‘People talk about the ‘Tale of Two Cities,’ Eric Adams says. ‘But we need to acknowledge that the dysfunctionality of government is the author of that book.’


Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams officially kicked off his campaign Wednesday.

Eric Adams made his name in the 1990s battling Mayor Rudy Giuliani over the excesses of an aggressive approach to policing. As he wound down his 22-year NYPD career in 2005, he wrestled with Mayor Michael Bloomberg over whether City Hall had exploited a terrorism scare for political purposes. Now Adams wants to be mayor himself.

In a long-expected announcement on Wednesday, Adams formally entered the crowded field of the 2021 mayoral race. Speaking over Zoom as one face superimposed against the mosaic of supporters who had tuned in, Adams emphasized safety and strength, referring to the “armor” he had worn in “battles” over the years and his eagerness to keep fighting for a city that was “safer, fairer and better.”

As he had previewed in conversations over the past year, Adams rooted his rationale for a mayoral run in a management critique of the current mayor. In his remarks on Wednesday, he fused that argument to a call for racial justice.

“Our city is facing a crisis like we have never seen. We have lost nearly 25,000 New Yorkers to this virus and hundreds of thousands of jobs. I know it all too well. And we are still losing,” he said. “It’s Black and Brown New Yorkers who are losing the most. And that’s nothing new.”

“For far too many it was inequality and injustice, indifferent dysfunctional government that killed them and we need to be clear on that,” he said. “People talk about the ‘Tale of Two Cities,’ but we need to acknowledge that the dysfunctionality of government is the author of that book.”

Absent from the speech was any detail on policy proposals Adams would make, and there were few hints about the general direction he would take the city—although he did promise a “public health revolution.” Adams unveiled a website that contained general outlines of his approaches to remaking government, improving the economy and addressing housing needs. In most cases, the site promised to reveal his vision in coming weeks.

For now, however, Adams message is that the two most audible yearnings of 2020 New York—the yearning for racial justice and the desire for more effective city management—are one in the same: “We have to make government work better than it does now. Inefficiency leads to inequality which leads to injustice.”

Adams joins a field that includes Comptroller Scott Stringer, former city and federal housing Commissioner Shaun Donovan, Citigroup executive Ray McGuire, one-time de Blasio counsel Maya Wiley, City Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, social entrepreneur Zach Iscol, nonprofit executive Dianne Morales, former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa and former city veterans Commissioner Loree Sutton. 

Elected to the state Senate four times before becoming Brooklyn borough president in 2014, Adams brings to the table name recognition, a $2 million campaign account and a history of getting lots of votes in the city’s bluest borough. As a former police officer, Adams could occupy a ideologically centrist lane in the Democratic primary, which is scheduled for June.