A few hours after a shooting in Times Square which left three wounded, including a child, two press conferences took place near the scene of the crime: one by the police, one by an elected official.
This official was not Mayor Bill de Blasio; the mayor, who is in his last year in office, usually does not show up in shootings where no one has died, a mayor assistant said. The official was Eric Adams, the Brooklyn Borough President who is running to succeed Mr. de Blasio.
The symbolism of the moment and its political advantages did not escape Mr. Adams and a leading rival, Andrew Yang, both political moderates. Mr. Yang, the former presidential candidate, held a press conference in Times Square on Sunday morning. Not to be outdone, or even matched, Mr. Adams ended Mr. Yang’s appearance with a second visit to Times Square on Sunday afternoon.
The pair are running as Democrats in a primary that is likely to determine New York’s next mayor and is only six weeks away. While many New Yorkers have yet to pay attention to the race, a recent poll suggests that Mr. Yang and Mr. Adams are vying for the top spot.
The shooting near Seventh Avenue and West 45th Street left a 4-year-old girl from Brooklyn in the leg. She bought toys with her family. A 23-year-old tourist from Rhode Island who hoped to visit the Statue of Liberty was also shot in the leg, and a 43-year-old woman from New Jersey was shot in the foot. The victims did not know each other, police said.
The shooting was frightening. But from a political standpoint, it also seemed tailor-made for moderate mayoral candidates like MM. Adams and Yang, who wish to emphasize their rejection of the defunding of the police, a principle that continues to drive the left of the party. In the remarks of the two candidates, they also underscored their belief that New York City’s economy could not recover without public safety.
“We’re not going to recover as a city if we go back in time and see an increase in violence, especially gun violence,” Adams said, in a blue windbreaker with his name on it.
Mr. Yang, who lives nearby, spoke on Mother’s Day, accompanied by his wife, Evelyn.
“My fellow New Yorkers, if there’s one thing I want to tell you, it’s this: nothing works in our city without public safety, and for public safety we need the police.” Mr. Yang said. “My message to the NYPD is this: New York needs you. Your city needs you. “
“The truth is, New York City cannot afford to dismantle the police,” he added.
Times Square is the commercial and tourist heart of Manhattan, itself the financial capital of New York and the nation. The shoot comes as the city ramps up its marketing engine, with the goal of reviving New York’s tourist trade.
In the year leading up to the pandemic, 66.6 million tourists came to the city, creating 400,000 tourism-related jobs and an estimated economic impact of $ 70 billion. Last year, only 22 million tourists came to New York City, and officials estimate it will take years for the industry to recover.
Police say more than 460 people have been shot dead this year in New York City, up from 259 last year and 239 in 2019. De Blasio consistently attributes the increase in shootings to the societal upheaval caused by the pandemic, which created mass unemployment, and also blames a slowdown in the justice system. Dermot F. Shea, M. de Blasio’s police commissioner, tends to blame recent statewide criminal justice reforms, which he says have made it harder to keep people in jail. accused of criminal offenses.
Mr. Adams and Mr. Yang took the opportunity to highlight their policing programs, which include the reinvention of plainclothes anti-violence units. Mr de Blasio dismantled his plainclothes anti-crime unit, which had been implicated in numerous police shootings last year. Both also praised their commitment to criminal justice reform.
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Mr. Yang said he would make sure his plainclothes unit was staffed with better trained officers with clean records. Mr Adams said he would hire officers for the unit with the skills and temperament for the job.
Other moderate candidates, such as former sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia and former Citigroup executive Raymond J. McGuire, have raised similar themes – that public safety and strong policing don’t have to come at the same time. detriment of criminal justice reform.
Candidates further to the left spoke of the importance of finding alternatives to traditional policing.
During a press availability outside a church in Brooklyn, Maya Wiley, a former lawyer for Mr. de Blasio who has endorsed some of the goals of the Defund movement, said she would invest in mental health care ” Trauma Account ”and summer employment programs for youth.
Dianne Morales, a nonprofit executive who wants to cut the police department’s operating budget by more than half, said on Twitter that “we need solutions bigger than the police. “
The incident prompted Bernard B. Kerik, the former police commissioner under Rudolph W. Giuliani, to to suggest that an electoral triumph of Ms. Wiley, who is black, or Ms. Morales, who is Afro-Latina, would mean a “catastrophic implosion” for New York.
Ms. Wiley did not appreciate the remark.
“Giuliani’s former police commissioner – a convicted fraudster – isn’t even subtle with a racist trope that black women would unleash a wave of crime if elected,” Ms. Wiley replied. “Make no mistake – as mayor, I will move our city forward with an economy that works for all and safe and fair streets.”