Good morning. It’s Friday. We’ll look at how Mayor Eric Adams’s focus on crime may have muddied his efforts to move past the pandemic and get the city going again. But first, what’s been growing on the Washington Arch?
Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times
It’s formal. It’s imposing. And, as the architecture critic Paul Goldberger once wrote, “it pulls you to the square like a magnet.”
It is the Washington Arch. And it also pulls in what the Parks Department calls “biological growth.”
Algae. Mildew. Moss.
And invasive plants like phragmites — reeds that grow from seeds dropped by birds on the mortar joining the blocks of white Tuckahoe marble. Even London plane trees that could grow taller than the 57-foot monument if they are not cut down as saplings — which they have been, in the last week or so.
“You get some roots that are really down in the joints,” said Rebecca Rosen, the monuments conservation crew chief for the Parks Department. “There’s a whole ecosystem up there. There are ants crawling around.”
And, for the next week, there is Rosen, riding a lift alongside two colleagues, weeding and washing and repairing.
They have already removed the plants and washed the monument from top to bottom, using mild soap and a low-pressure spray of water to clear away the algae without harming the stone. On Thursday, like a dentist drilling a cavity, Rosen used a small grinder to dig out deteriorated mortar before troweling in new masonry bond.
And at ground level, other workers with paint rollers were applying an all-but-invisible graffiti barrier, which Jonathan Kuhn, the Parks Department’s director of art and antiquities, said the nonprofit Washington Square Conservancy had contributed to because of an uptick in graffiti during the pandemic.
The arch was once in such bad shape that it had to be fenced off to put distance between falling masonry and people walking through the park. A full-scale restoration in the early 2000s replaced the roof and repointed the mortar joints. Now it is freshened up annually by conservators including Rosen, who said she has worked for the Parks Department for three years and has been “grimy for most of it.”
Kuhn said that cleaning a monument was, indeed, grimy. “It’s real hands-on work,” he said, “and you encounter the full spectrum of humanity, from kindness to aggression. Some people are very interested. There are a lot of thank yous, and then there is — it’s New York. There’s a range of opinion.”
N.Y.C. Mayor Eric Adams’s New Administration
Schools Chancellor: David Banks. The longtime New York City educator, who rose to prominence after creating a network of public all-boys schools, takes the lead at the nation’s largest public school system as it struggles to emerge from the pandemic.
Police Commissioner: Keechant Sewell. The Nassau County chief of detectives becomes New York City’s first female police commissioner, taking over the nation’s largest police force amid a crisis of trust in American policing and a troubling rise in violence.
Commissioner of Correction Department: Louis Molina. The former N.Y.P.D. officer, who was the chief of the Las Vegas public safety department, is tasked with leading the city’s embattled Correction Department and restoring order at the troubled Rikers Island jail complex.
Chief Counsel: Brendan McGuire. After a stint as a partner in a law firm’s white-collar practice, the former federal prosecutor returns to the public sector to advise the mayor on legal matters involving City Hall, the executive staff and administrative matters.
Transportation Commissioner: Ydanis Rodriguez. The Manhattan council member is a trusted ally of Mr. Adams. Mr. Rodriguez will face major challenges in his new role: In 2021, traffic deaths in the city soared to their highest level since 2013, partly due to speeding and reckless driving.
Health Commissioner: Dr. Ashwin Vasan. Dr. Dave A. Chokshi, the current commissioner, stays in the role to provide continuity to the city’s pandemic response. In mid-March, Dr. Vasan, the president of a mental health and public health charity, will take over.
Deputy mayors. Mr. Adams announced five women as deputy mayors, including Lorraine Grillo as his top deputy. Philip Banks III, a former N.Y.P.D. chief who resigned while under federal investigation in 2014, later announced his own appointment as deputy mayor for public safety.
Executive director of mayoral security: Bernard Adams. Amid concerns of nepotism, Mayor Adams’s brother, who is a retired police sergeant, will oversee mayoral security after he was originally named as deputy police commissioner.
It’s another sunny day near the mid-90s. At night, it will be partly cloudy, with temps dropping to the high 70s.
In effect until Aug. 15 (Feast of the Assumption).
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Arts & Culture
Illuminating history: At the New Museum, Kapwani Kiwanga’s exhibit explores light as a form of surveillance, from 18th-century “lantern laws” to the Police Department’s 21st-century strategies.
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New York’s last movie rental clerk: Will Malitek owns and operates Film Noir Cinema in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. If you’ve never heard of it, that’s fine with him.
Crime on the mayor’s mind
Mayor Eric Adams seems constantly focused on crime. Maybe it’s not surprising — he spent 22 years with the Police Department. But what a mayor says and does draws attention. I asked my colleague Emma G. Fitzsimmons for an assessment.
Adams said early on that he wanted to be a mayor with swagger. Is that how he’s perceived?
There’s no question that the mayor has charisma and style. He seems to love the job and keeps a relentless public schedule.
But I think one of the questions that’s emerging is whether he’s a good manager and focused on doing the hard work of solving the city’s big problems. His poll numbers are not great — in a recent Spectrum News NY1/Siena College, only 29 percent of New Yorkers rated his performance as good or excellent. Some New Yorkers support Adams and want to give him time to address crime, but others are concerned about the path he is taking us on.
Adams seems to emphasize crime. He races to crime scenes. How has that raised the perception that the city is unsafe — and isn’t that perception at odds with crime statistics?
Violent crime has increased during the pandemic, and it is still higher than it was in 2019. But shootings and murders are down this year, and crime is nowhere near where it was 30 years ago. Adams talks about crime almost every day and about the omnipresence of guns, and I think that has contributed to the perception that the city is unsafe.
The mayor has also received criticism from progressive Black leaders who argue that the tactics he’s using to combat crime are too aggressive.
How has his fixation on crime complicated his push to bring the city out of the pandemic and get workers back to their desks?
The mayor is telling us to get out of our pajamas and to go back to the office and to the subway, but he also said he felt unsafe on the subway because there were too many homeless people and a feeling of disorder. And he’s urging people to go back to bars and restaurants and to enjoy the city’s nightlife. But people need to feel safe to embrace those activities.
Hasn’t Adams been somewhat inconsistent on the coronavirus?
At times. He says the city is leading the nation in our pandemic response, and he started a first-in-the-nation program to provide the antiviral Paxlovid at mobile testing sites.
But he also quietly removed the city’s color-coded risk alert system that had let everyone know when cases are surging, and closed testing sites.
The mayor says the city needs to learn to live with Covid, and he has resisted bringing back public health measures like an indoor mask mandate to slow transmission. Seniors and people with disabilities who are at greater risk feel left behind, and others are worried about the impacts of long Covid.
One thing he has been consistent on is raising money for his 2025 re-election campaign. In six months on the job, how much has he taken in, and why now? Election Day 2025 is about 1,200 days away.
Adams has raised a lot of money, more than $850,000, in his first six months in office, which is unusual for a new mayor. Nearly half of those contributions came from outside the city — he’s been trying to raise his national profile.
The mayor wants to show strength early on and to scare off potential challengers. I think that Adams is very cognizant of the fact that he’s New York City’s second Black mayor, and the first Black mayor, David Dinkins, did not win a second term.
It was a hot summer night. I was 22, and the boy I was dating had just come home from a film shoot in Berlin.
We had fought over email the entire time he was away, and the fighting continued in person when he returned. We walked around Washington Square Park in circles for hours through an impossibly sticky night made even stickier by the tears and shouting.
At 3 a.m., he ended it while hailing me a cab. Stunned, I dropped into the back seat, an air-conditioned oasis of cool.
Once the cab was speeding uptown, I lost it. The driver spent the 20-minute trip telling me why I shouldn’t be sad, that whoever was meant for me would never make me cry like that.
He told me about his happy marriage and three young kids, and when we got to my building, he idled there with the meter off until I was able to laugh at one of his jokes.
I knew then I was home.
— Alyssa Shapiro
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you on Monday. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].