Good morning. It’s Tuesday. We’ll look at Mayor Eric Adams’s “Blueprint to End Gun Violence.” We’ll also look at a pleasantly retro sculpture with a one-word message: “Hopeful.”
The mayor began by summarizing what he called “an alarming rise in gun violence” — five shootings in the 24 days since he took office. Five crime scenes that he rushed to.
He talked about seeing the bloodstained pink jacket of an 11-month-old toddler, shot by a gunman “who didn’t care where those bullets went.” He also talked about Officer Jason Rivera, who was killed, and his partner, who was wounded, in an attack in a Harlem apartment last week. “We pray for him, his family, as well as for his partner, Officer Wilbert Mora, who remains in the hospital,” he said.
“We are going to do a lot more than pray — we are going to turn our pain into purpose,” he said before outlining an ambitious public safety plan that calls for immediate changes to deploy more officers to get guns off the streets. “This is not a plan for the future — it is a plan for right now,” he said.
He called for reviving an anti-gun unit that his predecessor, Mayor Bill de Blasio, disbanded. Adams also called for changes that he cannot order on his own, including revisions to the state’s bail law and to a law that controls how the state handles teenage defendants.
Adams acknowledged that many of the issues behind the recent increase in violent crime were complicated, including how to treat suspects with mental health problems, and cannot be solved with quick fixes. But my colleagues Emma G. Fitzsimmons and Ashley Southall write that Adams has set the bar high for expectations. He campaigned as the candidate who could balance safety and police reform, an idea he repeated on Monday.
Still, the shootings — and other violence since Jan. 1, including the death of a woman who was pushed in front of a subway in the Times Square station — have darkened the already downbeat mood in a city that the coronavirus pandemic continues to pummel. And about an hour after the mayor laid out his “Blueprint to End Gun Violence,” he announced the death of the man who the police said shot and killed Officer Rivera and wounded Officer Mora.
One indication of the urgency that officials now feel came from the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, who like the mayor took office at the beginning of the year. In a shift from the approach he translated into policy in a memo he circulated on Jan. 3, which instructed prosecutors not to seek jail time for gun possession in cases that involved no other crimes, Bragg said on Monday that his office would now take a harder line on gun crimes, including gun possession. “If you’re walking around Manhattan with a gun,” he said, “you’re going to be prosecuted, and we’re going to hold you accountable in what I would say is the traditional sense.”
As for the anti-crime units, they are to be called Neighborhood Safety Teams. They are expected to be set up soon — in the next three weeks — in 30 precincts across the city where the mayor said 80 percent of the violence occurs. The mayor said the plainclothes officers would be given “modified attire so it’s clear they are police.” He also said they would wear body cameras.
Adams said the “Raise the Age” law, which increased the age of criminal responsibility, was being “used as a loophole for gang members” to make younger children take responsibility for gun crimes. The mayor cited statistics showing that the share of children 17 and younger arrested on gun charges had quadrupled, to 10 percent in 2021 from 2.5 percent in 2019.
It’s a partly sunny day in the low 40s, with wind gusts. The evening is mostly clear, and temps will drop to the low 20s.
In effect until Jan 31. (Lunar New Year’s Eve).
Sheldon Silver dies
Sheldon Silver, whose two-decade reign as the invincible leader of the New York State Assembly ended with a corruption conviction in 2015, died on Monday. He was 77. His former chief of staff said he had been incarcerated at the Devens Federal Medical Center in Ayer, Mass. A spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Prisons said he died at the Nashoba Valley Medical Center nearby. The cause of death was not immediately clear.
Silver was known as a master of Albany’s often convoluted ways who wielded outsize influence. He could push for raising the minimum wage and building affordable housing. He could also block the plans and priorities of governors and mayors, as he did in 2005 when he said he saw no “great need” for a stadium on the West Side that former Mayor Michael Bloomberg had pressed for.
Silver was serving a six-and-a-half-year sentence. He had won a brief reprieve last spring when he was furloughed because of the coronavirus pandemic, but he was ordered back to prison after only two days amid a public outcry.
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Employees at an REI store in Manhattan filed for a union election, citing safety during the pandemic, among other concerns.
A word for the moment
In the beginning, the word was the problem, Charlie Hewitt said. There are so many words — 171,476 in the Oxford English Dictionary, not counting 47,156 listed as obsolete. Hewitt, an artist from Portland, Maine, needed only one. The one that came to mind was “hopeful.”
He felt it was the right word for the moment.
He created four sculptures with the seven-letter word in a typeface that was an exuberant throwback to the 1950s. He installed them on buildings in Maine and exported the idea to the New York area, spending about $40,000 to rent billboards in New Jersey that carried images of one of the sculptures. One billboard loomed over the helix to the Lincoln Tunnel. Another is in Newark. Soon “Hopeful” will take up residence on a billboard near the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, also in Newark.
Yet another sculpture is visible on 23rd Street in Chelsea, through the window of Jim Kempner Fine Art, at 501 West 23rd Street. It is not far from the Hewitt’s “Urban Rattle” sculpture, installed in 2012 in the courtyard of Ten23, an apartment building next to the High Line. He said he hoped that “Hopeful” would find homes in other places and has started a digital campaign to spread the, um, word.
He sees “Hopeful” as dynamic and uplifting. He wants “Hopeful” to inspire compassion in a world now fatigued by the pandemic and politics, although the inspiration struck in 2019, a time he described as “prepandemic and mid-Trump.” He said he felt “alienated in my tribe, over in my corner, safe in my narrative, throwing rocks at the other narratives on the other side.” He was also “missing that world in the middle,” he said.
“Somewhere in Bill Clinton’s world, that’s where my politics were,” he said. Of people with different views, he said, “I think I’m more like them than they think I am.”
“Hopeful” took Hewitt, 75, back to an even earlier time of bipartisan politics. “It represented the car culture, the Route 66 phenomenon — that thing became so important to me as a young hippie, getting out to see the world. And, also, it had a kind of patina to it in terms of the rusting and the weather and the lights that were out. A ‘Hotel Baltimore’ kind of phenomenon.” “Hot l Baltimore’ was a Lanford Wilson play that inspired a short-lived sitcom in the 1970s about a timeworn residential hotel with a neon sign that had lost an E.
Hewitt won’t let that happen to the “Hopeful” sculpture in Portland. “I got an email last week that a light bulb is out on that piece,” he said. “I got a light bulb and a ladder and went and changed the light bulb.”
What we’re reading
Four CUNY schools in New York City are partnering up with Google to help fund a digital literacy program for Latino students, amNew York reports.
Equipped with a decibel reader, binoculars and official hats, volunteers behind Stop the Chop are seeking to limit helicopter flights. The New Yorker spoke to the group.
Jonathan Freeman, who voiced the evil sorcerer Jafar in “Aladdin” and originated the character in the Broadway production, took his final bow in the show on Sunday.
Tall in the streets
Of Alphabet City
Dressed in Russian attire
While six offspring
Followed the shining
So they could
When his accordion
Sliced the air
With a song of the family.
— Kathryn Anne Sweeney-James
Glad we could get together here. See you tomorrow. — J.B.
Melissa Guerrero, Olivia Parker, Ed Shanahan and Andrew Hinderaker contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected].