nyc mayoral race

Key Moments From the Second Mayoral Debate

Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer; Photo: Getty Images/Shutterstock

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa took the stage for the final contest of the mayoral race on Tuesday night. During the hour-long debate, Sliwa went all in, taking direct shots at Adams, as the Democratic front-runner basically ignored him and spoke directly to the camera. Though insults were thrown back and forth — and in the direction of outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio — the candidates took a moment near the end to give a compliment to the other after a year of campaigning. Below are some of the standout moments from the last major event on the calendar before Election Day on Tuesday.

Adams and Sliwa go at it over vaccine mandates

The subject of vaccine mandates quickly got heated, with Sliwa greatly opposed to them and Adams expressing an openness to a remote school option and religious exemptions. Adams said he would have communicated better with the unions, which he thinks de Blasio did not do. Sliwa wondered why Adams didn’t talk to de Blasio, whom Sliwa called Adams’s “friend and teammate,” and asked him to “stop this madness.” Adams soon grew tired with Sliwa consistently going over time. “You should display a level of discipline,” Adams said. “They laid out rules here and you should try to show that. You’re acting like my son when he was 4 years old.” He did not look in Sliwa’s direction.

Sliwa was quick to respond: “Eric, show compassion, show care. Don’t just be a robot. People are going to lose their jobs, their income. And when I’m mayor, I hire them back. I’ll give them their full pay.”

The candidates call each other names

The moderators asked Sliwa for his reaction to Adams’s recent comments in which he called him a clown and a buffoon, but also raised past examples of Sliwa and the Guardian Angels staging crimes for their group’s benefit.

“Well you know, it’s interesting. He calls me a clown. I guess I’m Pagliacci,” Sliwa said, referring to a 19th-century Italian opera. He continued, “Did I make mistakes early on? Yes, and I’ve apologized for them. But talking about faking? You fake where you live, Eric Adams! We still don’t know where you live! You live in Jersey, most people say.”

Sliwa also brought up the continued confusion around Adams’s tax returns and his explanation that his accountant was facing personal strife and homelessness, which resulted in the inaccurate filings. He quipped that he hoped Adams didn’t hire him to be budget director if elected mayor.

When the moderators asked if he stood by his word about Sliwa, Adams laughed, saying: “Well, I think New Yorkers are seeing the example of the clown-like actions.”

The candidates ask each other questions — kind of

Adams and Sliwa were directed by moderators to ask a question of the other on any topic. Sliwa said that he told supporters on the campaign trail that he would give Adams his “total support” if he wins in November and asked if Adams would do the same if Sliwa became the next mayor.

“I do not support human beings, I support the position,” Adams said, somewhat robotically. When prompted for his question for Sliwa, Adams declined. “My goal today is to speak to the voters and there is not one question that I have for Curtis,” he said.

De Blasio gets a tough report card

The moderators asked the candidates to rank Mayor de Blasio’s time as mayor, including his biggest success and failures; Sliwa was more than ready to talk about the failures. “Is there a grade below D-minus?” he asked. “F! The guy’s been a miserable failure.” Sliwa added that the outgoing mayor has “singlehandedly taken a Miley Cyrus wrecking ball to the city that we love.” Sliwa did acknowledge that universal pre-K was a success “right out of the box.”

Adams also cited pre-K as the mayor’s biggest success of his tenure, saying that it “laid the groundwork” of what he’d like to build on if elected. He also noted the positives of the municipal ID program, but says the de Blasio administration could’ve done more to address homelessness. He ultimately gave his future predecessor a B-plus.

For a moment, Sliwa and Adams played nice

Toward the end of the night, the candidates were asked the classic debate question to say something nice about each other. For Sliwa, Adams pointed in an unlikely direction: his cats.

“The cats. I take my hat off to Curtis, what he’s doing with cats. I think we need to be humane to all living beings, and that includes our animals,” Adams said.

Sliwa said he commends Adams, “whom he’s known for years,” for his promotion of veganism, saying that it has probably helped others to seek healthier lifestyles, a goal he has for himself.

“I hope to one day be a vegan. I’m working on it. My wife, Nancy, is getting me there, Eric,” Sliwa said. “I’m like at the vegetarian stage.”

Key Moments From the Second New York City Mayoral Debate