Adams, who will become the second Black mayor of the nation's largest city, first triumphed this summer in a crowded Democratic primary after he struck a nuanced stance on law enforcement issues. His message on crime and his experience as a police officer largely insulated him from attacks from his Republican opponent Curtis Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels anti-crime patrol.
He described being beaten by police officers as a teenager when he was arrested for trespassing. When he later became a cop, he was a vocal critic of the police department, advocated for Black officers and spoke out about injustices. But he did not embrace calls from some progressives to defund the police by shifting money from law enforcement to social work and other programs aimed at addressing the root causes of crime.
Police and crime issues came to the forefront in cities big and small after the death of George Floyd last year led to a national reckoning on racial injustice and law enforcement. The debate centered on questions of when and where police are needed - or sometimes whether they're needed at all. It also unfolded amid an increase in homicides in the wake of the pandemic.
"Today we take off the intramural jersey and we put it on one Jersey: team New York," he said during his victory speech. "So brothers and sisters, and the people of our city, they have spoken. And tonight, New York has chosen one of you. One of our own. I am you."
Adams will become the city's second Black mayor. David Dinkins served in the early 1990s. He died last year.
Current Mayor Bill de Blasio offered Adams congratulations Tuesday night via Twitter.
A graduate of our public schools.— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) November 3, 2021
A decorated NYPD veteran.
A brave voice for justice in our streets.
A bold public servant with Brooklyn spirit and style.@EricAdamsForNYC embodies the greatness of our city. He will be an outstanding mayor.
Congratulations, my friend!
"I think he's going to be an exceptional mayor, I look forward to helping and supporting in any way over these next weeks as he gets ready," de Blasio said.
Sliwa, who founded the Guardian Angels four decades ago, conceded the race shortly after 9:30 p.m.
"I've known Eric Adams for 40 years, we've been friends for most of that time. Up until recently - it got quite heated. Quite vitriolic, but I will tell you this in the aftermath of Bill de Blasio, who has single-handedly destroyed the city that we love, I am pledging my support to the new Mayor Eric Adams because we're all gonna have to coalesce together in harmony and solidarity if we're going to save the city that we love," Sliwa said.
He ran a campaign punctuated by his penchant for stunts and his signature red beret, part of the Guardian Angels uniform.
Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, dismissed Sliwa as a clown and painted him as untrustworthy for having admitted he made up claims years ago about being kidnapped and of other exploits from the Guardian Angels' patrols.
Sliwa, in turn, portrayed Adams as an out-of-touch elitist who needed to spend more time in the streets with regular New Yorkers.
Carrying a photo of his late mother, Adams voted Tuesday morning in Brooklyn. He teared up as he portrayed his life as a New York story, taking him from a poor childhood to potential leader of the nation's most populous city.
"This is is an amazing day, to reach this point," Adams said. "Back in 1977, my mom brought me into that polling place. Every little boy or little girl who was ever told they'll never amount to anything - every child with a learning disability, every inmate sitting in Rikers, every dishwasher, every child in a homeless shelter - this is for all of you. I only have three words: I am you."
Adams will inherit the big challenge of bringing the city back from the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 34,500 New Yorkers and is still infecting hundreds every day.
Voters in Manhattan also elected a new district attorney.
Progressive Alvin Bragg defeated Republican Thomas Kenniff. He has promised to reduce prosecutions on some crimes like gun possession.
WATCH | Curtis Sliwa gives concession speech
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)
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