New York elects ex-cop Eric Adams as second ever Black mayor
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Peter HUTCHISON and Andréa BAMBINO
Ex-cop Eric Adams, who fought racial discrimination within the police, was elected New York's next mayor on Tuesday and will become just the second African American to lead the United States's largest city.
He will take office in January, tasked with steering the metropolis's economic recovery after the pandemic, which has killed more than 34,000 residents and closed hundreds of thousands of businesses.
Adams's win caps a remarkable rise from his beginnings in poverty, which included running errands for a gang as a teenager before a beating by police officers spurred his determination to join the NYPD and reform it from the inside.
"Tonight I have accomplished my dream and with all my heart I'm going to remove the barriers that are preventing you from accomplishing yours," the 61-year-old centrist Democrat told cheering supporters at his victory party in Brooklyn.
Adams had been the overwhelming favourite to defeat Republican rival and volunteer crime fighter Curtis Sliwa in the liberal-voting bastion where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by seven to one.
US TV networks including NBC and CBS called the race shortly after polls closed at 09:00 pm (0100 GMT Wednesday).
Early unofficial results released by New York City's Board of Elections suggested that Adams would win more than 70 percent of the votes and Sliwa, a 67-year-old right-wing radio host and founder of the Guardian Angels crime prevention group, quickly conceded.
Being New York's mayor is often described as the most difficult job in the United States after president.
Adams, who credits veganism with reversing his 2016 diabetes diagnosis, will succeed unpopular progressive Bill de Blasio, whose second and last term ends on December 31.
As mayor for more than eight million people, he will oversee America's largest municipal budget and its biggest police force and public school system.
The moderate defeated progressive rivals in June's Democratic primary by pledging to crack down on violent crime that soared during the pandemic.
He promised to tackle wealth inequalities and reform the education system, as well.
Adams will also have to grapple with a severe lack of affordable housing, the effects of more extreme weather events on New York's creaking infrastructure and violent chaos at the notorious Rikers Island prison.
"If you don't educate you will incarcerate and we don't want to incarcerate our young people," he said in his victory speech.
One of his trickiest balancing acts will be trying to reform police practices while keeping onside a heavily unionised force that feels it has been underappreciated during the de Blasio era.
Adams opposes defunding the police and has not called for higher taxes for wealthy residents, putting him at odds with the American left.
Born in 1960, Adams was raised in a large family living in a working-class neighborhood of Queens. His mother was a cleaner, and his father was a butcher.
When he was 15, he was repeatedly kicked in the groin by two NYPD officers after they arrested him for criminal trespassing.
That sparked his determination to join the NYPD and he entered the force in the mid-1980s, serving 22 years and rising to become a captain.
In 1995, he co-founded "100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care," an advocacy group designed to fight against racism in the police and that still exists today.
In 2006, Adams retired and won election to the New York State Senate. He served until 2013, when he was elected Brooklyn borough president, providing a springboard for his mayoral ambitions.
Adams will become New York's 110th mayor. Its first Black mayor, David Dinkins, served from 1990 to 1993 -- nearly 30 years ago.
"I'm overwhelmed. This time is overdue," said Adams voter Jakwan Rivers, who is Black.