Mayor Adams Exclusive Interview: “The Italian Community Has Built New York”

By Giampaolo Pioli
La Voce di New York

Cordial and proud of the Italian community, Eric Adams, just over a year into his term, speaks to La Voce di New York for the first time.

The mayor wants to establish a direct channel of communication with the first- and last-generation ethnic communities, both integrated and non-integrated, who reside in Manhattan and the other four boroughs, speaking 37 languages and dialects.

Can you tell us if the Italian and Italian American community  important for your administration and why?

“The Italian American community is important for many reasons, not only for those historical reasons it has had in helping us build the city’s infrastructure. If you look at the contributions that the Italian community has made and will continue to make, you can see that the foundation of New York comes from the first Italian immigrants, who came here and built small stores. Look also at the role they play in our legal sector: many of our lawyers and judges are Italian or Italian-American. It is a community, yours, that supports the three primary foundations of the city: family, business and public safety. You feel the same way about this: I firmly believe that public safety is the prerequisite for our prosperity.”

Housing, public safety, immigration. Which one became your priority in 2023 after Covid? And which one is now your real emergency?

“At the top of the list is public safety. We are continuing to reduce gun-related crimes; we have removed 9,000 from our streets. Then there is the management of the asylum seeker and migrant crisis, which is undermining the whole city. We are trying to get the federal government to do its job, allowing migrants to work. This is a national issue, not a local one, and New Yorkers should not be forced to bear the burden alone. Then, when dealing with important issues like housing, we have to make sure that we have housing for all New Yorkers. So if I have to rank them, I put public safety first, then asylum for migrants, and finally housing.”

The war against rats and the war on recycling, do you really think it can be won? Why is it that New York City, compared to other major European or Asian cities, despite being the richest, ranks last in sanitation?

“I don’t know if you’ve heard, but I hate rats. I think we can win on both fronts, we launched a municipal waste recycling program that started in Queens and has been very successful, even in non-traditional areas. Now we’re going to expand the program citywide and be able to take tons of waste off our land and use it later as biodegradable fuel. To deal with the rats, we have to be proactive, take initiatives and start, for example, with refuse collection with the new bins we are bringing to the city. We have seven new devices that we are testing, trying to see the results so we can solve the problem we have with rodents in the city once and for all.”

You have had some clashes with the White House, but that doesn’t mean you won’t support Biden in next year’s election, right?

No, it doesn’t. Friends fight and argue, but I support the president. We need to focus on the migrant crisis. Biden has done many other things that I think make him deserve another term, but I’m going to emphasize what I think are the concerns of New Yorkers. I’m not going to remain silent on this, the cost of migrants and asylum seekers has a serious financial impact on the city.”

What area of New York is suffering the most from this crisis?

“To be honest, it is a problem that affects the whole city. As I said, the migrant financial crisis is going to impact all services in our city. We have to solve this problem, starting with work authorization first, but every community is being affected. If you want to do a mapping you will see that every neighborhood has been impacted by the crisis.”

The Italian American Cancer Foundation is a non-profit with a special fully equipped medical bus that  travels every week in the 5 boroughs to offer free mammography.  Starting  in June the same medical bus will also offer a free PSA test to prevent prostate cancer, so that men and women with no medical assistance  can get the proper screening at no cost and at the same time. Do you think that this kind of philanthropic activity must be encouraged and supported by the City of New York and why?

“First of all, it goes back to the original question, ‘Why is the Italian community so important to our city?’ If you look at the Italians and their willingness to volunteer, you can see that they really believe in the role they play as citizens. The bus is amazing, it allows people to do preventive health care to detect a chronic disease early: it’s extremely important. Every Wednesday, at 9 p.m., I’m on 34th Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues to distribute food to New Yorkers who have fallen through the cracks-that’s the kind of initiative that the bus is also doing that shows how we can bridge the gap between what government and private philanthropic entities can do. It is a real victory for New York. If all New Yorkers contributed even one hour a week to some form of volunteerism, we would see a drastic turnaround.”

Are you optimistic about 2023?

“I am excited about this year and all it has to offer. This is a difficult time, but New Yorkers know how to survive in the darkest of times. We have had complicated times before, but I once heard someone say that ‘storms don’t last forever.’ No matter how bad the storm is, we get through it and have sunny days ahead. This is the right time to have the right pilot at the helm, and this is the plane we will land on together.”

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