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Mayor Adams improvises his way through an impossible crisis


Writing earlier this week in City Journal, the urban policy magazine of the conservative Manhattan Institute, Nicole Gelinas blamed the mayor for spending so much time turning hotels into shelters for the displaced, arguing that the reopening of the Roosevelt Hotel after a long shutdown, should have been “a symbol of New York’s post-pandemic resurgence,” but was now instead a sign of the mayor’s “lack of leadership.”

The past few weeks have underscored the extent to which Mr. Adams, a high-metabolism politician driven by his frenetic energy, has leaned into a governing style defined by improvisation rather than ideology. Earlier this month, his administration issued an executive order loosening some of the rules surrounding the city’s right to shelter law, sacred to progressives, which requires families to be placed in private rooms with kitchens and bathrooms rather than in congregate settings.

A week later, the administration signed another order that seemed philosophically contradictory, suspending rules covering the city’s land review process for locating and building homeless shelters — a process that often results in NIMBY opposition, long delays and, in some cases, abandonment a project as a whole. The result of what can seem like snap decision-making is a city that lives in the mayor’s thought process in real time – unsure of a broader vision.

“In fairness to the mayor, I would say this is a very difficult situation to deal with,” said Diana Ayala, vice president of the City Council, which represents East Harlem and parts of the Bronx. “That would be a challenge for anybody. I really feel for the administration because I don’t think they’ve received the resources they need from the federal government.”

She emphasized the need for commitment to long-term goals, adding: “But I would also welcome a little more collaboration.” In the fall, for example, when the administration moved to build tents on Orchard Beach as temporary migrant housing, the council backed down, suggesting that as a flood zone it was ill-suited for the purpose. The administration went ahead anyway – only to move the complex soon after.

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