With less than two months until Election Day, eyes are locked on the presidential campaign. But another race in New York City has been quietly heating up.
Scott M. Stringer, the city comptroller, formally declared his candidacy for mayor on Tuesday after months of anticipation. His announcement came hours after Kathryn Garcia, the sanitation commissioner, resigned from her post ahead of her own potential mayoral run.
With Mayor Bill de Blasio stepping down next year because of term limits, a crowded field has emerged to replace him. The Democratic primary, which is likely to determine the election’s outcome, is only nine months away. And the confluence of crises that New York City is facing — from economic devastation and widespread unemployment to civil unrest — is expected to play a major role in the race.
Here’s what you need to know:
The initial expectations
Months ago, the mayoral race seemed to be coalescing around three well-known Democrats, all male elected officials. Two white men, Mr. Stringer and Corey Johnson, the City Council speaker, had name recognition, fund-raising advantages and institutional support, making it hard to fathom other candidates’ having a serious chance in the primary.
The third man, Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, is Black and a former police officer, and many believed he could draw support from a broad swath of people across the city.
The role of the pandemic and protests
The outlook shifted as the city became an epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed nearly 24,000 New Yorkers, and as droves of people protested police brutality and systemic racism. My colleague Jeffery C. Mays wrote that the results of the recent Democratic primary showed the political dynamic may have shifted in favor of progressive candidates of color.
Earlier this summer, the city’s public advocate, Jumaane Williams, who is Black, emerged as a sought-after candidate because of his role during the protests, though he says he does not plan to enter the race. Later, Maya Wiley, a Black former top counsel for Mr. de Blasio, left her position as a contributor on MSNBC to explore a possible run.
The other influences
New York City’s business leaders are also actively weighing how best to use their influence and money to shape the 2021 mayoral primary, to be held in June (the main election follows in November). My colleague Dana Rubinstein wrote that Stephen M. Ross, a billionaire developer, has floated the prospect of helping to raise $100 million for the right candidate, according to people involved in those discussions.
In the current political climate, however, it is not clear if business leaders can shape the conversation, or help push a candidate of their choice into office.
Over the next few months, candidates will attempt to cast themselves as prepared to face the formidable challenges the city’s next mayor awaits. It remains unclear whether being associated with the de Blasio administration — as Ms. Garcia and Ms. Wiley are, among others — will boost a candidate’s chances.
But Peter Ragone, a former top aide to Mr. de Blasio, told Mr. Mays that those who have a strong base in Black communities will start out with a tremendous advantage in the primary if they can establish a multiracial coalition.
“There won’t be another mayor elected who does not have strong support in the African-American community and maintains that support throughout their tenure,” Mr. Ragone said.
A large fire in a Bronx salvage yard that burned vehicles parked on nearby streets was deemed suspicious by investigators. [NBC 4 New York]
And finally: An artist recognizes essential workers
Murals thanking frontline health care workers have popped up in neighborhoods all over New York during the pandemic. A new art piece, unveiled across the city on Tuesday, pays homage to other essential workers: the men and women who run the transit system and pick up garbage day in and day out.
And it comes from an artist, Mierle Laderman Ukeles, who for decades has honored those who toil anonymously in the service of the city.
Ms. Ukeles, 80, the artist-in-residence at the New York Department of Sanitation, is perhaps best known for a performance piece in which she shook hands with all 8,500 employees of the agency, saying to each one, “Thank you for keeping New York City alive!”
Her new work reprises that theme, via a 15-second animation of a note being handwritten. The message — “Dear Service Worker, ‘Thank you for keeping NYC alive!’ For ——> forever” — will be played on a loop on a digital billboard in Times Square and on 2,000 message boards in the subways. At the Queens Museum, which initiated the project, the work will take the form of five vinyl banners stretched across the 200-foot-wide glass facade of its building in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
The piece comes at a time when the pandemic has plunged the city into a kind of fiscal crisis not seen since the 1970s, when the artist first took her unsalaried position with the sanitation department.
But Ms. Ukeles encodes hope in her new work. The animation sequence starts with a flash of orange-red, which conveys emergency, and ends with the neon green of the safety vests worn by sanitation workers. “It swells from one shade to another,” she said, “and we feel optimistic.”
It’s Wednesday — show appreciation.
Metropolitan Diary: Jackson Heights Country Club
The Jackson Heights Pool and Country Club.
It might sound bucolic, but in reality, it was three concrete pools, a cement handball wall and three asphalt tennis courts under La Guardia Airport’s strobe-lit landing path.
To us, it was the Garden of Eden, from when it opened in 1961 to its demise in the late ’80s. Night swimming on Wednesdays, outdoor movie Fridays and, always, the Saturday Night Show & Dance.
I was fortunate to be a member as an adolescent and to have worked there throughout my teenage years. My fondest memories involved helping my grandfather, who was the gardener.
There was not much to do when the only grass to tend was a green clump near the kiddie pool that might have measured 10 feet by 20 feet. My grandfather’s quixotic idea was to cover the tall metal fencing that surrounded the area with ivy for privacy.
“Never happen, Grandpa,” I said as we chiseled into the hard dirt and rock to plant the seedlings.
“You’ll see, Jimmy boy,” he said. “Give it time and love. Keep shoveling.”
Within a few years, my co-workers and I were standing on extension ladders and hacking away at the overgrown vines. Tennis players were complaining because balls kept getting lost in the thick wall of ivy.
I visited my grandfather’s grave several years ago, and then drove by where the club had been. What was once a summer playground for thousands was now the Korean Church of Queens and a parking lot.
There was no trace of all those sunburned faces, of Frank checking passes at the door or of the mahjong players up on the roof deck.
Yet on the corner of the property, framing the church’s brick signage, there was one remnant of the past: some of my grandfather’s ivy.
— Jim Rocco
We’re experimenting with the format of New York Today. What would you like to see more (or less) of? Post a comment or email us: firstname.lastname@example.org.