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Will the Failure of Governing Matter?
Eric Adams and the future of New York
First, an update on the Writers’ Project! Here are job listings that were sent my way. Keep them coming.
The New York Immigration Coalition is looking for a Senior Manager of Development.
The University of Miami is looking for a Professor of Creative Writing.
CAMBA is looking for a Senior Grant Writer.
The New York Times is looking for a reporter on their Well Desk.
MarketWatch is seeking a reporter for their retail and consumer beat.
Earlier this week, the woman charged with overseeing New York City’s housing strategy announced her resignation. Jessica Katz, one of the Eric Adams administration hires that drew genuine praise from outside experts—Katz was not a well-heeled Democratic Party lawyer or a possibly corrupt former city councilman—is set to depart as New York remains in the throes of twin crises: one of homelessness and the other of skyrocketing rents. Katz, the city’s chief housing officer and a former director of a housing nonprofit (as well as a veteran of the Department of Housing Preservation & Development), had been tasked with drafting Adams’ plan for building affordable housing in the city. Despite the theoretical importance of her role—her predecessor, Alicia Glen, was one of the most powerful officials in the de Blasio administration—Katz was never made a deputy mayor and struggled for influence with other city officials who are closer to Adams. Katz, according to the New York Times, is leaving for two chief reasons: her lack of ability to make housing decisions and Adams’ opposition to legislation that could increase access to city-funded housing vouchers—specifically, a City Council bill that would end a requirement that people stay in homeless shelters for 90 days before they’re eligible to receive them. As migrants continue to enter the city, Adams has tried to temporarily suspend the city’s right-to-shelter statute, angering many advocates for the homeless.
Already, New York City’s pace of housing construction has dramatically slowed under Adams. Agencies charged with overseeing housing have struggled with crippling worker shortages that Adams has not seriously tried to fill. Bill de Blasio’s eight-year mayoralty attracted a great amount of criticism from the left and right—some of it valid, some of it a tad unhinged—but the relative efficiency of governing, in light of Adams’ performance, has become an underrated aspect of those years. For the most part, de Blasio hired well-regarded professionals and allowed them to execute their policy agendas. Instead of an erratic former city councilman, a world-lass transportation professional (who now works under Pete Buttigieg at the federal Department of Transportation) led the city’s transportation agency. Glen had a long tenure as a deputy housing mayor. Richard Buery was the architect of a successful universal pre-K program that grew into a national model. De Blasio’s housing initiatives were imperfect, but his administration set a clear goal for developing and preserving affordable housing units and mostly reached it. Adams, at first, set no goal at all—it’s unclear whether this was Katz’s doing or not—before announcing a “moon-shot” ambition of 500,000 units over a decade that will be virtually impossible to hit.
Adams has promised a “get stuff done” administration. Not much, though, actually gets done—especially if Adams is compared to either de Blasio or Michael Bloomberg. There is no particular governing philosophy or major initiatives coming out of City Hall. Given that Adams’ mayoralty is already almost a year and a half old, this is probably going to remain the status quo. Governing has never been a priority for Adams and he is going to hope he wins re-election that way. If violent crime continues to fall, Adams can take credit for that, and he’s going to be difficult to beat because he retains strong support from Black voters in the outer boroughs and the city’s wealthiest donors still back him.
A recent Slingshot Strategies poll had mixed news for Adams. He boasted a positive job approval rating, which bodes well for 2025, when he’ll likely run again. He handily wins theoretical match-ups against Jumaane Williams, the public advocate, and Brad Lander, the city comptroller. (Both would have to give up their posts to run against Adams, so these head-to-heads are unlikely.) The trouble for Adam is that he did not achieve 50% support in either match-up and female voters, overall, seem to be souring on him, according to the poll. In a ranked-choice voting primary, there could be an avenue for one or even two candidates to win a significant share of the Democratic vote, especially in the gentrified parts of Brooklyn and Queens and the brownstone belt. These voters are lost to Adams. But Adams will win again if he can convince enough upscale whites in Manhattan to support him. These voters, who may be looking for a candidate who exudes technocratic competence over an avowed progressive, will very much be up for grabs. In Philadelphia, the leftist Helen Gym could not break through because affluent white voters chose a different candidate, a former city comptroller. In the end, a Black moderate like Adams will be Philadelphia’s next mayor.
The politics questions, though, are what they are—and only so vital. Rather, New Yorkers should wonder what Katz’s departure will mean for any sort of housing strategy in the city. Will the 2020s be a lost decade for housing construction? It’s shaping up to be that way. Adams will have a difficult time luring someone of Katz’s pedigree to replace her. He may not even try. Her departure will mean more clout for his closest allies, those who remain in his orbit because they’ve proven their loyalty over the years. When no grand ambitions are left, survival is enough of a prize.
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