WCBS 880 Weekly Rewind: NYC Mayoral Candidates Yang and Adams on Solving Crime Surge
By Lynda Lopez, WCBS Newsradio 880
NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Candidates for New York City mayor have been hitting the campaign trail hard this week as the city approaches the June primary that will likely decide the November election.
Among the top contenders for mayor as former New York City Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
This week, a poll put Garcia ahead of the others, but that didn’t stop Yang from picking up another key endorsement from State Senator Jon Liu this week.
The former presidential candidate has also amassed support from the Asian American community throughout the city, including Queens Congresswoman Grace Meng.
WCBS 880’s Lynda Lopez spoke with Yang this week about his campaign, and specifically about the rise in gun violence and crime in New York City, which he recently labeled a “mental health crisis.”
He told Lopez that as mayor, he hopes to get the crime surge under control.
“Public safety is the number one issue,” he said. “And the fact is, nothing is going to work if people aren’t safe walking our own neighborhoods, taking the subway, so we need to attack this as a public health emergency and crisis. I have proposed a new anti-violence and community safety unit, that would be focused on reducing gun violence starting in the communities that have been the hardest hit. And we would use something called ‘Focused Deterrence,’ which is when you have community leaders and people in the neighborhoods identify folks that they think our trouble.”
He said once those people have been identified, law officials and community leaders can “sit down with them and say, ‘Look if something happens in this community, we’re gonna come to you first.’”
“This has been shown to reduce levels of gun violence. I believe that having police officers in these communities working hand-in-hand with the folks who live there, who know the community best, is the way that we can get the guns out and the violence down,” Yang said.
Even with his plans, as more New Yorkers start paying attention to the mayor’s race, it seems as though the candidates with more government experience are gaining momentum and support.
Yang, a tech entrepreneur who garnered national name recognition during his failed 2020 presidential run, has been towards the top of the polls throughout the campaign, but new surveys show his support slipping.
Lopez asked Yang what he would say to voters who may be indicating they want a mayor with more experience to lead the city, to which he responded that he has plenty of executive experience from his tech career.
“What I’d say to them is that I’ve run a business here in New York City that grew to become very significant and if you’ve interacted with a small business here in New York, you know there are no excuses, you have to deliver results, people don’t care about politics, and that’s what we want from our government right now. We want someone who’s just going to deliver, who doesn’t people favors going back 10, 12 years – because they’ve been planning this run for decades. We just want our city to work better for us, whether that’s cleaner streets, safer streets, businesses that are open, schools that are serving our kids. We can do better and that’s why there’s so much excitement around this campaign… This is a campaign for the people and supported by the people and not the special interests who’ve been running our government – and our city, unfortunately – into the ground for far too long,” Yang said.
Q&A with Brooklyn Borough President and Mayoral Candidate Eric Adams
Lopez also spoke with Adams for The 880 Weekly Rewind about a variety of topics regarding his campaign and life in New York City on Tuesday, which also was the one year anniversary of George Floyd’s death.
Q: Today, as you know is the one-year anniversary of the police killing of George Floyd. So, what are your thoughts on this day?
A: You know, there are mixed emotions because as a young person who was arrested and beat badly by police officers, only to go into the police department and fight for reform for so many years, every time I hear about these incidents, it doesn’t matter if it is Floyd or Abner Louima or [Amadou] Diallo – I relive what I experienced. And it’s just recommits me to how important it is that we can have safety and justice and you can’t have one without the other. And I’m going to continue this 35-year fight to reach that point.
Q: This whole year has heard calls for change. Has there been meaningful enough reform in the wake of the death of George Floyd, or does there need to be more, particularly when it comes to the NYPD?
A: Well, there needs to be more and we should always be in a state of evolution. I believe we’re at a pivotal moment where we must redefine the ecosystem of public safety. We have in this country, and in the city, when we define public safety, we have only defined it as police and it’s not. We should clearly define the role of police, but look at the other components, such as mental health professionals, youth organization, crisis management team. How do we become more proactive, and not just reactive? And I think once we get to that point, we’re going to rebuild the trust between police and the public that they are sworn to protect. And we’re not there yet.
Q: I saw a recent poll that said, surprisingly to me, COVID is no longer the top issue for New Yorkers, especially when they’re looking to how to choose their mayoral candidate. It’s housing, affordable housing and homelessness, but also the crime levels in the city. We know over this past weekend, there were more than 30 shootings in the five boroughs. What specific plans do you have around bringing down gun violence and making New Yorkers feel safe?
A: I’m glad you said that, because you didn’t merely state crime, you zeroed in on what is the real problem. The problem in this city is around gun violence. There are too many guns in our community. There’s a high proliferation of guns throughout all of this city. And when you see 3-year-olds being shot in Times Square, when you see 8-year-olds being shot in St. Albans, Queens, it’s a real reflection that we can’t go backwards.
So, number one, we have to stop the flow of guns. We need to use the same coordination that we used to stop terrorism in the city – a joint task force made up of federal, state and city lawmakers and law enforcement personnel to stop the flow. There are two checkpoints at our Port Authorities, [we should] make sure that you can’t have an easily flow of guns in the city.
Number two, we have to deal with the guns that are here. We should focus on a plainclothes unit that will zero in on guns and gangs and collaborate across the city with a gun suppression unit and a special prosecutor for guns and gangs. So we can no longer do it in an isolated way and we can zero in on these violent individuals in our city.
And lastly, we must be proactive.
We have to prevent crime by giving greater opportunities to our inner city, particularly young people and really end some of the inequalities that feed the criminal justice process.
Something as simple as a dyslexia screening in every school.
But you would say, ‘Well, why is that?’ Because 30% of the men and women at Rikers Island have dyslexia. So, the real crime is also taking place in our failure to educate young people in the city and put them on a pathway of crime.
Q: I wanted to ask about something else you mentioned in one of the debates, because the topic of stop-and-frisk came up. And I think on this anniversary of George Floyd’s death, people are focused on police overuse of force. You mentioned that there is a right way to use stop-and-frisk. What is the right way?
A: That’s so important to highlight that because there’s some that’s trying to distort the unprecedented record I have in stopping the abuse of stop-and-frisk. I testified in federal court in Floyd vs. The New York City Police Department – a different Floyd of course – and the judge mentioned my advocacy in her ruling against the police department.
I also testified on federal, state and city levels and passed legislation to stop the database of innocent people. I know how to use a stop-and-frisk correctly. And first, we need to break down what it is. It is stop, it is question, and then if there’s a need to frisk, you do so.
That is not what we would do in the city. We were automatically searching and illegally stopping innocent people. That was wrong.
How you are supposed to use it is: If you were to call someone, a police officer. and stated, ‘Someone is hiding themselves in my backyard at 4:00 a.m. in the morning.’ That police officer has the authority to respond to your call to service… stop [the suspect], ask them a question of what are they doing there, if they have a legitimate reason, then that’s the end of this.
If they don’t have a legitimate reason and that police officer believes that a bulge is a weapon, they could touch that area to see if it’s not a cell phone or if it’s a gun and take appropriate action.
That is how we’re supposed to be done. We abused that and we would just stop everyone in this city based on the geographical location and ethnicity. That’s illegal and we can’t allow that to happen, and I fought against that.
Q: Well, I think that people would argue with the NYPD having that record with stop-and-frisk, do you believe there is a right way that they can do it? Can they do it the right way?
A: Yes. And they must do it the right way, because I would do a disservice to you if you were a citizen calling for the police to investigate a dangerous situation that was taking place with you and your family. And, if the police were to respond, ‘I can’t come and question that person, stop that person.’ I am leaving you in danger and we can’t have a law enforcement or a safe city if we don’t have the proper police practices and justice at the same time. So I owe it to you as a police officer and New Yorkers to keep you safe. We can do it right with the right monitoring. We should investigate all the cases of stop-and-frisk and make sure the officers are properly articulating why they stopped them in the first place. If they can’t articulate that correctly, backed up with the video cameras that all officers are carrying now, then we should look at that officer, start with retraining that officer and then, if necessary, bring them up or disciplinary charges if they fail to correctly use of the tool of stop-question-and-frisk.
Early voting in the New York City primaries begin Saturday, June 12.
New York City Mayoral Candidates Andrew Yang and Eric Adams were guests of The 880 Weekly Rewind with Lynda Lopez on Friday, May 28, along with City Council Speaker and Candidate for Comptroller Corey Johnson. Subscribe and download The 880 Weekly Rewind podcast for in-depth reporting and deeper analysis of the top stories of the week, produced by Neil A. Carousso for WCBS-AM New York.