The city may not sleep, but both mayoral candidates tried hard to make it happen during their first debate before New Yorkers head to the polls beginning this Saturday for early voting before Election Day on Nov. 2.
During the first general election matchup on Wednesday evening, Democratic mayoral nominee Eric Adams and Republican Curtis Sliwa — two outspoken Big Apple political mainstays who are no strangers to newspaper pages and TV cameras — mostly stuck to well-worn messages.
Sliwa repeatedly tied Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, to “teammate” Mayor Bill de Blasio as the former NYPD cop cast Sliwa, Guardian Angels founder, as a fabulist who engaged in “buffoonery,” during a more toned-down affair than political observers expected.
“This had to be the most boring debate in history,” groaned Stu Loeser, who served as a top communications staff for former mayor Michael Bloomberg and Democratic primary candidate Ray McGuire.
Sliwa labeled Adams a “teammate,” “partner,” and “ally” of de Blasio, as well as a member of a “tag team” with the current mayor.
“Adams will be de Blasio 2.0.,” read a post-debate email sent by the GOP nominee’s campaign.
During the one-hour event on NBC, Sliwa noted that Adams rarely if ever poked holes in the controversial, twice-rebranded mental health imitative formerly known as ThriveNYC — and that his rival recently suggested he may keep on de Blasio administration homeless services agency head Steven Banks.
“Eric Adams has never criticized Thrive,” said Sliwa.
On congestion pricing — an expected fee on drivers who ride into Manhattan below 60th Street — Sliwa ripped Adams’ support for the measure alongside the mayor.
“How about we do something novel and stop trusting these politicians like de Blasio and Eric Adams who are a tag team on this, like others before them and put it up for an initiative and referendum because I trust people,” he said. “I don’t trust politicians. Let the people decide.”
The comments come after de Blasio, during his regular remote press briefing Wednesday morning, sung Adams’ praises and said they are frequently in touch.
“I talk to Eric Adams regularly, I am confident that he will be able to take everything that I believe we’ve achieved and then build upon it and go farther,” the mayor said. “So I really am looking forward to him becoming our next mayor.”
Later Wednesday, in an apparent attempt to needle his opponent, Sliwa accused Adams — a former NYPD captain who has vowed to be a “blue-collar mayor” — of recently spending too much time with “elites.”
“Eric Adams is with the elites in the suites with the TikTok girls,” he said, in apparent reference to a September Page Six report about Adams hanging at club Zero Bond with the D’Amelio sisters, stars on the app. “Come on Eric, come back, come back to the streets and the subways be with the real peeps.”
Adams wouldn’t take the bait, repeatedly declining to respond to Sliwa’s jabs.
Asked to reply to Sliwa mocking Adams for planning a trip to Florida after the Nov. 2 general election “like he just won the Super Bowl,” Adams opted not to.
“No, I’m speaking to New Yorkers, not speaking to buffoonery,” said Adams, a former state senator.
“No, I don’t want to respond. I’m responding to the people of this city who have supported me,” he said following a Sliwa dig about greedy developers supporting Adams not him because he would punish them if they don’t abide by Department of Buildings regulations on illegal basement apartments.
“Let’s be clear: New Yorkers are going to make a determination of the person who wore a bulletproof vest … versus the person who made up crimes so that he can be popular,” Adams said of Sliwa, who staged his own fake kidnapping, claiming he was abducted by transit cops.
When asked about the NYPD’s use of the stop-and-frisk and how he’d prevent non-white New Yorkers from being unfairly targeted by the tactic, Adams revealed apparently for the first time that his son had been a “victim” of it.
“My son was a victim of stop and frisk in this city,” he said. “I never call for aggressive police tactics; I call for appropriate police tactics.”
Adams — a longtime former member of the NYPD and fierce critic of the department — reiterated his philosophy about the importance to the future of the five boroughs of ensuring New Yorkers enjoy both “safety” and “justice.”
“Public safety is a prerequisite to prosperity. Public safety and justice,” he said. “I will have the backs of my police officers, but that covenant — if you decide not to understand the nobility of public protection, you won’t serve in my department.”
He added, “We’re not going to see disorder in my city.”
Following the faceoff, an Adams campaign rep said Sliwa showed during it that he is an unserious mayoral contender.
“If Curtis spent half as much time making up plans as he does making up crimes, maybe he’d be a legitimate candidate to run the greatest city in the world,” snarked campaign spokesman Evan Thies. “But clearly he hasn’t.”
The pair of City Hall hopefuls will face off for a second debate next Tuesday.
Additional reporting by Carl Campanile