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Scandal-hit New York mayor fights for political survival

Scandal-hit New York mayor fights for political survival

New York (AFP): New York Mayor Eric Adams is gripped by a slew of scandals, including a sexual assault allegation and claims of corruption — threatening to derail his ambitions and open the door to challengers.

Once seen as a possible Democratic Party presidential contender, the city’s second Black mayor is now fighting for his political life.

In one incident, FBI and local prosecutors are investigating whether a New York construction firm, alleged to have ties to the Turkish government, used fronts to donate money to Adams’s mayoral election campaign that saw him take office in 2022.

Former New York state governor Andrew Cuomo, who resigned facing his own sexual misconduct accusations in 2021, has suggested to allies he could run for mayor if Adams is overwhelmed by scandal, news outlet Politico reported. Cuomo sexually harassed 13 current and former state staffers, a Department of Justice settlement document showed Friday.

Adams’s standing in the polls has plummeted as he has sought budget cuts, including closing libraries on Sundays, which he blames on the influx of migrants to the city.

New York is also facing a cost-of-living crisis, with prices for food, entertainment and accommodation in the city that never sleeps soaring to unprecedented levels.

But pollster Mary Snow, who found in a recent survey that just 28 percent of New Yorkers approve of Adams’s performance, does not dismiss his chances of reelection next year.

“History shows us that it’s possible for Mayor Adams to rebound from his 28 percent job approval rating,” she said. “In 2003, former mayor Mike Bloomberg received a 31 percent job approval rating — and he went on to win two more terms.”

– Opposition piles on –

Opponents of Adams have reacted cautiously to the claim of sexual assault, filed at the eleventh hour under a special law that allowed those alleging misconduct to make civil claims that would normally have been considered too old to pursue.

The complainant, who was not named in the skeleton three-page legal submission, says Adams assaulted her in 1993, but few other details were disclosed.

“It absolutely did not happen, I don’t recall meeting this person. I’d never harm anyone in that magnitude,” he told reporters.

But his opponents have been more outspoken on the claims around his campaign finances.

Adams, 63, was raised by a single mother and served as a police officer in the city for more than 20 years, signing up after he reported experiencing police brutality.

He went on to be a state legislator and president of the New York City borough of Brooklyn.

– ‘Very complicated city’ –

In office Adams has become known as much for his gaffes as his branded windbreakers and signature ear piercing.

He raised eyebrows in December when he awkwardly suggested that the city is “very complicated,” as residents could experience everything from the September 11 attacks to a new business opening in a single day.

He has made the issue of migration the centerpiece of his political pitch, attacking the Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, for bussing migrants from the southern border to New York.

Adams told media that the Big Apple’s attractiveness to newly-arrived migrants was because the city was a “victim of its own success.”

Local resources have been stretched to breaking point, despite a handful of measures intended to stem the migrant flow.

At the same time, a policy to evict migrants with children from city shelters after 60 days sparked outrage from campaigners.

Columbia University politics professor Robert Shapiro said that “while it may be an opportunity for Adams to show his mettle in standing up to the Texas governor and others, without state and federal financial and other support, this issue may take a big toll on Adams politically.”

“This issue and corruption on the campaign funding front may do him in,” he told AFP.

Snow, the pollster, warned that “there’s a high level of concern among voters that New York City will not be able to accommodate the influx of migrants.”

She said “just 26 percent of voters approve of the way he’s handling the crisis.”

But the New Year has however thrown Adams something of a lifeline, after projections emerged showing the city would benefit from a $2.6 billion budget surplus in 2024 — potentially tempering the need for swingeing cuts to services.