New York City voters are heading to the polls today in a primary election just the third mayor in the past 20 years.
Because of the political makeup of the left-leaning city, the race among 13 Democrats in today’s primary will effectively decide the official winner, rendering Election Day in November a formality. The top candidates in pre-primary polling have been 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang; Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, activist and MSNBC contributor Maya Wiley; New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer; and former sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia.
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There are only two Republicans on the primary ballot, businessman Fernando Mateo and Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa. Both are considered marginal in the overall picture.
Polls close at 9 p.m. ET, but results could take a while to be tabulated. The lengthy process is due to a switched to “rank-choice” ballots this year. As is familiar to Oscar voters, those choosing candidates for mayor are being asked to rank their choices in order, from one to five. Election officials will do several sweeps through the ballots to eliminate the lowest-ranked candidates. Political observers expect the process to stretch on for days or even weeks.
Whoever becomes the new occupant of Gracie Mansion will succeed a series of nationally known mayors who served multiple terms. Bill De Blasio, who gained a wider profile by feuding with former president Donald Trump and mounting an ill-fated run for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, is at the end of his second term. He replaced Mike Bloomberg, the media billionaire who engineered a rule change enabling him to stay in office for three terms. Bloomberg was preceded by Rudy Giuliani, who won office in 1992 and was re-elected four years later.
The city overseen by the next mayor will be badly in need of leadership and direction. The coronavirus pandemic hit the city head-on in the spring of 2020, killing more than 20,000 residents and also wiping out tourism and leaving Manhattan office buildings empty. Retail stores and restaurants have gone out of business by the hundreds. Some workers have started to return, and the subways are once again running 24 hours a day now that more than 70% of New York state resident have had at least one vaccine dose. Nevertheless, an existential dilemma confronts New York, whose traditional infrastructure had long showed signs of strain but now requires a complete rethink.
Billions of dollars of city tax revenue are at stake as large corporations try to determine what level of in-person presence should be required of their employees. Broadway will start to reopen in late summer, which should stimulate tourism, but larger questions remain in terms of housing and quality of life. Over the past several months, policing has been a key issue in the mayor’s race, as candidates attempt to strike a balance between . The city’s crime rate, which was below that of many other large cities for more than two decades, has spiked over the past year.
De Blasio’s police department faced criticism over its handlings of last year’s protests against racism. But some longtime residents are frustrated by the sense of uneven enforcement of laws. One battleground has been Washington Square Park. The fabled Greenwich Village meeting place for generations of folk musicians and free spirits has seen a curfew strictly enforced, with police forcefully sweeping loiterers out of the park. Some Village residents see that as a positive for quality of life, while others decry the firm hand of police as an age-old flaw in the system that the new mayor will be called on to address.
Those in the entertainment business certainly have opinions about quality of life in the city, but their production activities will also be on the agenda of the new mayor. Bloomberg’s administration ushered in landmark tax incentives, which spurred a long-term boom in production in the city. The rise of streaming during De Blasio’s term has seen overall shooting climb even higher, with new and expanded studio facilities cropping up in all five boroughs as well as neighboring cities like Yonkers.
New York state offers a 25% refundable tax credit for film productions in the city, with an extra 10% for shoots that happen outside the greater New York City area. The credit was first established in 2004 and has been renewed several times. Under the current version, credits are capped at $420 million annually until 2025.
City officials have generally celebrated the tax incentives and pointed to the economic activity they generate. The Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment has said production yields $90 billion in positive impact on the local economy and 200,000 jobs. But the needs of New York as it emerges from Covid-19 are much different than its outlook in the boom times of the 2000s, skeptics point out.
Opinion seems divided in terms of which candidate can most effectively lead the city out of its current struggles. According to a report last month by Bloomberg News, about $65 million had been spent on the mayoral campaigns, with most individual donors in the film and TV industry backing former Citigroup banker Ray McGuire. Supporters of McGuire include Spike Lee, Gwyneth Paltrow and Michael Ovitz. In polls, though, the candidate has struggled compared with the leading names.
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