The candidates were encouraged to sling a little mud when moderators asked them to name the worst idea they’d heard from one of their competitors.
As might be expected in a race where concerns about crime have dominated, most of the answers and at least one heated exchange were about police and public safety.
Both Kathryn Garcia, who has been hesitant to criticize other candidates on a debate stage, and Ray McGuire took issue with rivals who they claimed were oversimplifying the issue of policing.
“These are complicated times,” said Ms. Garcia, the former sanitation commissioner, “and several of my opponents are using hashtags, #DefundthePolice. I just don’t think that’s the right approach. You need to sit down and really think through these things.”
Mr. McGuire, a former Wall Street executive, said that he thought the movement to defund the police “will end up in disaster for New Yorkers.”
Maya Wiley, a civil rights lawyer and a progressive, then said that she believed that suggestions by Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, to bring back stop-and-frisk policing and a plainclothes anti-crime unit were the worst ideas she had heard on the campaign trail.
Then the sparring started, in a lengthy exchange over race and policing that involved the four Black candidates on the stage.
First, Mr. Adams deflected Ms. Wiley’s criticism of his proposals by pointing out that her family had helped pay for her neighborhood’s private security patrol. Ms. Wiley tried to deflect the deflection, saying that New Yorkers understood that public safety meant more than increasing policing and required other investments.
Then, Mr. McGuire jumped in to say that he thought both defunding the police and the return of stop and frisk were detrimental for “Black and brown” communities. He was quickly attacked by Dianne Morales, who is Afro-Latina, and who noted that many of the activists who started the defund the police movement were Black and Latino and said that Mr. McGuire could not purport to speak for them.
“How dare you assume to speak for Black and brown communities as a monolith,” she said. “You cannot do that.”
“Yes, I can. I just did,” Mr. McGuire shot back. “You know what else I’m going to do? I’m going to do it again.”
After the heated crossfire, Shaun Donovan declined to answer the original question, speaking about one of his own campaign ideas instead of criticizing a rival’s proposal. Ms. Morales then said that she thought adding more police officers to the subway system, an idea supported by several candidates, was the worst suggestion she’d heard.
At the start of the segment, Andrew Yang criticized Mr. Adams for once telling off-duty officers to bring their guns to churches to keep them safe. Mr. Adams shot back by criticizing Mr. Yang’s modified version of a universal basic income plan, which would give payments to the poorest New Yorkers. He called the idea “Monopoly money.”
Scott Stringer also said the worst ideas he’d heard were Mr. Yang’s, highlighting his suggestions to put a casino on Governors Island, which is not legal, and to entice “TikTok hype houses” to come to the city.
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