Election night victory speeches aren’t for policy, nor governing. But they aren’t meaningless. Through his words and demeanor Tuesday night, Eric Adams showed a radical change in tone at the top.
Taking the stage in downtown Brooklyn, the mayor-elect showed a mixture of joy in his personal accomplishment and awe of his new responsibilities, a combination that is hard to fake.
He wasn’t merely pleased; he was shell-shocked giddy. Adams got on his knees and broke into a broad smile. “I’m the mayor,” he said.
Nobody expects oratorical brilliance on election night, and Adams didn’t break the mold.
He was gracious to his supporters: “if they only knew the level of energy I get when I walk in your crowd,” he said. He spoke movingly of his mother — “Mommy” — and her example as a Queens housekeeper and cook.
Adams basked in his success — and said that he owed much of it to city and country. “It is the proof that this city can live up to its promise,” he said, that a poor son of a cleaner and a butcher could become mayor.
He offered himself as an inspiration to the “person cleaning bathrooms and the dishwasher in the kitchen,” the person in a homeless shelter or in a holding cell.
“America is the only country, we are the only country on the globe where ‘dream’ is attached to our name,” he said. “There is an American dream.”
Adams spoke of New York’s diversity. “It doesn’t matter if you are in Borough Park in the Hasidic community, if you’re in Flatbush in the Korean community, if you’re in Sunset Park in the Chinese community,” he said. “Today we . . . put on one jersey, team New York.”
Finally, he hit up Gotham’s better-off citizens. “We’re going to talk to the CEOs” and “ask them to offer paid internships to students from underserved communities.”
Compare Adams’s demeanor and words with those of his predecessor.
Eight years ago, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio inherited record-high jobs numbers and a record-low crime level. Worth a grin, right?
Yet in his victory speech, de Blasio barely managed to crack a wan smile. He didn’t offer himself as a personal inspiration; he didn’t have any direct words of hope for people watching from homeless shelters.
Instead, de Blasio clung to the words of his lackluster campaign, abstract concepts seemingly cooked up by a bored grad student for a master’s thesis.
“The people of this city have chosen a progressive path,” he said woodenly, moving mechanically onto his already-stale “Tale of Two Cities” theme. “Progressive changes won’t happen overnight.”
De Blasio, too, had an “ask” for New York’s most fortunate: “we call on the wealthiest among us to pay just a little more in taxes.” Unlike Adams, he wasn’t thinking of life-transforming jobs but a bigger city budget.
Blas eight years ago offered bogeymen to slay: disasters that the city would have to overcome. But they were largely imagined. He had little to fret about besides “the growing inequality we see.” He warned that “there will be many obstacles that stand in our way” but couldn’t name any.
Adams doesn’t have to manufacture his urban monsters; he faces nothing but problems. “Midtown turned into a ghost town, and our parking lots became morgues,” Adams reminded New Yorkers Tuesday. “We saw the most vibrant city on earth reduced to silence.”
The incoming mayor’s “three-headed crisis” — “COVID, crime, and economic devastation” — is not a grad student’s bloodless thesis.
In fact, Adams’s only negative note was an allusion to the current officeholder. “You pay your taxes . . . and we have failed to provide those goods and services,” he said. “January 1 . . . that betrayal stops.”
Eight years ago, de Blasio made it clear that he would be accountable . . . for nothing. He chose the passive voice: “problems . . . will not be solved overnight.” He got that right.
Yes, he will, and in 57 days, we’ll see what he does with it.
Meanwhile, Adams is having fun. After his speech, the mayor-elect, sporting a glittery blue patterned jacket, hit up a private NoHo club, Zero Bond. Why not bring a little midnight glamour back to Gotham while you still have time? It’s more exciting than the Park Slope YMCA in the middle of a sleepy morning.
Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal, from whose Web site this is adapted.