Today, Eric Adams is on his way to Washington to talk about gun violence. Yesterday, Eric Adams blamed bad headlines about New York City for the public's sense that crime is worse than it actually is.
The mayor was responding to questions about a new poll which showed that more New Yorkers believe the city is going in the wrong direction than in the right direction, with three-quarters of respondents feeling either "very concerned" or "somewhat concerned" that they could become victims of a violent crime. New Yorkers are so frightened, in fact, that they overwhelmingly support even more police in the subway system and want the installation of metal detectors at MTA stations.
Speaking on Tuesday, Adams said the media was responsible for this extreme anxiety over public safety. "Although there's a million-plus people using the subway…an incident happened to someone on the subway and that's the first thing you read in the morning, there's a feeling," he said.
The mayor's remarks appeared best read as a thinly veiled swipe at people like Eric Adams, who have sought to portray the subways as dangerous, with remarks like, "On day one, I took the subway system, I felt unsafe. I saw homeless everywhere. People were yelling on the trains. There was a feeling of disorder."
Scaring people like that isn't helpful, Eric Adams said yesterday. "I don't know if we realize the role of what blasts on our front pages every day," he said, reminding people entrusted with power that words have consequences and it is irresponsible for people with an audience to frighten the public with suggestions that New York is slipping back into the bad old days and losing the battle against rampant crime. "You may see a reality around you that things are doing well, but if you get on that J train and the first thing you see on the page is that someone was shot on the J train, you're gonna disregard that you take that trip every day and you're not a victim of a crime. It becomes your reality."
Fearmongering around crime has a unique ability to convince people that they are unsafe even when their personal experience shows otherwise, Adams noted, in an implicit critique of people like Eric Adams, who cynically cultivate public panic over crime with statements like, "Thirty years later, we're right back where we started from. And that's unacceptable…The enemy is winning, and we are waving a big white flag of surrender."
Or take the relentless drumbeat of alarm depicting a criminal legal system so toothless that criminals run through the streets slaughtering innocents without any fear of consequence. "There is no fear from people carrying guns," Eric Adams recently said. "I've never seen anything like this in my life."
Last week, Eric Adams agreed with this, piling on. "These bad guys no longer take [criminal consequences] seriously," Adams said. "They believe our criminal justice system is a laughing stock of our entire country. We have to get serious about this because innocent people are dying."
If you listen to some people, crime in New York is actually higher than it has ever been in living in memory. "I have never in my professional career, I have never witnessed crime at this level," a former NYPD officer named Eric Adams told Fox News in May.
The real problem, some maintain, is not talking too much about crime, but the opposite. Addressing the issue last year, one man, Eric Adams, had stern words for "anyone that's not talking about this increasing crime."
If Eric Adams wishes to prevent this fearful rhetoric from overrunning the minds of New Yorkers, he will have his work cut out for him. The roots of the public safety alarmism that he warned against on Tuesday run deep. No less a figure than the self-styled "wartime general" Eric Adams himself has traded in images of lawless mayhem, warning earlier this year that "anything goes in the city of New York" and that "the most important city on the globe has become the laughing stock of the globe."
But Eric Adams is right to push back against the Eric Adamses of the world here. When the headlines are full of accounts of people like Eric Adams calling 911 because his sister told him she saw some guys who were suspiciously wearing sweatshirts and she thought maybe they said something about shooting or something, that's the part the public remembers, not the part where police, responding to this twice-removed hearsay alarm, didn't find anything to worry about, and nothing happened, and everybody just went on safely about their business.
Even so, not everyone agrees with Adams.
Eric Adams, for example, speaking earlier this week, did not mention Eric Adams by name, but did criticize the wishful naiveté of politicians who don't take the menace of crime seriously. "I just feel, with some lawmakers, that they're just not dealing in the reality. Idealism can't displace realism," Eric Adams said. "There are still dangerous people out there," he added, describing a "tide" of "violence that we are experiencing."
Eric Adams understands that it's only natural that after hearing so much about the dangers of New York from Eric Adams and his ilk, it may be difficult for New Yorkers to immediately trust what Eric Adams knows, which is that in reality, the city is quite safe. "I know it's going to take a while before New Yorkers feel safe in their city," Eric Adams said. "I know that. But trust me, we’re going to get there."
Don’t listen to the fearmongering of Eric Adams, Eric Adams seemed to be saying on Tuesday. Pay no heed to the fearful chorus of Eric Adams, Eric Adams, and even, yes, Eric Adams. Those guys are trying to frighten you because it serves their political agenda to do so.
Listen instead to Eric Adams, who is here to tell you that your fears are unfounded because this city is very safe. The mayor wants you to feel secure, and as he said yesterday, he knows how to do it: "I must continue to foster the optimism that we need."