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Landlords and Cops Are the Real Winners of the NYC Mayoral Race

We won’t know who won New York City’s mayoral race for a few weeks. But it’s clear that the real winners are cops, capitalists and landlords. In ranked choice voting “none of the above” is clearly the only leftist answer.

Tatiana Cozzarelli

June 24, 2021
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Image by NBC New York

New Yorkers took to the polls on Tuesday to vote in the New York City mayoral primary race. All eyes are on the Democratic Party primary, as it’s likely that whoever wins this race will be the mayor of New York City, replacing Bill de Blasio. Former cop Eric Adams has pulled ahead of the pack, winning the majority of first place votes, with 31.6 percent. Maya Wiley, is currently second with 22.3 percent and Kathryn Garcia, de Blasio’s  former sanitation commissioner, is third with 19.7 percent. So far 82 percent of the votes have been counted. Former presidential candidate Andrew Yang came in fourth and has already conceded defeat. But due to ranked choice voting, the final results may not be known for weeks.

Like a few of the candidates now running for mayor today, de Blasio ran on a “progresive” platform, describing New York’s  rampant inequality  as a “tale of two cities.” But his seven year tenure as mayor did nothing to change that reality. By now, it’s abundantly clear that  de Blasio is firmly on the side of Wall Street and the murderous police. While he ran on a platform of reforming the NYPD, in some areas he actually expanded policing and refused to provide even the most basic reforms. Last summer, he defended cops who ran over protesters,  attempted to keep schools open in the midst of the pandemic, and protected the interests of large landlords over the safety of tenants. All of the problems that existed in New York City before the pandemic have been laid bare, and have intensified on his watch.  The underfunded and over-crowded hospitals, the 80,000 unhoused people — nearly 1 out of every 100 New Yorkers — the lack of affordable housing, and gentrification have only gotten worse. And as of November 2020, one out of every five New York City apartments was vacant.

 But de Blasio’s failure is not his alone. It is representative of the politics of the entire Democratic Party, from top to bottom — from Biden to de Blasio.

Yet this mayoral race is in many ways, to the right of de Blasio. Unlike de Blasio’s campaign in 2013, for instance, wealth inequalities have not dominated the political discussion in the run-up to the election. Rather, it was often about law and order. In fact, the likely winner of the race, Eric Adams, is a former cop and open ally of the city’s notoriously parasitic real estate lobby. 

But none of the Democratic Party candidates for mayor were ever going to fix the deep structural issues and inequalities facing New Yorkers. The Democratic Party isn’t a vehicle for that. And this lineup is made up of a lackluster, uninspiring list of defenders of capital who, in one of the richest cities in the world, will continue to defend the interests of the rich and powerful. Time after time the “progressive” candidates in the race showed themselves to be exactly what they are: the enemies of workers and oppressed people, and the representatives of the status quo. And I would suggest that even though these candidates are especially bad politicians, they also show us the nature of Democratic Party. 

Dianne Morales, the “Woke” Union Buster

After sexual assault allegations came out against Scott Stringer, the progressive sectors of the Democratic Party’s base had to select a new candidate for New York City’s mayoral race.

Enter Dianne Morales, who attempted to market herself as a progressive candidate, vocally taking up the demand of the Black Lives Matter movement to defund the police. She promised to cut the police budget in half, and throughout much of the year she attended and spoke at numerous left events across the city. Only a few months later, her campaign imploded when evidence of her mistreatment of  campaign staff surfaced: she fired 40 staff members in the wake of a unionization effort. Although she used all the right progressive buzz-words, she engaged in the same egregious anti-worker tactics bosses have used since time immemorial. And, when these efforts came to light she tried to use her identity as a Black Latina woman to provide cover for her actions. This is the kind of “progresive” Democrats have to offer: calculating politicians who can only pay lip service to left values and the liberation of oppressed and exploited people.

Despite all her prgressive rhetoric, Morales was never a friend of the left. In fact, during her stint  as CEO of Phillips Neighborhoods, the “social service” arm of Phipps Houses, one of the worst slumlords in the city , known as one of New York City’s worst evictors. In 2018, she wouldn’t even call herself a progressive and supported “school choice.” 

Morales is a lesson in how easily empty progressive rhetoric can be adopted, and how that rhetoric can be  used against the working class — whether it’s against her own staff members, or NYC renters.

Maya Wiley is not Left

While Dianne Morales was a favorite of the Left for much of the electoral cycle, as Morales’ campaign imploded, attention shifted to Maya Wiley. Although Wiley has tried to distance herself from the unpopular sitting mayor, she can’t hide from her own record. She served as de Blasio’s counsel  for two and a half years, and in that time distinguished herself by attempting to hide de Blasio’s emails from the public. She made $400,000 a year in this job, and her partner is even wealthier. Her campaign is full of de Blasio’s people — in fact, her campaign adviser Jon Paul Lupo worked for de Blasio and advised his presidential campaign last year. 

Like de Blasio, Wiley makes some progressive promises in her platform, including investments in childcare and education. But there is no reason to believe these aren’t campaign promises she’ll step back from as soon as she’s in office, just as de Blasio did. Further, demands like Medicare for All are notably absent. And, unlike Dianne Morales, Wiley doesn’t even try to attend protests to speak to the folks fighting on the ground. 

As the campaign wore on, Maya Wiley’s real class interests became astoundingly clear. She lives in a multi-million dollar home in  Brooklyn, surrounded by a working class Black community. It is common to see unhoused people struggling to make ends meet on the streets, begging for money to get a meal. Nearby, Latinos wait all day to get picked up for day labor. And only a few blocks away, there are streets lined with literal mansions with massive yards, balconies, and multiple floors. Wiley has hired private security to protect her massive home, worth $2.7 million, presumably from the threat she thinks the poor and working class people she claims to represent pose to her private property. 

After the implosion of Morales’ campaign, the so-called progressive wing of the Democratic Party lined up behind Wiley, who received endorsements from AOC, Julia Salazar, and Jamaal Bowman. Countless DSA members posted online about ranking Wiley first. Though Wiley has given no indication that she will be to the left of Bill de Blasio, she’s the only person who marketed herself as even moderately progressive and hasn’t faced a major scandal.

This is, of course, the logical consequence of “lesser evilism” within the Democratic Party. First, it’s about accepting the imperfect-but-progessive Sanders and the Squad, as a compromise, we’re told. Then, before you know it,  it’s a moral imperative  to give left cover for the heir-apparent to Bill de Blasio, even when he’s still on the scene, actively betraying his campaign promises. 

Eric Adams, a Cop Mayor 

After the initial round of ballot-counting, Eric Adams is the clear frontrunner. While unlikely, Kathryn Garcia could still hypothetically overtake Adams and Wiley, although it looks unlikely. But Garcia is no fighter for the working class either. Garcia, like Adams, supports charter schools, is against rent stabilization, and said she’d govern to the right of de Blasio.  

And so we come to the likely New York City mayor Eric Adams, who would be New York City’s second Black mayor. Adams is, in every sense of the word, a cop. He is literally the former police captain who put support for the racist NYPD and “law and order” at the very center of his campaign. In fact, he still supports the blatantly racist “stop and frisk” policies responsible for terrorizing Black and Latinx communities in New York City and countless needless arrests. Of course he claims he’s against “abusive” instances of stop and frisk, but he also argues that cops should stop and question people. It’s not clear what he thinks the distinction between appropriate and inappropriate instances might be, but it clearly amounts to advocacy of police terror and the hyper-policing of communities of color . And although New York City already has the largest police budget in the country, Adams wants to maintain and expand the racist police force. 

Adams has been endorsed by the pro-Trump New York Post,and is strongly pro-charter schools and vocally òopposed to  laws protecting tenants. And it’s no wonder — he is a wealthy landlord himself, with ties and funding from real estate developers. 

His coalition of support includes real estate interests, labor bureaucrats, and the New York Democratic Party machine. He’s been endorsed by unions like SEIU 32BJ and District Council 37, highlighting support of labor bureaucrats for Democrats who are explicitly against the goals and demands of last summer’s Black Lives Matter movement. Of course, rank-and-file workers are notoriously not consulted or given the space to have substantive discussions about the endorsments their unions make . 

Furhter, Adams is a proud Zionist, who says that he would like to retire in the occupied territories in the Golan Heights. Like many of the city’s top cops, he’s traveled to Israel twice, seeking to nurture the already-cozy relationship between the NYPD and the Zionist occupation forces. He put out a strong statement in support of Israel last month, as the Zionist state murdered Palestinians, saying “Today on Yom Yerushalayim, Israel came under attack from Hamas-fired rockets in Gaza. Israelis live under the constant threat of terrorism and war and New York City’s bond with Israel remains unbreakable. I stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Israel at this time of crisis.” 

Eric Adams isn’t even trying to hide who he governs for: real estate, the cops, and U.S. imperialism.

What does this mean? 

Sectors of the DSA, and even Socialist Alternative, lament that they couldn’t get a leftist mayoral candidate to run within the Democratic Party as a “left alternative.” Indeed, it’s jarring that after a catastrophic pandemic and a massive Black Lives Matter movement, this was the pool Democrats chose from. But instead of wishing that we had “better Democrats,” like the DSA slates in other races, we should realize that this primary has shown us what the Democratic party actually is —  supporters of cops, capitalists, and the oppressive status quo. Sometimes there are so-called “progressives” who use our language and our movements to get elected, but when push comes to shove, they fund the police and side with the Democratic Party establishment. And then there are those like Eric Adams, who blatantly defend and promote the institutions that oppress working class people and people of color. 

There is no reforming the Democratic Party. Ranked choice was supposed to be a way to “democratize” the Democrats. Instead, Democratic Party voters were given the “choice” of a slate of capitalist, pro-cop defenders of the status quo.

It’s clear that whoever wins the mayoral race will be an enemy of working class people and people of color. It’s clear we will need to organize — not door-knock for Democrats — with all our might to confront what’s to come in our workplaces and in the streets. 

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Tatiana Cozzarelli

Tatiana is a former middle school teacher and current Urban Education PhD student at CUNY.

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