NEW YORK — Eric Adams and Curtis Sliwa barnstormed through the five boroughs of New York City on Monday to deliver closing messages before their mayoral election faceoff — and the city’s new COVID-19 vaccine mandate for municipal workers emerged as a key homestretch focus for both candidates.
The mandate officially took effect Monday morning, resulting in thousands of unvaccinated city workers being suspended without pay, and while Adams and Sliwa have clashed over the issue before, it took on renewed significance in their final campaign pitches.
Adams, who is heavily favored to win Tuesday’s election as the Democratic candidate, said he supports Mayor Bill de Blasio’s mandate while at a get-out-the-vote rally in City Hall Park. But Adams, a retired NYPD captain, also suggested de Blasio hasn’t treated municipal labor unions with enough respect.
“Some of the conversations I’ve had with union leaders, they said: ‘Eric, we’ve been attempting to sit down and talk with him about this.’ I think that if we get in a room, we can resolve a substantial number,” Adams, who was flanked by members of several of municipal labor unions, said before adding he doesn’t want to “create a more hostile environment than it is.”
Turning his attention to Sliwa, Adams said the underdog Republican mayoral hopeful “believes that this is a joke that we’re going through right now.”
“This is one of the most important elections in our history, and I don’t want New Yorkers to be fooled,” Adams said. “We made that mistake with Donald Trump. We thought it couldn’t happen, and we saw what happened. We’re not going to make that mistake.”
A few dozen blocks uptown, Sliwa punched back by painting the vaccine mandate as a threat to public safety.
“Ha! This jeopardizes public safety,” Sliwa seethed outside an FDNY station in Midtown amid word that nearly 10,000 city workers, including cops and firefighters, had been placed on unpaid leave for refusing to get their life-saving COVID-19 shots.
Rather than mandating vaccinations, the city should encourage them, the red-beret-wearing Guardian Angels founder said.
“You elect Curtis Sliwa, and on Jan. 2 we roll back the mandates, we give all of these brave men and women back pay,” said Sliwa, who was still wearing a sling around his left arm after breaking it in an accident involving a yellow cab last week.
In zeroing in on the mandate, Sliwa seemed intent on firing up the city’s vastly outnumbered Republican voters, many of whom have embraced anti-COVID-19 vaccine conspiracy theories despite the shots proving remarkably safe and effective.
Nonetheless, de Blasio’s mandate appears to be working, with 91% of the municipal workforce vaccinated as of late Sunday — up 7% from 12 days ago — while emergency response times remain normal, according to City Hall.
Adams, who will become just the second Black mayor in the city's history if elected, suggested that his GOP opponent is grasping at straws.
“We’re not responding to the buffoonery of someone that thinks our city is a circus, because they’re a clown,” he said in City Hall Park. “We’re not responding to that. We’re not responding to everything he throws out.”
Earlier in the day, Adams spent time greeting voters outside the Parsons/Archer subway station in Jamaica, Queens, a neighborhood he grew up in where he has a strong base of support.
He also found time to rally with Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., in Washington Heights, where he struck a unifying tone.
“No more divided teams. We will have one city: Team New York,” Adams said. “From Washington Heights to Crown Heights, to Sunset Park to Pelham Park, from Jamaica to Manhattan, we will all be united together.”
The Brooklyn borough president closed out his election eve at a get-out-the-vote event in Harlem’s A. Philip Randolph Square with state Attorney General Letitia James, Lt. Gov. Brian Benjamin, Manhattan district attorney candidate Alvin Bragg, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and other Democratic heavyweights.
“Although I come from a faraway place called Brooklyn — so does your next mayor — I just want some of that Harlem love, because you all know that I announced a few days ago that I’m running for governor,” said James, who launched a 2022 primary bid against Gov. Kathy Hochul last week and is likely to seek a close relationship with Adams if he’s elected mayor. “We need transformational change in the state, and we cannot return to normal.”
Despite facing all but impossible odds in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 7-to-1, Sliwa also zigzagged the city for the final day of campaigning.
He held get-out-the-vote rallies in Borough Park, Brooklyn and Middle Village, Queens, before wrapping up the night by spending a couple hours chatting with voters at L&B Spumoni Gardens, the iconic pizzeria in Gravesend.
Earlier in the day, Sliwa also rode a campaign float around Manhattan with former GOP Gov. George Pataki, who noted that he beat then-Gov. Mario Cuomo in 1994 even though preelection polls showed the incumbent Democrat trouncing him.
“Go get them, Curtis,” Pataki said.
Sliwa, though, said just convincing Republicans to vote in this day and age is no cakewalk.
Declaring himself a “never Trumper,” Sliwa groused that former President Donald Trump is sabotaging Republican candidates for public office across the country by falsely insisting that his 2020 election loss was the result of voter fraud.
“My biggest problem with Republicans,” Sliwa said, “is convincing them to vote.”