Voters got to watch mayoral candidates Eric Adams (D) and Curtis Sliwa (R) discuss today’s news and their political history for the first time at Wednesday’s debate. The hosts and moderators battled a shouty, tense match between the Democrat expected to win and the Republican who refused to back down.
Adams talking points on Sliwa were that he is a “liar” out to spew “buffoonery” on the debate stage. Sliwa brought up some of Adams’ previous controversies, all of which the Brooklyn borough president stood his ground on. Questions were given with rapid-fire and little time for rebuttal, but each confirmed some well-known opinions on policing, vaccines and business to a wider audience.
Here’s what they had to say about the four most pressing issues facing New York City today ahead of the general election on Nov. 2.
Adams, a former police officer, touted his experience as a transit cop as reason enough to trust him over Sliwa. But Sliwa stood his ground that he was protecting citizens on the train too as the founder of the citizens patrol group the Guardian Angels. He expressed disappointment in Adams’ lack of commitment to putting more officers on the streets.
“I’m the only candidate standing on stage that said I will hire more police officers,” Sliwa said. He’d like to have 3,000 more cops on the streets.
Adams clarified that he’s not a cop critic, nor is he a public safety critic. He said, “We’re going to ensure that number one, I will have the backs of my police officers … if you decide not to understand the nobility of public protection, you won’t serve in my department.”
He also said that while Sliwa was “playing cop” while he endured the crime wave of the 80s and discussed his history fighting for victims of police violence by calling out aggressive police tactics. “I protected black and brown and low-income New Yorkers as a police officer when I was fighting for reform testifying in federal court about the overuse of stop and frisk,” he said.
“I will follow the rules that are in place,” Adams said of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vaccine mandate for all city workers. The mandate angered police and firefighters’ unions, but the Democrat didn’t budge on the need for mandates, even if that means servicemen lose their jobs.
Both candidates are vaccinated, but Sliwa said that the city should never fire those who don’t want the vaccine.
Recently, Adams said that if the FDA approved one of the three available COVID-19 vaccines for young children, he would mandate that public school children receive it. While it has been proven that the mandates improve compliance, Sliwa had a negative response to this idea as well. The Republican, who has three sons in school, expressed surprise at kicking out kids who don’t get the vaccine.
The city’s Gifted and Talented program is on the way out, and Adams has been clear that he will evaluate the situation as mayor before getting rid of it for good. The controversial test for four-year-olds will be replaced with de Blasio’s Brilliant NYC.
During the debate, Adams clarified his stance on the test. “I don’t believe a four year old taking the exam should determine the rest of their school experience,” he said, adding that he wants to make sure to screen for learning disabilities as well and expand different learning options.
Sliwa, however, wants to expand Gifted and Talented so that it is available in every school.
Both candidates agree that students should have more time in school in some way, particularly with a shorter summer break.
The candidates are passionate about the crisis at Rikers jail and improving the conditions, especially since there have been 13 deaths on the island this year. Mayor Bill de Blasio has promised to empty the jail by 2026, and now that task stands on the shoulders of the next mayor.
Sliwa is against emptying the jails, though he has been a loud voice for reform.
Adams said, “I do support the plan to close Rikers, we have to look at placing of the new jails and make sure the incoming Council persons agree with the locations.” However, there are still issues on the island that need to be addressed, he said. “Sometimes we forget that these correction officers have been warning us for years. Many of them are black and brown women,” he added.
Sliwa added that corrections officers have “the toughest job in the city.” He said, “Get an additional 2,000 correctional officers that we need, and get the emotionally disturbed inmates to state facilities for mental health and medication.