know, do you even see what I see? The parents driven apoplectic by the union-first, kids-last approach from the Department of Education don't want to hear boilerplate, we-need-to-boost-our-schools talk, they want evidence that candidates feel in their bones what an outrage the past 15 months have been.

To the extent that some journalists, politicians, and activists respond to the New York City political reality, and others like it, by torturing statistics and arguing to voters that their own eyes are lying, is the extent to which they limit their own influence and make populist alternatives more inviting. At the risk of over-extrapolating from a New York City election, we may learn beginning Tuesday that the de Blasio era was the aberration, and the two decades of non-Democratic crime fighting before it the norm.

NEXT: Gov. Greg Abbott Will Reportedly Separate Families and Throw Some Undocumented Migrants in Prison

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  1. The last time I took my 12-year-old daughter on the subway, a man peed on the platform 10 feet away from us on a Saturday morning.

    That’s outrageous! When you have to go, you should pee onto the tracks!

    1. At least the 3rd rail.

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    2. Taking any child to NYC is child endangerment.
      I took my kid to Seattle once. She saw all of the encampments around I-5. We were not leaving the car until Everett.

      1. You thought EVERETT was more safe than Seattle?

    3. Men do that in developing countries, but generally have the decency not to do it in front of children or women. I guess NYC is less civilized than a third world country.

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  2. Sounds like a mini 2022 could be in the offing. But this is NYC, and it’s hard to imagine anything upsetting the Democrat apple cart.

    1. Hey, Rudy Giuliani saved the city once before. Maybe they’ll turn to him again…

      1. Elections in New York from now on will be as Free & Fair as all subsequent presidential and midterm elections.

        Who does the Davos crowd want to see running New York is the real question.

  3. Hell even Bloomberg and Giuliani weren’t exactly staunch conservatives. But no arguing the crime rate was far lower. Witness the result of just a few years of DeBlasio and radical left wing democrats who are proven to be failures at running cities and states. Anyway read the room, GOP is going to clean up. And when they do they had better start punishing democrats for their misbehavior. The left are the true treasonous scum of this country.

    1. Right on. The R’s better start playing by the same rules. They need to clean house as much as possible in all the IA’s. Then they need to do some serious house cleaning before the country is lost for good.

  4. Ex-cop frontrunner wins in a walk.

    Silent majority wants a little law and order back in Gotham, for commercial and quality-of-life reasons.

  5. Too bad Reason oftem reads like the NYT here
    Especially some commenters.

    1. They all work from the same talking points memo.

  6. New York City electing progressives to run their government after the last year is like a serial victim of wife beating bailing the fifth man in a row out of jail after he’s beat her senseless again–taking him back again and dropping all the charges against him again. On the one hand, you want to feel sorry for New Yorkers and their victim mentality. On the other hand, if they refuse to hold the people who abuse them accountable, what can anybody do? And the people responsible aren’t the mayor. It’s the Democratic party machine.

    Ultimately, they’re a victim of their own progressive ideology. When the police brutalize them, they turn to a Democratic party machine controlled by law enforcement unions for help. How pathetic is that?How could picking a different mayor to be bullied by the Democratic party machine and the teachers’ unions that already run their schools make them better? The problems they have are the same accountability problems as any one party government. So long as the progressives control New York, the dumpster fire will continue.

    1. Proggies gotta prog.

  7. It tells you how bad the other candidates are that I’d prefer to have the former cop as mayor. He’s the only one who seems to be willing to deal with reality as it is.

  8. Only 20% of eligible voters in NYC voted the last 2 elections. DeBlasio had a landslide of only 15% of the voters. WTF? No one can find a candidate to pull 16%

    1. The machine is running things anyway–no matter the figurehead.

      In America, the mayor opens the schools.

      In Soviet New York, the teacher’s union opens you!

  9. NYC elections, like the murder of Ashli Babbit,
    are too local to be covered by a big time libertarian magazine. Did the Bronx Shopper turn the story down?

  10. You know who else campaigned for Mayor of Gotham by promising to cut crime (in half)?

    1. Hamilton Hill, I assume.

  11. Yang is an ignoramus, but he’s not a fucking narcissist douchebag like DeBlabbermouth. NYC would do better with sheer incompetence in the mayors office than with a deliberately evil piece of shit in power.

    -jcr

    1. Unfortunately, that’s true in several cities.

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  13. “violence interrupters.” Wiley, a former talking head on MSNBC, was part of the de Blasio School Diversity Advisory Group that backed removing gifted and talented programs, phasing out admissions criteria, and aiming for each school to have the exact same socioeconomic and racial mix within 10 years.

    Critical Race Theory merely acknowledges, quietly, that somewhere in America, racism exists, and existed in the past. Who could be against that?

    1. Why do you bother telling such an obvious and stupid lie? CRT is all about telling white kids that they’re evil and telling black kids that they have no hope of success without government handouts.

      -jcr

    2. CRT is the system that tells people to believe Lori Lightfoot when she tells Chicago voters the Democrat Party is going to come in and clean up the results of a 100 years of local government corruption and mismanagement!!

  14. This is basically the story of every major city, nearly all of which are under deep Democrat control. Education, job prospects, wages, families, and minority neighborhoods have been in steady decline since the riots over MLKs death. In nearly all these cities democrats have held control since that time, and things continue to get worse, especially for minorities and people of color.

    And I’m torn, like Ken above, between thinking they deserve what theyre dumb enough to vote for.

    But then I think, there’s really no explanation for decades of continued failure by democrats in these cities unless they’re intentionally trying to keep the residents in their cities, especially the minorities, dumb amd poor so they remain enslaved to the democrats and their entitlement and culture war campaigns.

    And honestly I think it’s the latter. When you look at the stats for black families and communities immediately post civil rights and compare them now, the people who were actually discriminated against and lived through the Civil rights movement were better off then than their ancestors are now. In the late 60s 3/4 of black families had 2 parents, now it’s only 1/4. Back then the per capita rate of business owned by blacks was higher (granted, during segregation they needed to open their own businesses. But that entrepreneurial spirit faded quickly into “victim hood”). Back then heart disease and accidents were the leading killer of black men, now it’s Homicide by another black male. Etc etc

    And its pretty hard to blame that on Republicans or white conservatives when you realize the majority of our black population has been living in urban areas controlled by democrats that entire time. If democrats really cared about minorities wouldn’t they have at least figured out how to make some of these issues better, not worse, over 50 years?

    1. You are forgetting the First Rule of Both Sides

      It’s the Rs fault for ignoring them, or something

    2. Add: get worse for working people of any stripe, skin color and creed have no bearing. Progressive/democrat policies, regulations, laws are racist/classist, and utterly destructive, they have zero impact on the well-to-do who clamor for them.

  15. New Yorkers deserve everything they get. They had Billionaire Mike and fake Italian DeBlasio consecutively, with plenty of other losers going bank to Robert Wagner.

    I wouldn’t waste my time in my former home town for any reason – a shithole.

  16. It’s funny how a year and a half of looting, rioting, and terrorism — and pro-“police reform” district attorneys letting the perps walk free — is making millions of people realize that police reform doesn’t pay, and that there is a large class of people who need to be kept locked up for the rest of us to be safe.

    Sorry, Radley Balko. My safety trumps theirs.

    1. Valid as most of Mr. Balko’s reporting was, he’s missing the salient equation for most big city dwellers: The cops frequently are lazy and leave people alone, the criminals, when not drug-crazed or spontaneously violently insane, tend to keep busy.

      One of these options is so much preferable to the other “even a New Yorker could see it”, as the flyover rednecks say.

  17. Nice to have a job where you can drag your kids. It makes you a bum.

  18. To the extent that some journalists, politicians, and activists respond to the New York City political reality, and others like it, by torturing statistics and arguing to voters that their own eyes are lying, is the extent to which they limit their own influence and make populist alternatives more inviting.

    But hasn’t Reason been doing just that for the last year or so? Often in contrast to commenters observations that libertarianism isn’t supposed to be tolerant of violent criminals?

    1. Yes. In fact, just eight days ago Nick “GFW” Gillespie retweeted without comment a tweet from a dude named Todd Seavey that basically said “I was in Washington Square Park the other morning and everything was just fine, this so-called escalating crime problem is a vastly overrated figment of the right-wingers’ imagination.”

      But the fake, phony, fraudulent, fugazi libertarians of Reason are smart and clever enough to realize when their usual gaslighting routine that has become their go-to mainstay just simply isn’t working. And like the rest of the leftie brethren in the media, they maintain the remarkable ability to suddenly and shamelessly spin their narrative right around 180 degrees on a dime without so much as even hinting that maybe, just maybe they might possibly have been wrong about something.

      1. I’m Asian and I walk unmolested in the park all the time, so the assaults on Asians on must be just a figment of the left’s imagination.

        They’re sort of right in that “50% increase in murder” isn’t as dramatic as it seems, because most of the time that’s 45 murders going up to 90 murders in one year, which is still a bleep in city with millions of people.

        But those numbers will likely to continue to climb as police presence continues to dwindle thanks to retirements, resignations and reassignment. Democrats sow division and distrust between on the police in ways those nasty “restrictionists” can only dream of doing against immigrants.

        Surely the people who cry out”BLM” over 15 unarmed blacks people getting killed or 5 people getting killed in hate crimes in a year can’t begrudge the right wing from making an issue out of spike in homicide.

  19. TWo statements really stand out to me:

    “Their repeated comments about these issues are at direct odds with the dominant journalist/activist take on policing and education, which tends almost monomaniacally to focus on the roles of systemic racism and implicit bias…” and

    “…and others like it, by torturing statistics and arguing to voters that their own eyes are lying,”

    MSM has its POV, and will not cease doing everything in their power to insure that you have it too, no matter what your “lying eyes” tell you. They are the knowing class, and you are just too stupid and “systemically racist” to listen to them.

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