nyc mayoral race

Key Moments From the Third NYC Mayoral Debate

Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer. Photos: Getty Images

The third mayoral debate cut down on time and the number of candidates, dialing back to a much more manageable one-hour program featuring five of the race’s top candidates: Eric Adams, Andrew Yang, Kathryn Garcia, Maya Wiley, and Scott Stringer. As in the previous contests, the candidates discussed their policies and criticized the front-runner, though several new targets appeared for the pols to lambast. Below are the highlights from the third, penultimate debate — and the final one before early voting begins on June 12.

An inevitable first question about Eric Adams’s apartment(s)

Eric Adams almost didn’t show up to the event hosted by CBSN, but as a reward for his participation, moderators put the obvious query up front.
Following a Politico report questioning whether the Brooklyn borough president lives in Bed-Stuy or New Jersey, each of the candidates was asked, “Do you believe Mr. Adams lives in New York City?” Andrew Yang answered first, accusing Adams of hypocrisy for raising the fact that Yang himself left the city for New Paltz during the pandemic: “He was attacking me from New Jersey.” Adams shot back: “I don’t live in New Paltz. I live in Brooklyn.” Yang also added that during the virtual debates, the candidates saw the inside of Adams’s Fort Lee apartment, but not the Brooklyn basement in which Adams claims to live.

Wiley took a step back from the question, saying that New Yorkers want a “mayor who’s fully forthcoming and fully honest,” and that the opaqueness over where he sleeps at night is another reason voters shouldn’t trust him; she also cited testimony in which he forgot which donors were involved in an apparent pay-to-play scheme and his failure to disclose rent income as a landlord on the building in which he may or may not live. Stringer brought the best line of the exchange — “the only time I go to New Jersey is by accident” — and Garcia said she found the report kicking off the cycle “utterly confusing.”

“I live in Brooklyn,” Adams said. “I live in Bedford-Stuyvesant. I am happy to be there, it is a beautiful community, that’s where I live. It’s a humble place; it’s a blue-collar place but I am a blue-collar candidate. I live in Brooklyn.”

How will they handle Cuomo?

Co-moderator Juliet Papa asked the mayoral hopefuls how they’ll handle the relationship with the “control freak” in Albany after the bad blood between Andrew Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio. Stringer answered first, saying that de Blasio played checkers with Cuomo “when he should have been playing chess.” He added a second classroom metaphor: “Nobody in Albany when I’m mayor is going to steal my lunch money.” Adams followed, joking that the nature of a race in which he is frequently the target of attacks shows that he gets along with everyone: “That’s the joy of who I am.” He added that he’d try to clear the air with the embattled governor, going for an approach of “Team New York.” Yang vowed to bring a collaborative spirit to the historically fraught partnership, citing his talks with the governor and his own time working at CNN with his brother Chris Cuomo as proof that he could turn a new leaf — an approach that Stringer condemned as “naïve.” Garcia made a compelling and simple argument for how to end the extremely male power struggle: “Women leadership matters.”

The candidates weigh in on cannabis

For many of the questions on Thursday night, the candidates responded with answers that were in relative harmony. Yes, the city should rename streets and buildings dedicated to slaveowners; no, NYPD officers should not have their guns taken away en masse. But when asked if apartment buildings should provide an option to shield people from secondhand marijuana smoke, the conversation went off the rails.

Adams answered in the affirmative, saying that in general he wanted to make sure newly legalized cannabis codes do “not encourage marijuana smoking.” He mentioned an extremely bizarre and unlikely hypothetical as an example: “We don’t want young people performing surgery to have a joint before that surgery.” Wiley pivoted to address the importance of legalization, and how the new law will help stop racial discrimination in policing. She added that weed should be treated “just like alcohol” and that for indoor smoking, the city should do “the same thing we do with cigarettes.” Garcia agreed, saying marijuana smoking should be approached just “as we treat regular cigarettes,” while Stringer added the importance of reinvesting marijuana tax money into communities impacted by the war on drugs.

The progressives go after each other

With the implosion of Dianne Morales’s campaign, the remaining candidates in the left lane of the race — Stringer and Wiley — are now fighting to consolidate their vote share. Wiley was asked about the “agents of the city” scandal, when Wiley, as mayoral counsel, attempted to argue that de Blasio should be able to privately email outside advisers. Stringer responded shortly after Wiley, claiming that “the redaction and the cover-up was probably worse than the potential crime.” Wiley then accused Stringer of his own politically motivated work as city comptroller, including an audit released this week involving an emergency contract approved by Garcia when she was at the Department of Sanitation.

Stringer and the New York Times disagree on an important quote

Prior to this debate, Stringer was facing one allegation of sexual misconduct, from Jean Kim, a woman who worked on his campaign who reportedly dated the candidate before she worked for him. But last Friday, the New York Times reported a second allegation: A woman named Teresa Logan claims Stringer groped her when she worked at a restaurant he co-owned in 1992. At the debate, the moderator asked about a quote he gave the Times, describing that period in his life as “a bit of a mess.” Stringer pushed back on the framing, suggesting that he told the paper that the restaurant was a messy environment. But in their coverage of the debate, the Times rejected Stringer’s claim:

Stringer inaccurately said he was misquoted by The New York Times in a report about a second allegation of making unwanted sexual advances decades ago. He was not misquoted. In response to the accuser’s description of an unprofessional work environment at a bar he co-owned, he said: “Uptown Local was a long-ago chapter in my life from the early 1990s and it was all a bit of a mess.”

The gang makes fun of Giuliani

In a final speed round of questions, the moderators asked the candidates what city site they would rename after Rudy Giuliani. Adams, who was a Republican when Giuliani was mayor, said he would rename Rikers Island after the ex-mayor whose apartment was raided this spring as part of a federal investigation. Wiley asked, “Do we have a dump? I’d find the dirtiest thing.” Yang said he’d choose an “anchor at the bottom of the sea,” while Garcia picked a “sewage plant.” Stringer said he’d establish an “affordable housing development” formerly known as Trump Tower and name it after the ex-mayor.

Key Moments From the Third NYC Mayoral Debate