October 20, 2021

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The 5 Takeaways From the Final NYC Mayoral Debate

The debate was more substantive than previous ones, but it failed to produce a clear winner.
Credit…WNBC-TV and NYC Campaign Finance Board

The final debate in the race for the Democratic nomination for mayor was a serious event focused on the grave issues facing New York City: crime, homelessness, mental health needs and the ever-present lack of affordable housing.

With all eight leading Democrats qualifying for the debate, the stage was crowded and the cross-talk abundant.

New York Mayoral Debate Wrap Up

Emma Fitzsimmons, City Hall bureau chief on the key moments of the debate.

The stakes were high. The debate came just six days before the Democratic primary, which is all but certain to determine the next mayor of New York. That mayor will be responsible for guiding the city out of an economic malaise caused by a once-in-a-century pandemic.

Here are five takeaways.

Debates are an opportunity for trailing candidates to damage the person at the top, but no one succeeded in hurting Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president who is leading in the polls.

The debate was certainly testy, with several candidates taking aim at each other, but failing to make solid contact.

Andrew Yang, the former presidential candidate, focused on attacking Mr. Adams, a former police captain, particularly on the issue of public safety. Mr. Yang highlighted his recent endorsement from the police captains’ union.

“Eric’s former colleagues in the police captains’ union — people who worked with him for years, people who know him best — they just endorsed me,” Mr. Yang said.

Maya Wiley, a former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio, criticized Mr. Adams for his support of the stop-and-frisk policing tactic in some cases.

“The worst idea I’ve ever heard is bringing back stop and frisk and the anti-crime unit from Eric Adams,” she said.

Mr. Adams defended himself, saying that he would not allow stop and frisk to be used to abuse people.

Credit…WNBC-TV and NYC Campaign Finance Board

Public safety, which continues to poll as one of the most pressing concerns among the electorate, again took center stage.

Mr. Adams, who was both a police officer and a police reformer, argued that his professional experience best equipped him to tackle crime.

Raymond J. McGuire, a former Wall Street executive, and Kathryn Garcia, the city’s former sanitation commissioner, explicitly rejected the defund-the-police movement, which Ms. Garcia referred to as a “hashtag.”

“You need to sit down and really think through these things,” she said.

Mr. McGuire said he thought the movement to defund the police “will end up in disaster for New Yorkers.”

The debate about policing also touched on whether to put more officers on the subway. Scott Stringer, Dianne Morales and Ms. Wiley rejected the idea of putting more officers on trains and platforms. The other candidates said they supported the idea.

Credit…WNBC-TV and NYC Campaign Finance Board

The candidates clashed over the city’s homelessness problem and whether the solution should focus on helping those who are living on the streets or making everyone else feel safer.

“Mentally ill homeless men are changing the character of our neighborhoods,” said Mr. Yang, who lives near Times Square. “Families are leaving as a result.”

Mr. Yang promised to increase the number of inpatient “psych beds” in the city.

His response differed from those of other candidates, who agreed on several overarching solutions, including responding to more 911 calls with mental health professionals.

Mr. Stringer, who spoke of the need to build tens of thousands of units of “truly affordable housing,” went on the attack, characterizing Mr. Yang’s proposal as “psych beds for all.”

Ms. Wiley mentioned the struggles of a formerly homeless man who goes by the name Shams DaBaron, who emerged as a spokesman for the residents of one of the hotels housing homeless people, The Lucerne, and who has endorsed Ms. Wiley’s campaign.

“When the response was to send more police into the subways where he was riding because the congregate shelters were so dangerous, he asked for help, and what he got was handcuffed and taken to jail,” Ms. Wiley said, adding that outreach to try to get people to accept placement in shelters needed to be done by “the right people,” rather than the police.

Later on in the debate, Mr. Yang returned to his original point.

“Yes, mentally ill people have rights, but you know who else have rights?” Mr. Yang asked. “We do. The people and families of the city. We have the right to walk the street and not fear for our safety because a mentally ill person is going to lash out at us.”

Credit…WNBC-TV and NYC Campaign Finance Board

The candidates were encouraged to sling a little mud when moderators asked them to name the worst idea they had heard from one of their competitors.

Mr. Adams took aim at Mr. Yang’s “universal basic income” proposal for New York City, which is less ambitious than the one he proposed on the 2020 presidential campaign trail. He wants to provide 500,000 New Yorkers living in poverty with an average of $2,000 per year.

After Ms. Wiley criticized Mr. Adams on stop and frisk, Mr. McGuire and Ms. Morales got into a dispute over the defund-the-police movement.

“Black and brown communities do not want either defund or stop and frisk,” Mr. McGuire said.

“You are not speaking for all Black and brown communities because I am a member of that community, and you are certainly not speaking for me,” Ms. Morales responded.

Ms. Morales said she thought adding more police officers to the subway system, an idea supported by several candidates, was the worst suggestion she had heard.

Mr. Yang criticized Mr. Adams for once telling off-duty officers to take their guns to churches to keep them safe.

Mr. Stringer criticized Mr. Yang’s ideas to put a casino on Governors Island, which is not legal, and to entice “TikTok hype houses” to come to the city.

Credit…WNBC-TV and NYC Campaign Finance Board

The candidates were asked to name a “legacy development project” they would embrace as mayor, like the revitalization of Times Square. It was a chance to be creative and visionary, but their answers were lackluster.

Michael R. Bloomberg, the former mayor, built an extension of the 7 train line to Hudson Yards. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has highlighted a series of infrastructure projects, from the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge, which replaced the Tappan Zee Bridge just north of the city, to the new Moynihan Train Hall across from Pennsylvania Station.

Mr. Yang answered, “The legacy I want to leave is a city that is working for us and our families,” before adding that he supports the QueensWay, a proposal to create a park on an old railway, and completing the water tunnel to carry the city’s water supply.

Mr. Adams named his plan for tax credits for low-income New Yorkers.

Ms. Garcia said she wanted to focus on climate change, including electrifying school buses and turning Rikers Island, which is currently home to a notorious jail, into “renewable Rikers with wind and solar and battery storage.”

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Andrew Yang Comments on Mental Illness During Debate

The Democratic candidates for mayor of New York were asked during Wednesday’s debate how they would address mental health and homelessness. Andrew Yang’s response differed from his rivals’.

“The fact is, mentally ill homeless men are changing the character of our neighborhoods. A woman my wife, Ellen, is friends with — and her mom grew up in Hell’s Kitchen — was punched in the face by a mentally ill man, sent a picture of her bruised face around the mom group, spread like wildfire. This is happening in New York City. And we’re not talking enough about it. Families are leaving as a result, in East Harlem, the neighborhood has been changed. Upper West Side, the neighborhood has been changed. We owe our people and our families better than this. And I’m frustrated by the political nature of these responses. I mean, we’re not talking about housing affordability. We’re talking about the hundreds of mentally ill people we all see around us every day on the streets and the subways. We need to get them off of our streets and our subways, into a better environment. And when you ask what I’m going to do differently, I’m going to rebuild the stock of psych beds in our city because the number has gone down 14 percent — it should be going up 100 percent until there are resources necessary for anyone who’s mentally ill to not be on our streets. It’s not right for them. It’s not right for a city. There will be no recovery until we resolve this. I will fix this.” Moderator: “Thank you.” “Yes, mentally ill people have rights. But you know who else have rights? We do. The people and families of the city. We have the right to walk the street and not fear for our safety because a mentally ill person is going to lash out at us.”

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The Democratic candidates for mayor of New York were asked during Wednesday’s debate how they would address mental health and homelessness. Andrew Yang’s response differed from his rivals’.CreditCredit…Andrew Seng for The New York Times

The Democratic candidates for New York mayor clashed at Wednesday night’s debate over how to help those who showed signs of untreated mental illness on city streets.

Andrew Yang said it was crucial to get people with untreated mental illness off the streets, citing a series of attacks against Asian New Yorkers, many of which were committed by mentally ill people. He said the city should be able to identify people who need help — like people who are violent or unconscious — and get them medication, even in some cases where they don’t ask for help.

“Yes, mentally ill people have rights, but you know who else have rights? We do: the people and families of the city,” Mr. Yang said. “We have the right to walk the street and not fear for our safety because a mentally ill person is going to lash out at us.”

With the comments, Mr. Yang doubled down on remarks he had made earlier in the evening, when he was asked about people experiencing homelessness.

“Mentally ill homeless men are changing the character of our neighborhoods,” he said, adding that families were leaving New York City because of their presence on the streets.

“We’re talking about the hundreds of mentally ill people we see around us every day on the streets and the subways,” he said. “We need to get them off of our streets and our subways into a better environment.”

Together, the comments reflected the aggressive rhetoric Mr. Yang has been using in recent days when talking about social issues and crime.

His comments drew fire on social media from people who said they lacked empathy or understanding, and stigmatized people with mental illness.

Many pointed out research that shows people with serious mental illness are far more likely to be victims of violent crime — not perpetrators.

In a tweet on Thursday night, Mr. Yang responded to some of the criticism, saying he has “been an advocate for mental health and will continue” and that he had received counseling as a young person.

“Full context here was mental illness is behind half of anti-Asian hate crimes,” he said. “We need to get them compassionate comprehensive care — and not let them languish on our streets.”

His rhetoric also contrasted with the other candidates who emphasized reform of the way the city addresses mental health.

Ray McGuire said he would make more use of Kendra’s law, which allows courts to compel those arrested to undergo psychiatric treatment when they are believed to be dangerous.

Scott Stringer noted that a large percentage of 911 calls are not for crimes in progress but to report people with mental health issues. Last year, the police responded to 154,045 calls involving people deemed emotionally disturbed. Mr. Stringer recommended the city adopt a system used in Eugene, Ore., where mental health professionals respond to emergency calls.

Dianne Morales made the issue personal. “Everyone on this stage has someone in their lives who has a mental health problem, if not themselves,” she said, adding that her daughter had “had mental health needs for years.” She said that despite being “someone who’s connected,” she had struggled to get her daughter appropriate care.

Ms. Morales said the city needed to create “integrated community health clinics” where people could get access a “continuum of care ranging from peer counseling to much more intensive treatment.”

Joseph Goldstein contributed reporting.

The final debate in the mayoral primary is over. Go vote! Early voting is open from now until June 20, and Election Day is June 22.

Asked about their worst moment on the campaign trail, many candidates use the opportunity to talk about how they consoled grieving families over lost ones or housing. None mention the most turbulent moments of their campaigns, such as when Scott Stringer was accused by a woman of sexual misconduct or when staffers of the Dianne Morales campaign quit en masse over unionization efforts.

Dianne Morales proposed requiring delis to sell fresh fruit and vegetables.

If voters are looking for mayor who’s a healthy sleeper, the candidates might be in trouble. None said they got more than 7 hours a sleep each night, the minimum recommended for adults by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The candidates are stretching their answers to the question of what they would ban to make New Yorkers healthy. Shaun Donovan says he would ban food deserts and neighborhoods that don’t have parks, though it’s unclear how you would ban those things. Mr. Adams said he would ban schools without rooftop farms. Kathryn Garcia would ban corn syrup.

Eric Adams, the apparent leader of the race according to recent polls, emerged relatively unscathed from this debate. Besides a back-and-forth with Andrew Yang at the beginning of the debate, there were few, if any, forceful attacks against him from the other candidates

None of the candidates will admit to getting more than six hours of sleep.

We need to “shake and rock” the boat by building housing affordable to the poorest New Yorkers on vacant city-owned land, Scott Stringer says. Every other candidate has also discussed vacant city-owned land. It’s not clear that much of that land would be suitable for housing, and many of those lots may be clustered in the boroughs outside Manhattan.

Eric Adams takes a crack at the same question on if there is a level of income that should not get a city subsidy. Eric Adams also does not have a solid answer, but says the level should be lower than the scenario tossed out in the question, $137,000. Kathryn Garcia says she would target an income level of about $54,000 for a family of three, or lower.

Eric Adams is staying true to a central theme of his campaign — that he would be New York City’s first blue collar mayor in a very long time, if ever. He has repeatedly brought up his threadbare youth and just mentioned the time he worked as a dishwasher.

Moderator Sally Goldenberg clarifies the question: is there a level of income that the city should not subsidize housing for? Andrew Yang does not land on a solid number.

Big missed opportunity: On the climate lightning round, the confusing/imprecise wording of the questions made it hard for candidates to give yes or no questions and deeply obscured where they stand on several extremely important issues.

Credit…Jeffery C. Mays

Andrew Lang, 43, who lives in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, described the mayor’s race and choosing a candidate as “rough.”

“It’s weird to see how small the election seems for the amount of people that it governs,” he said. “The bureaucracy is nuts. They all look like they need help.”

Mr. Lang said he was leaning toward not ranking candidates and only voting for one candidate, Maya Wiley.

“I want to vote for a woman,” Mr. Lang said. “She’s progressive and she seems in tune with parents.”

A woman mayor, he said, would have more compassion for the people of the city. “Let’s let a woman run the show for a little bit.”

Private developers who include affordable units have access to tax breaks and other incentives. Not every candidate has said explicitly they would change this, but Dianne Morales says she would redirect those investments. The real estate industry has said it may not be economically feasible to include units affordable to lower income New Yorkers without subsidies.

Another question on affordable housing, which notes that developments can technically include units for those that make up $137,000, which I’m presuming was for a family of three. Almost every candidate has criticized such an approach, or sought to change it.

We have entered a strange new portion of the debate, where the candidates seem to be answering policy questions in unison, and collaboratively – together they tackled the question of whether to cut off all new natural gas infrastructure in new construction and whether to require energy-efficient retrofits.

A rally in front of Stuyvesant High School, a specialized school in Manhattan that admitted just 8 Black students this year.
Credit…Natalie Keyssar for The New York Times

The mayoral candidates were asked during the final Democratic debate whether they would prioritize integrating city public schools or improving them. But many experts would say that’s a false choice. In fact, research has shown that desegregation is a school improvement plan. Decades of attempts to improve city schools at scale without integration have had mixed results, at best.

Most of the candidates took issue with the premise of the question, and said that integration and school improvement can and should complement each other. Even some of the candidates who have not promised major changes on integration, including Kathryn Garcia and Andrew Yang, said Wednesday that they would pursue some desegregation policies to boost city schools.

Ms. Garcia spoke about her plan to boost arts and early literacy in public schools, and Mr. Yang returned to a favorite topic of his: the failures of remote learning during the pandemic.

Eric Adams spoke about his own experience attending segregated schools as a child in New York City, and said students needed to be exposed to more diverse environments.

Maya Wiley, who has spent the last few years pushing for school desegregation policies, has been at times muted on this highly contentious issue during the campaign. Still, she reiterated her plan to eliminate admissions rules she considers discriminatory, which sets her apart from many of her competitors.

On climate change: All but Andrew Yang say citywide composting should be mandated. All say that buildings should be retrofitted to reduce planet-warming emissions — but landlords may need help to finance that. (A 2019 city law starts this process with the largest buildings).

In mentioning her daughter’s experience, Dianne Morales tapped into a sentiment we come across often in our crime reporting, which is how difficult it is to get help for those experiencing mental illness before there is violence or tragedy.

Andrew Yang is focusing on the mentally ill and dangerousness tonight. Most mental health advocates warn against equating mental illness and violence. Dianne Morales said the framing of the conversation is “fundamentally flawed.”

The discussion on supportive housing also touches on a theme nearly every candidate has focused on: combining the strategies to tackle the housing crisis with those designed to address homelessness. The candidates have criticized the city for treating each issue in its own silo.

Credit…WNBC-TV and NYC Campaign Finance Board

The final Democratic debate before the mayoral primary has been a testy one — with several candidates peevishly taking aim at each other, but failing to make solid contact.

As usual, Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, seemed irritated by Andrew Yang, and Mr. Yang by Mr. Adams. Their personal animus felt tangible, particularly when Mr. Yang accused Mr. Adams of trying to win support from the police captains union, which Mr. Adams denied. (The union endorsed Mr. Yang.)

Ray McGuire, the former Citigroup executive, and Dianne Morales, a former nonprofit executive, got into an off-topic dispute over whether Mr. McGuire could legitimately claim to speak for Black people. Scott Stringer, the New York City comptroller, and Mr. Yang got into it over the value of Mr. Yang’s guaranteed income proposal, which Mr. Stringer said would amount to no more than $5 a day. Mr. Stringer said that was a pittance. Mr. Yang disagreed.

The candidates had a hard time coming up with one legacy development project they wanted to complete as mayor, and proposed few novel ideas when asked how they would deal with homelessness. So far, little has taken place that would seem to move the needle on these candidates’ relative standing in the polls, which have mostly shown Mr. Adams as the front-runner.

Kathryn Garcia emphasizes the need for supportive housing — housing that includes social services for homeless people, which many other candidates have also said they would push for. It is one of the areas that Mayor Bill de Blasio has faced criticism for not investing in enough.

Maya Wiley highlights, again, her plan to hire an additional 2,500 teachers. She’s hammered that point on the campaign trail repeatedly. I’d bet that resonates more with the average voter than a back-and-forth over how the city’s pension fund is managed.

The candidates are talking about integrating schools 67 years after the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling in Brown v. Board of Education declaring educational segregation unconstitutional.

Ray McGuire stormed into the race with support from the business community and raised $5 million in three months, but his campaign has not caught on with voters. McGuire has been more feisty tonight, perhaps realizing this is his last chance to impress voters before the June 22 primary.

Ray McGuire has been combative in this debate. Just now, he criticized Maya Wiley for her efforts during her time in the de Blasio administration implementing broadband for low-income New Yorkers. A few minutes later, he clashed with Scott Stringer over his management of the city’s pension fund.

The candidates are asked whether integrating schools or improving them is more important. But many experts would say that’s a false choice. In fact, research has shown that desegregation is a school improvement plan. Decades of attempts to improve city schools at scale without integration have had mixed results, at best.

Apparently no buildings, bridges or tunnels will be named after the next mayor or the mayor’s relatives. Asked to name a legacy development project they would create, all the candidates named less egocentric goals like green roofs on schools, solar panels and broadband for all.

Scott Stringer also cites his achievement of divesting city funds from fossil-fuel companies.

In a twist on the old political saw about putting a chicken in every pot, Scott Stringer promises a solar panel on every roof and an electric battery in every basement.

Climate change is an existential threat, Kathryn Garcia says: “a new green NYC” would be her legacy infrastructure project. Rikers Island needs to be a renewable energy hub, every school needs a green roof to retain stormwater, reduce stormwater runoff and be an eco-classroom, and 10,000 school buses need to be electrified.

Ray McGuire and Dianne Morales.
Credit…WNBC-TV and NYC Campaign Finance Board

The candidates were encouraged to sling a little mud when moderators asked them to name the worst idea they’d heard from one of their competitors.

As might be expected in a race where concerns about crime have dominated, most of the answers and at least one heated exchange were about police and public safety.

Both Kathryn Garcia, who has been hesitant to criticize other candidates on a debate stage, and Ray McGuire took issue with rivals who they claimed were oversimplifying the issue of policing.

“These are complicated times,” said Ms. Garcia, the former sanitation commissioner, “and several of my opponents are using hashtags, #DefundthePolice. I just don’t think that’s the right approach. You need to sit down and really think through these things.”

Mr. McGuire, a former Wall Street executive, said that he thought the movement to defund the police “will end up in disaster for New Yorkers.”

Maya Wiley, a civil rights lawyer and a progressive, then said that she believed that suggestions by Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, to bring back stop-and-frisk policing and a plainclothes anti-crime unit were the worst ideas she had heard on the campaign trail.

Then the sparring started, in a lengthy exchange over race and policing that involved the four Black candidates on the stage.

First, Mr. Adams deflected Ms. Wiley’s criticism of his proposals by pointing out that her family had helped pay for her neighborhood’s private security patrol. Ms. Wiley tried to deflect the deflection, saying that New Yorkers understood that public safety meant more than increasing policing and required other investments.

Then, Mr. McGuire jumped in to say that he thought both defunding the police and the return of stop and frisk were detrimental for “Black and brown” communities. He was quickly attacked by Dianne Morales, who is Afro-Latina, and who noted that many of the activists who started the defund the police movement were Black and Latino and said that Mr. McGuire could not purport to speak for them.

“How dare you assume to speak for Black and brown communities as a monolith,” she said. “You cannot do that.”

“Yes, I can. I just did,” Mr. McGuire shot back. “You know what else I’m going to do? I’m going to do it again.”

After the heated crossfire, Shaun Donovan declined to answer the original question, speaking about one of his own campaign ideas instead of criticizing a rival’s proposal. Ms. Morales then said that she thought adding more police officers to the subway system, an idea supported by several candidates, was the worst suggestion she’d heard.

At the start of the segment, Andrew Yang criticized Mr. Adams for once telling off-duty officers to bring their guns to churches to keep them safe. Mr. Adams shot back by criticizing Mr. Yang’s modified version of a universal basic income plan, which would give payments to the poorest New Yorkers. He called the idea “Monopoly money.”

Scott Stringer also said the worst ideas he’d heard were Mr. Yang’s, highlighting his suggestions to put a casino on Governors Island, which is not legal, and to entice “TikTok hype houses” to come to the city.

Ray McGuire invokes Stevie Wonder and James Brown to criticize his rivals for “talking loud, saying nothing” in their answers to budget questions. But he didn’t give a straight answer when asked whether he would support a tax hike on the wealthy, who have supported his candidacy.

The candidates are apparently incapable of naming one legacy development project they’d like to facilitate as mayor.

Ray McGuire, sounding like Ronald Reagan, says cutting the budget won’t work, the answer is growth.

Ray McGuire, a Wall Street executive, who has received generous campaign contributions from the business community doesn’t quite answer the question when asked if he would support tax increases on the wealthy. Lawmakers in Albany recently increased the income tax rate on the rich.

Scott Stringer demonstrates that he is ready to dodge questions as a mayor. When asked what give-backs he would demand from the teacher’s union, which endorsed him, he trots out a tried and true mayoral evasion tactic: He says he will not negotiate labor contracts in public.

Kathryn Garcia said the $22 billion in pandemic federal aid the city has received is a “gift that we need to make use of.” But she did not specify how she would spend that money.

Scott Stringer, who has been endorsed by the city’s teachers’ union, declines to say how he would re-negotiate that contract to find savings in the city budget. He says he won’t negotiate the budget in public, but notes his deep experience with the city budget as comptroller. He is, of course, clearly trying not to say anything that might ruffle feathers at the UFT.

Eric Adams talks about growing up poor when he responds to many questions. Tonight he mentioned it in response to a question about the city’s economic recovery. It speaks to how Mr. Adams has, more than any other candidate, cultivated a base among poor and working-class New Yorkers.

Kathryn Garcia says she would reduce the projected $5 billion budget deficit by sitting down with unions to “work on real productivity changes,” as well as streamlining city services and seeking efficiencies.

Credit…Precious Fondren

Elena Aleksandrova, 32, lives in Flatbush, Brooklyn. She cast her vote, with Maya Wiley as her first choice, at Erasmus Hall High School on Tuesday afternoon.

Ms. Aleksandrova said she thought there were a lot of problems facing the city, but the biggest concern for her was New York’s recovery after the pandemic.

“There are many problems, obviously, but recovering post-Covid is a big issue. I think housing is also an enormous issue,” she said. “Obviously education — as a teacher, I think that’s also something that needs to be addressed.”

Andrew Yang and Scott Stringer.
Credit…WNBC-TV and NYC Campaign Finance Board

The city’s chronic homelessness has taken on greater urgency over the course of the campaign this spring, as New York has seen an apparent rash of random assaults, often carried out by people who appeared to be homeless, mentally ill, or both.

The candidates clashed Wednesday night over whether this was more of a problem for those who are afflicted with mental illness and homelessness, or for everyone else.

Andrew Yang said the solution was simple. “We need to get them off of our streets and our subways into a better environment,” he said of mentally ill people on the streets and subways. “There will be no recovery until we resolve this.”

He promised to double the inventory of inpatient psychiatric beds in the city, a nod to the fact that many hospitals have gotten rid of psychiatric beds to build Covid-19 units.

Scott Stringer, who had spoken of the need to build tens of thousands of units of “truly affordable housing,” went on the attack. “That is the greatest non-answer I’ve ever heard in all of our debates,” he barked at Mr. Yang. “Not one specific idea.”

He defied Mr. Yang to tell him how much his plan would cost. The exchange came hours after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced plans to move 8,000 homeless people from the hotel rooms they were moved into during the pandemic back to barrackslike congregate shelters by the end of July, to make way for tourists. Many of the hotels are in Manhattan neighborhoods where long-term residents have complained that the hotel guests use drugs and create other nuisances.

Other candidates shied away from Mr. Yang’s harsh rhetoric. Maya Wiley mentioned the struggles of a formerly homeless man who goes by the name Shams DaBaron and emerged as a spokesman for the residents of one of the hotels, The Lucerne.

“When the response was to send more police into the subways where he was riding because the congregate shelters were so dangerous, he asked for help, and what he got was handcuffed and taken to jail,” Ms. Wiley said, adding that outreach to try to get people to accept placement in shelters needed to be done by “the right people,” rather than the police.

Andrew Yang and Eric Adams.
Credit…WNBC-TV and NYC Campaign Finance Board

Andrew Yang and Eric Adams sparred over whether Mr. Adams, once a police captain, had sought the endorsement of his former union, a fiery back-and-forth that represented the complicated role of police unions in a Democratic race dominated by conversations about police reform and public safety.

On Monday, Mr. Yang received the endorsement of the Captains Endowment Association, the union that once represented Mr. Adams. When asked at the debate to explain why he was the candidate best equipped to tackle a violent rise in crime, Mr. Yang pointed to the endorsement from Mr. Adams’s old co-workers.

“The people you should ask about this are Eric’s former colleagues in the police captain’s union,” Mr. Yang said. “The people who worked with him for years, who know him best. They just endorsed me.”

Mr. Adams tried to dismiss the endorsement, suggesting that he hadn’t asked for it and that was the only reason Mr. Yang had received it. But Mr. Yang accused him of lying, saying that NBC had reported otherwise.

“I never went in front of them,” Mr. Adams said after a beat, looking more flustered than he has in past debates. “I said, months ago, I’m not taking any of the union’s endorsements.” But Mr. Yang suggested that the head of the captains’ union had said differently.

Mr. Yang has said that he thinks it is important for New York City’s mayor to have a good relationship with police. On Tuesday, he expressed openness to receiving the endorsement of the Police Benevolent Association and Sergeants Benevolent Association, the city’s two largest police unions, both of which are run mostly by white conservatives.

Mr. Adams has tried to distance himself from both unions recently. At the debate, he said the captains’ union had not endorsed him because of his record of police reform.

The captains, he said, remembered him as someone who “fought against the abuse of stop and frisk, who fought against heavy-handed policing, who fought against treating our young people for marijuana arrests.”

Credit…Precious Fondren

Youla Duke, 62, said the biggest issue the next mayor should tackle immediately is crime.

“The thing on the subway and the buses with all these different incidents,” she said. “It’s getting to be ridiculous. People are fearful to go on the train and on the bus like me. I walk everywhere I got to go now.”

Ms. Duke, who lives in Flatbush, Brooklyn, said her top choice is Eric Adams, because of his record as a police officer.

“I do love him,” she said. “He wants to work for the community and for the people, and to prevent the gun violence and all this stuff, which is good.”

Credit…Ashley Wong

Philip and Rita Harris, both 70 and retired, live three blocks away from the polling place at the Bronx Supreme Court, where they voted on Tuesday. Though both have lived in the Bronx for over 30 years, this is the first time they have voted in a mayoral election.

The couple are fed up with the rise in gun violence, they said, as well as the rate of homelessness and sanitation issues.

“Get the guns off the street,” Mrs. Harris said. “Every time you open the TV,” she said, you see “drive-by shootings.”

“Normally we vote for the president, but this time we said, ‘Let’s come vote for the mayor,’” Mrs. Harris said. “We want something to change. We want New York City to be New York City.”

Kathryn Garcia, the former sanitation commissioner, has developed a reputation as a problem solver and crisis manager.
Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

Kathryn Garcia was one of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s senior cabinet members until last fall, when she left her job as the city’s sanitation commissioner to prepare for her campaign for mayor.

Ms. Garcia, 51, had never sought elected office before, but she has an extensive city government résumé and developed a reputation as a go-to problem solver. She has campaigned on that experience and her knowledge of city government, hoping it would resonate with voters.

After flying under the radar, Ms. Garcia’s campaign began to pick up steam in recent weeks, particularly after endorsements from the editorial boards of The New York Times and The Daily News.

The wider name recognition has brought more attention to her policy positions and track record at the Sanitation Department, where she oversaw programs that are vital to making New York function, including trash collection and snow removal.

But as she has gained more support, she has also faced more attacks from her rivals that were absent during the earlier phases of the campaign, including criticism this week from Eric Adams regarding allegations that women and minority workers at the Sanitation Department received unequal pay, a charge Ms. Garcia said was “mudslinging.”

Scott M. Stringer before the debate.
Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

Scott M. Stringer, the city comptroller, has worked in and around politics and government for decades. He served on a community planning board as a teenager and rose steadily through New York City’s Democratic ranks from there.

He was a district leader, a state assemblyman and the Manhattan borough president before defeating former Gov. Eliot Spitzer in the 2013 Democratic primary on the way to becoming comptroller.

Mr. Stringer, 61, has cast himself as both a progressive candidate and a seasoned government veteran who is prepared to “manage the hell out of the city” from his first day as mayor.

His bid has been complicated by two allegations of unwanted sexual advances from decades ago, both of which he has denied. A number of progressive officials who had endorsed him no longer do, but he has retained some support from labor groups, most notably the teachers’ union.

Shaun Donovan before the debate.
Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

Shaun Donovan, a self-described housing nerd, was the federal housing secretary under President Barack Obama and New York City’s housing commissioner under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Mr. Donovan, 55, has proposed creating 30,000 affordable housing units per year, investing $2 billion in repairs to the city’s existing housing stock and ensuring that every New Yorker lives within a 15-minute walk of school, health care and coffee shops. He has also vowed to create the city’s first-ever chief equity officer and to give every child $1,000 at birth.

He wants to significantly reduce the number of police and to appoint a police commissioner of color. He also says that he wants state lawmakers to pass legislation that would enable most convictions to be automatically removed from a person’s record after a certain period of time.

Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, had a long career with the Police Department before moving into politics.
Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

Eric Adams is among the most politically seasoned candidates in the race: Before being elected to his current job as Brooklyn borough president in 2013, he spent six years in the New York State Senate. He began his career in the Police Department, rising to captain while pushing for reform as a result of his own experience being beaten by officers as a teenager.

Mr. Adams, 60, has run as a political moderate, opposing calls to defund the police while proposing to publicly identify officers whom the Police Department is monitoring for bad behavior. Other elements of his platform include giving New Yorkers real-time ratings for how government agencies perform, appointing an “efficiency czar” and using drones to perform building inspections.

Some of Mr. Adams’s critics claim that he is too cozy with real estate interests, and they have noted that he was a registered Republican from 1995 to 2002.

He has also faced several ethics investigations, including one that found he violated conflict-of-interest rules by soliciting money for a nonprofit organization he controls from donors who had business with the city. His opponents have also questioned whether he lives part-time in New Jersey, which, if true, would not render him ineligible as a candidate but, they say, would underline questions about his transparency as a politician.