Why Adams’s Campaign Strategy Involves Burger King and Baptisms at Rikers

Mayor Eric Adams keeps finding eye-catching ways to seize the spotlight on the issue of public safety, even when the narrative turns against him.

It was the day after a New York City police officer had been fatally shot in the line of duty and a man killed after being shoved onto the subway tracks, and Mayor Eric Adams had reached the end of a somber hourlong news conference.

He had spoken emotionally about the loss of the officer; blamed the two deaths on a system that he said left the city vulnerable to the effects of recidivism and mental illness; and sought to counter the narrative that New York had descended into chaos.

And now it was time for Burger King.

“Give me those two pictures from Burger King,” the mayor commanded, launching into an explanation for a recent unannounced visit to an outpost of the fast-food chain in Lower Manhattan that has attracted complaints for drug dealing. After some research and face-to-face conversations there, Mr. Adams concluded the complaints were unwarranted.

“I did something revolutionary,” he said. “I went to talk to them and said, ‘Who are you?’”

Earlier that morning, Mr. Adams had visited Rikers Island for another closed-press drop-in, and watched the baptisms of several detainees. Three days later, he returned to Rikers for his own rebaptism, with the Rev. Al Sharpton doing the honors that included a thorough washing of the mayor’s feet.

The visits were part of the mayor’s unorthodox messaging strategy as he prepares to run for re-election next year, and faces what seems likely to be a contested Democratic primary.

Many of Mr. Adams’s events seem to be rooted in political theater or old-time religion, and sometimes a combination of both: the baptism at Rikers; the drop-in at Burger King; accompanying the police on an early-morning raid targeting a major robbery ring. On Wednesday, he announced a “Five-Borough Multifaith Tour,” a series of conversations with clergy and faith leaders.

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