Opinion | Saving New York City

There is much ruin in a city, to adapt

Adam Smith,

and

Bill de Blasio

has spent eight years trying to prove it. The progressive’s tenure as mayor has been a catastrophe for New York City in nearly every way, and the only saving grace is that he’s term-limited. The question as Tuesday’s primary approaches is whether voters will try to pull the city out of its downward spiral.

***

We wish the stakes were lower, and eight years ago they were. Mr. de Blasio inherited a prosperous city after 20 years of competent leadership. First

Rudy Giuliani

challenged the liberal status quo with reforms on crime and public order, welfare, education and regulation.

Michael Bloomberg

continued the crime reduction under Commissioner

Ray Kelly

and accelerated school reform under

Joel Klein.

The city boomed, but voters forgot the bad old days, and the combination of public unions and the gentry left took charge of the political debate. Some progressives now want to disavow Mr. de Blasio, who has become a clownish figure and is deeply unpopular, but he has implemented their agenda.

Regulations have crushed small businesses. Bias against charter schools and substituting race for merit in admissions have reversed educational gains. A court ordered the city’s public housing authority put under control of a federal monitor. Wage and pension payoffs for public unions have left the city facing a fiscal crisis despite huge Covid cash infusions from Congress.

Above all, crime and disorder have returned amid progressive assaults on police and the anti-crime strategies that worked. Bail reform let repeat offenders free. The mentally ill homeless attack subway riders and pedestrians. The mayor had his police chief disband the anti-crime unit that searched for illegal guns, and shootings have soared. For New Yorkers of a certain age, the slide back to the 1970s is all too clear.

***

It isn’t obvious that a new mayor can turn it around given the power of the socialist Working Families Party and public unions. But there are portents of hope in the campaign for the Democratic nomination, which will all but determine the next mayor.

The most promising news is that even Democrats are again talking about reducing crime, not merely bashing police. The debate has been led by

Andrew Yang,

the businessman who ran for President in 2020, and

Eric Adams,

a former police captain who is now Brooklyn borough president. Mr. Adams would restore the anti-crime unit, and Mr. Yang would deploy 250 cops full-time to patrol the subways.

Mr. Adams leads in the polls, having overtaken Mr. Yang, and his focus on public safety is clearly the reason. Mr. Yang and others attack him regularly for saying he carries a gun as he is allowed to do as a former cop. But he’s stood up to the attacks, which bodes well if he wins.

We wish Mr. Adams were more forthright in his support for charter schools, but he may be persuadable on lifting the cap on the number of schools and he hasn’t been endorsed by the teachers union. He also talks about easing regulation for business to help revive the economy after the pandemic.

Mr. Yang’s weakness is that his campaign is gimmicky, as with his proposal to give $2,000 a year to about 500,000 low-income New Yorkers. He’d do this even as he frets that the city is heading for a fiscal crash. Mr. Adams calls this universal basic income “snake oil” and a “UBLie.”

Ray McGuire,

a former

Citigroup

executive, has also talked sensibly about crime. Mr. McGuire is the best candidate on education, supporting more charter schools that have long waiting lists and focusing on achievement. As a political outsider, he’d also be best positioned to bring Bloomberg-style management to the city’s finances. But Mr. McGuire has never gained traction in the polls and will need a late surge to have a chance.

The rest of the Democratic candidates are various shades of left or careerist hacks.

Kathryn Garcia

is a favorite of the liberal intelligentsia, though why is a mystery. She ran the sanitation department under Mr. de Blasio, which is hardly reassuring that she’d press for the major change the city needs. She is good on charter schools.

The closest to a de Blasio clone is

Maya Wiley,

a hard-left legal activist, who wants to cut the police force and thinks it’s blaming the homeless to want to take them off the street or subway platforms. She lives in a ritzy corner of Brooklyn protected by private security, as Mr. Adams likes to point out. The left has coalesced around her since she was endorsed by

Queens Rep. Alexandria

Ocasio-Cortez. She’s the candidate for continued decline.

The polls are close, and ranked-choice voting means the most popular second or third choices could win in the end. Whoever wins faces a difficult task to rescue the city from the left, including the Legislature in Albany whose tax increases are driving New Yorkers out of the state. But restoring public order is the first duty of the next mayor, and let’s hope the voters make that clear on Tuesday.

Wonder Land: Democrats hate to talk about law and order. But in New York City’s mayoral race, that’s all they’re talking about. Image: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

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