nyc mayoral race

The New York City Mayoral Race Is Getting Petty

Brooklyn Borough Hall — the scene of the placard crime. Photo: Bloomberg via Getty Images

In a city faced with the challenges of bouncing back from a pandemic and providing equitable vaccine access for all New Yorkers, the hot debate in the mayoral race on Thursday was over placard abuse.

In the morning, exam-prep tycoon and unlikely front-runner Andrew Yang put a spotlight on the less-than-pressing topic, when his campaign announced his intention to end the tyranny of city officials parking illegally in Cadman Plaza, a small park tucked on the border between Brooklyn Heights and Downtown Brooklyn. “I’m not the only New Yorker who has run into an illegally parked car, or a car that is parked inappropriately,” Yang said. “At this point, placards are being distributed so broadly and being used for either official or unofficial purposes that they’re actually causing inconvenience and even hazards for many, many New Yorkers.”

While Yang claimed that many had been impacted by police and municipal officials printing out cards allowing them to park where they shouldn’t, his target audience was in fact quite small. Fellow mayoral candidate and Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams has been parking on the borough hall plaza for years. And while the city has agreed to end the practice of parking on the plaza, the change will only go into effect when Adams’s term expires after he refused to move on the issue of moving his car.

Though it may be a bit of veiled good news for the Adams campaign that the frontrunner went after him, the former cop — who once said people who called out placard abuse were in the same “tradition” as the Ku Klux Klan — wasn’t having it. “Violent crime is skyrocketing in New York,” a statement from the candidate read. “People are dying. Five-year-old and 12-year-old children are being shot in our streets — and Andrew Yang is focused on double parking. Maybe parking is the big crime problem in New Paltz, but not in New York.” Yang responded before the petty back-and-forth subsided, saying that “New Yorkers sense we have the capacity” to treat big-picture criminal issues and small quality-of-life fixes, and that he has “spent a lot of time biking my kids to school and a lot of New Yorkers will say this is very much an NYC issue and it’s a very solvable one we can address quite easily.”

As things cooled off Thursday evening, a new poll from Data for Progress reiterated why the two went at it in the first place: Among 1,007 likely voters, 26 percent said they were supporting Yang, with Adams in a not-so-close second in the crowded race with 13 percent. City comptroller Scott Stringer followed with 11 percent, and civil-rights attorney Maya Wiley pulled in 10 percent. Yang had doubled his advantage since the last major poll released on March 24, when he led Adams by 6 percent.

The New York City Mayoral Race Is Getting Petty