Outside of Liberty Pool in Jamaica, Queens, near the home where Mayor Eric Adams grew up, Rosa Soriano watched her 6-year-old son play in the blistering heat of a midsummer heat wave.
Mrs. Soriano, a manicurist, thought about Mr. Adams, the challenges he faces in his first year in office, and his apparently genuine interest in improving the city. But then she thought about her own problems. She is concerned about the crime and said she made sure she didn’t visit the park after 7pm for fear that “someone will rob you.”
She would like her son to learn how to swim, but the city canceled a program offering free lessons, in part due to a shortage of lifeguards nationwide. And she wants more of her son’s education: His class was too big, she said; the mayor has opposed a state law against lower classes.
Seven months into Mayor Adams’s term in office, the hope and excitement many New Yorkers felt after his election are giving way to concern that he hasn’t taken the bold steps needed to solve the city’s most intractable problems.
Their list of concerns is long: rising crime, high inflation, a new wave of coronavirus cases and a monkey pox outbreak. There are concerns about the city’s overwhelmed homeless shelter system, growing concerns about the economic recovery from the pandemic and complaints about harmful piles of waste lining the streets.
Many New Yorkers support Mr. Adams, a former police officer who became mayor on a public safety message. Still, in a recent poll, more than 55 percent of residents said the city was heading in the wrong direction.
DailyExpertNews interviewed New Yorkers in city parks, swimming pools, playgrounds and street corners to get a sense of how Mr. Adams fared in his freshman year.
Mr. Adams clearly enjoys his job and instantly becomes the city’s main cheerleader and a standout presence in the city’s nightlife, but some have argued that he can’t run the city on charm. His plan for affordable housing has been criticized as too weak, and his school budget cuts have raised concerns about his commitment to improving education.
“I love him — I love him,” said Mitzie Clarke, 68, a retired teacher who lives in Jamaica. “He’s one of us.”
While working out in the park recently, Ms Clarke said she was most concerned about homelessness and that she supports the mayor’s campaign to remove homeless people from the streets. She said she had prayed for years for a woman living outside a subway stop who recently left the site.
“When the mayor actually removed them completely, I said ‘hallelujah,'” she said.
Mrs. Clarke also appreciates the mayor’s style and the way he expresses empathy.
“I like the way he dresses,” she said, adding, “His heart is good. He’s compassionate.”
A teacher, Maria Mohammed-Richards, 28, said her school was hit by proposed budget cuts that were recently overturned by a judge. Enrollments have fallen and the director has had to make difficult decisions.
“She was asked to fire eight teachers,” she said, speaking at the Liberty Pool where she took her young daughter Sehven. “I would have been on the list, but she could keep me.”
The school budget cuts have become a political issue for Mr. Adams, and he has fought with the city council to get some of the money back. Mr. Adams has said more than $200 million will need to be cut for the next school year as about 120,000 families have left the school system in the past five years, mostly during the pandemic.
The mayor opposed a class size reduction bill — passed by state lawmakers in June but not yet signed by Governor Kathy Hochul — because he said the school system didn’t have the money to fund the limits and many classes had already been reduced in size. due to a lower registration.
Mr. Adams has called himself “the future of the Democratic Party,” but his New York City rating has fallen rapidly. Only 29 percent of New Yorkers rated his performance as good or excellent in the recent NY1 and Siena College poll.
The mayor has focused on crime more than any other topic and states that he is making progress. The number of murders and shootings has fallen this year, but the number of serious crimes has increased by more than 35 percent.
His team has other achievements highlightedincluding a new funding plan to improve public housing, rising tourist numbers, universal dyslexia screenings for students and discounted fares for poor and disabled ferry passengers.
Still, the poll found that only 21 percent of New Yorkers thought Mr. Adams did an excellent or good job at fighting crime, and 45 percent rated him poor on that score. He received higher marks for encouraging tourists to visit and for managing city services.
Mr. Adams had a higher approval rating among black residents — about 39 percent rated him good or excellent, compared to 25 percent of white residents. Among the boroughs, his greatest support was in the Bronx.
In the Hunts Point neighborhood of the Bronx, an area that Mr. Adams won in the primary, Jade Figueroa, 20, said the mayor had had no impact on her life. While Mr Adams has promised to make childcare more affordable, Ms Figueroa said she was not getting help paying for childcare through the city’s 311 service.
“The application was so complicated that I gave up,” Ms Figueroa said as she played with her 1-year-old daughter in a playground. “It would be nice if the city didn’t make it so difficult to get services.”
Mr Adams received some of his worst polls on homelessness. Only 18 percent of New Yorkers rated him as excellent or good at tackling homelessness, and 49 percent said he did poorly.
He has cleared homeless camps and promised to add 1,400 beds in shelters for the homeless. He published a plan in June to invest billions of dollars in affordable housing, but declined to say how many units the city wanted to create.
Julio Rivera, 38, a fast food worker who lives in the Morrisania neighborhood of the Bronx, said he felt the mayor was not doing enough to help the homeless. Mr Rivera said he has spent most of his life in and out of shelters and many of his friends who are homeless have not received housing vouchers.
“The mayor just wants homelessness gone,” Mr. Rivera said as he waited for his son’s school bus. “That’s not how it works. You give them a home and give them employment and services so they don’t end up on the street again.”
The Siena poll showed strong support for some of the mayor’s policies: 85 percent of residents favored adding police officers to the subway; 60 percent supported the breaking up of homeless camps.
Sarah Grassi, 23, sat among the sea of office workers and tourists in Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan one recent afternoon. She works at a logistics company in Manhattan and said she felt happy living in a rent-stabilized apartment in the Glendale neighborhood of Queens.
Ms Grassi said she voted for Maya Wiley, a left-wing candidate in the Democratic primary for mayor, and that she does not support the mayor’s “very pro-police mentality” and his stance. removal of the homeless.
“It’s not because something becomes less visible to you as a resident, the problem disappears,” she said.
One of the reasons for the city’s homelessness crisis is an acute lack of affordable housing. Rents have skyrocketed this year, and the average rent in Manhattan for new leases has risen to $5,000.
Arturo Hernandez, 22, grew up in New York City and moved back this spring after college. After climbing a fifth-floor staircase during the heatwave recently to check out a tiny Manhattan apartment he could barely afford with two roommates, he felt defeated.
“The cost of living in the city is insane,” he said while sitting in Bryant Park, adding that he was considering moving to Chicago because it seems more affordable.
Mr. Hernandez does not blame the mayor for the current housing market, but he said he was not sure that Mr. Adams was moving aggressively to resolve the issue. The mayor seems more focused, he said, on enjoying the benefits of the job.
“He goes there and thinks he’s some kind of celebrity,” he said, “when he’s supposed to lie on the floor and roll up his sleeves to do the job.”
Sadef Ali Kully contributed to the report.