Why South Asians are looking forward to Eric Adams at mayor

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Shahana Hanif and Shekhar Krishnan win their primaries for a seat on city council

Our Bureau
New York City, NY

The message from Eric Adams, after his win in the New York City Democratic mayoral primary, is loud and clear. It is a message that will resonate across the country.

“If the Democratic Party fails to recognize what we did here in New York, they’re going to have a problem in the midterm elections and they’re going to have a problem in the presidential election,” Adams told reporters two weeks ago after coming in first on Election night. He sounded the theme again Wednesday after officially winning the nomination with a centrist message focused on public safety: “I know how we can turn around not only New York, but America.”

Adams’ win is a big change for the city and for the Democratic Party as well. It is a big moment for the South Asian community as well, which overwhelmingly votes Democrat in the city. An organization called “South Asian Americans for Eric Adams for NY City Mayoral candidate 2021” continuously campaigned for Adams. In April, the Brooklyn Borough President received the backing of groups from the community. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams was in Jackson Heights, standing with members of Rise Up, a Bangladeshi -American community organization. “I am not a new friend, I am an old friend,” Adams told a crowd of supporters. “The Bangladeshi community is a united, hardworking community. You have provided so much to this city and I want you to know it has not gone unnoticed by me.”

Eric Adams

The group said it is backing Adams — a former police captain — citing concerns over public safety, an increase in shootings and a lack of affordable housing. “We need somebody who has experience to deal with in law enforcement in NYC,” a supporter told the crowd. “Who is going to be mayor, who is going to lead our NYPD, we have a lot of NYPD here and we do not need to defund the police, we need more police to our communities.”

In recent years, the South Asian community, which encompasses different religions and ethnic groups, has been flexing its political muscle. New York City, a global immigration hub, has never had a person of South Asian descent on the City Council.

But now, with the Council facing significant turnover because of term limits and retirements, New York’s legislative body is poised to be one of the most progressive in the city’s history, with a diversity that mirrors the city it represents.

Shahana Hanif, a former City Council employee who won her primary in Brooklyn, is expected to be the first Muslim woman elected to the Council in its history. Ms. Hanif, who is Bangladeshi-American, will also be one of the first members of South Asian descent, along with Shekar Krishnan, who won his primary in Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, in Queens.

Krishnan, a civil rights lawyer, told the New York Times that the lack of diversity on the Council was part of what motivated him to run, especially after seeing the pandemic devastate his neighborhood. “Communities like mine, we’ve never had representation in our City Council,” Krishnan said. “And what that means is the voices of our South Asian communities aren’t being heard,” he was quoted in the Times.

For South Asians, Eric Adams as the new mayor will mean a lot. Though the election is still months away, his victory is considered certain.

Adams won his narrow victory by dominating in Black, Latino and working-class white neighborhoods outside of Manhattan, defeating both Maya Wiley, the progressive favorite, and Kathryn Garcia, a technocrat who won more affluent neighborhoods.

Adams has a unique biography, as a politician who grew up under hardscrabble circumstances, was beaten by cops and went on to join the police department himself where he became a prominent voice for reform.

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