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New York City Mayor Eric Adams is sworn in on Jan. 1. Photo: Arturo Holmes/Getty Images

New York City's charismatic new mayor, Eric Adams, was sworn in just after midnight on New Year's Day, promising to bring a fresh set of eyes to a thankless job in a crime-ridden and COVID-weary town.

Why it matters: New York's urban problems — always a national bellwether — have spiraled during the pandemic. This tough-on-crime mayor, a longtime NYC police captain, vows to clean things up but has his hands full.

  • Problems include rampant homelessness, a rising murder rate, small businesses in turmoil, the devastation of the corporate tax base due to COVID-19, and economic inequality that prompted Adams to characterize New York as "a tale of two cities."
  • If Adams succeeds, he could go far: He has called himself "the future of the Democratic Party."

Biography: The fourth of six children of a single mother who cleaned houses, Adams, 61, grew up in Queens. At age 15, he "was arrested on a criminal trespass charge for entering the home of an acquaintance," Mara Gay wrote in the New York Times. "He has said he was beaten so severely by police officers that his urine was filled with blood for a week."

  • He joined the New York Police Department in 1984 and served for 22 years, after which he was elected to the New York State Senate.
  • He rose to political prominence in Brooklyn, where he was elected borough president in 2013.

"Stylistically, Mr. Adams could be the most flamboyant mayor New York City has seen in decades," per a New York Times profile of Adams. He's "an early riser, a vegan and a wellness enthusiast who keeps a frenetic schedule."

  • "He is a stylish dresser who campaigned shirtless at Orchard Beach in the Bronx; he socializes with Republican billionaires and celebrities; he wants to take his first paycheck in Bitcoin."

The race factor: Adams is NYC's second Black mayor — David Dinkins, in the early 1990s, was the first. With his election, "working-class Black New York, which makes up the heart of the Democratic base but has long been shut out of City Hall, will finally have its moment," per Gay's piece in the Times.

  • Despite his appeal to the working class — whom he told in his November victory speech, "I am you" — he is moderate in his politics and has a habit of frustrating the left with his tough-on-crime stance.

Out with the old: Adams' predecessor, Bill de Blasio, had become a punchline (and a punching bag) by the time he left office, blamed for everything from rising crime to the mismanagement of COVID, the city's economy and its schools.

  • "Sayonara sucker!" Andy Cohen jeered at de Blasio during a New Year's Eve broadcast on CNN with Anderson Cooper.
  • The Wall Street Journal called de Blasio's tenure "eight years of progressive failure" and said that Adams "inherits a mess but also has a turnaround opportunity."
  • For his part, Adams says he won't proceed with de Blasio's plan to end the city's gifted and talented program in schools and plans to restore a plainclothes police unit that targets violent crime, which his predecessor had controversially disbanded.

The bottom line: On his first day in office, Adams was commuting to work on the subway when he saw some men start to throw punches and called 911.

  • "He did not immediately identify himself as the mayor on the call," per The New York Post.
  • "'I have an assault in progress of three males,' he said, repeating it for the operator who seemed to misunderstand him." 
  • "'No, assault in progress. Not past assault,' he said. 'They are fighting each other on the street right now.'"
  • "At the end of the call, he told the operator that he was 'Adams, Mayor Adams.'" 

Jennifer's thought bubble: New Yorkers are eager for Adams to keep our stores open, reinvigorate our schools and make us feel safe on the subway again.

Go deeper

Updated Jan 9, 2022 - Politics & Policy

Bronx apartment fire leaves at least 17 dead

Emergency first responders remain at the scene after an intense fire at a 19-story residential building erupted on Jan. 9. Photo: Scott Heins/Getty Images

A fire in a 19-story Bronx apartment building killed 17 people, including eight children, Mayor Eric Adams said in a briefing Monday.

The latest: The fire was caused by a "malfunctioning electric space heater" in a two-floor unit of the building, FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro said at a press briefing Sunday evening.

Dallas reviewing city ordinance regulating massage businesses

Photo: HUM Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

The Dallas city attorney is reviewing the local code on regulating massage businesses.

Why it matters: Police officials say that some massage businesses are fronts for criminal enterprises, including money laundering and sex trafficking.

Scoop: Stephanie Ruhle to replace Brian Williams on MSNBC

Photo: Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

MSNBC will soon announce plans to move morning anchor Stephanie Ruhle to the 11 pm ET hour that Brian Williams turned into an elite destination, two sources familiar with the move tell Axios.

Details: The 9 am ET hour, currently hosted by Ruhle, will become part of MSNBC's flagship morning show, "Morning Joe," which currently runs from 6 am to 9 am ET.