Within hours of a shooting in Times Square that left three bystanders, including a child, wounded, two news conferences were held near the crime scene: one by the Police Department, one by an elected official.
That official was not Mayor Bill de Blasio; the mayor, who is in his last year in office, does not typically appear at shootings where no one has died, a City Hall aide said. The official was Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president who is running to succeed Mr. de Blasio.
The symbolism of the moment, and its political upsides, were not lost on Mr. Adams and a leading rival, Andrew Yang, both political moderates. Mr. Yang, the former presidential candidate, held a news conference in Times Square on Sunday morning. Not to be outdone, or even matched, Mr. Adams book-ended Mr. Yang’s appearance with a second Times Square visit on Sunday afternoon.
Both men are running as Democrats in a primary that is likely to determine the next mayor of New York City and is just six weeks away. Though many New Yorkers have yet to pay attention to the race, recent polling suggests Mr. Yang and Mr. Adams are vying for first place.
The shooting near Seventh Avenue and West 45th Street wounded a 4-year-old girl from Brooklyn in the leg. She was shopping for toys with her family. A 23-year-old Rhode Island tourist who had been hoping to visit the Statue of Liberty was also shot in the leg, and a 43-year-old woman from New Jersey was shot in the foot. The victims did not know each other, the police said.
The shooting was frightening. But from a political perspective, it also seemed tailor-made for moderate mayoral candidates like Mr. Adams and Mr. Yang, who are eager to highlight their rejection of defunding the police, a principle that continues to animate the party’s left. In both candidates’ remarks, they also stressed their belief that New York City’s economy could not recover without public safety.
“We’re not going to recover as a city if we turn back time and see an increase in violence, particularly gun violence,” said Mr. Adams, in a blue windbreaker with his name on it.
Mr. Yang, who lives nearby, spoke on Mother’s Day, with his wife, Evelyn, in tow.
“My fellow New Yorkers, if there’s one thing I want to say to you it is this: Nothing works in our city without public safety, and for public safety, we need the police,” Mr. Yang said. “My message to the N.Y.P.D. is this: New York needs you. Your city needs you.”
“The truth is that New York City cannot afford to defund the police,” he added.
Times Square represents the commercial and tourist heart of Manhattan, itself the financial capital of New York City and the nation. The shooting comes as the city is revving up its marketing engine, with the goal of reviving New York City’s tourist trade.
In the year before the pandemic, 66.6 million tourists came to town, giving rise to 400,000 tourism-related jobs and an estimated economic impact of $70 billion. Last year, only 22 million tourists came to New York City, and officials estimate it will take years for the industry to recover.
The police say more than 460 people have been shot this year in New York City, compared with 259 last year and 239 in 2019. Mr. de Blasio routinely attributes the rise in shootings to the societal upheaval wrought by the pandemic, which has created mass unemployment, and also blames a slowdown in the court system. Dermot F. Shea, Mr. de Blasio’s police commissioner, tends to blame recent statewide criminal justice reforms, which he says have made it harder to keep those charged with criminal offenses in jail.
Both Mr. Adams and Mr. Yang took the opportunity to highlight their policing agendas, which include reimagining plainclothes anti-violence units. Mr. de Blasio disbanded his plainclothes anti-crime unit, which had been involved in many police shootings, last year. Both also touted their commitment to criminal justice reform.
Understand the N.Y.C. Mayoral Race
- Who’s Running for Mayor? There are more than a dozen people still in the race to become New York City’s next mayor, and the primary will be held on June 22. Here’s a rundown of the candidates.
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Mr. Yang said he would ensure his plainclothes unit was populated by better-trained officers with clean records. Mr. Adams has said he would hire officers for the unit with the skills and temperament for the job.
Other moderate candidates, like the former sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia and the former Citigroup executive Raymond J. McGuire, chimed in with similar themes — that public safety and strong policing need not come at the expense of criminal justice reform.
Candidates further to the left talked about the importance of finding alternatives to traditional policing.
At a press availability outside a church in Brooklyn, Maya Wiley, a former counsel to Mr. de Blasio who has embraced some of the defund movement’s goals, said she would invest in “trauma-informed” mental health care and summer youth employment programs.
Dianne Morales, a nonprofit executive who wants to more than halve the Police Department’s operating budget, said on Twitter that “we need bigger solutions than the police.”
The incident prompted Bernard B. Kerik, the former police commissioner under Rudolph W. Giuliani, to suggest that an electoral triumph by either Ms. Wiley, who is Black, or Ms. Morales, who is Afro-Latina, would mean a “catastrophic implosion” for New York City.
Ms. Wiley did not take kindly to the remark.
“Giuliani’s ex-police commissioner — a convicted fraudster — isn’t even being subtle with a racist trope that Black women would unleash a crime wave if elected,” Ms. Wiley responded. “Don’t get it twisted — as mayor, I’ll move our city forward with an economy that works for all and safe & just streets.”
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