N.Y.C. Mayoral Debate: Highlights and Analysis

Many sites in New York are named after people who owned slaves, a fact the candidates said they wished to change.

All five leading candidates for mayor agreed on Thursday night that New York City should consider renaming sites named for slaveholders.

“Many people are surprised to learn a number of iconic places in our city are named after individuals who held people as slaves,” said Maurice DuBois, one of the event’s moderators. “Should New Yorkers have to live on streets or go to schools or buildings named for slave holders or should those names be changed?”

Mr. DuBois referred to people like Peter Stuyvesant, a director-general of New Netherland who owned slaves. A large apartment complex on Manhattan’s East Side is named for him. Rikers Island, which houses New York City’s main jail complex, is named for Richard Riker, who sent Black Americans into slavery.

Each of the five candidates agreed that New York City should revisit such names.

“We should not honor people that have had an abusive past,” said Eric Adams, Brooklyn’s borough president.

Maya Wiley, a civil rights advocate who went on to serve as counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio, said that symbols mattered and these places should be renamed, but that it was also important to ensure that all of communities of color “finally get the attention, the investments and the change that they deserve.”

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Scott Stringer was criticized for releasing an audit this week targeting the emergency food program established by Kathryn Garcia.

It was a series of escalating attacks over ethics, corruption and trash collection.

About halfway through the debate, Maya Wiley, a former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio, was asked by a moderator about her role in the “agents of the city” controversy, when she argued unsuccessfully in 2016 that Mr. de Blasio’s emails with outside advisers should be private.

Ms. Wiley said that she had performed the role of a lawyer advising her client but that her client, Mr. de Blasio, made his own decisions. Then, she vowed, as she has before, that her administration would be more transparent than her former boss’s.

Scott M. Stringer, the city comptroller, pounced, saying that Ms. Wiley had been involved in covering up corruption in Mr. de Blasio’s administration and shielding records from public view.

“The redaction and the cover-up was probably worse than the potential crime,” he said.

Ms. Wiley sought to deflect the criticism by accusing Mr. Stringer of corruption, criticizing him for releasing an audit this week targeting the emergency food program established by Kathryn Garcia.

Mr. Stringer and his office have said that their audit began last July, a claim he repeated tonight. He did not explain why his report was not released until two weeks before the primary, at a time when Ms. Garcia’s campaign has gained steam and Mr. Stringer’s has stumbled.

That brought Ms. Garcia, who had largely stayed out of the sparring in previous debates, into the fray.

“If you started the audit in July and you just released it now,” she scoffed, “there’s no politics involved?”

The discussion of audits prompted the debate moderators to ask Ms. Garcia about her record as sanitation commissioner, which has come under increasing scrutiny as she has emerged as a leading contender.

When asked about a state report that found that the sanitation department had not kept city street’s consistently cleans, she dismissed it.

“As I have said consistently, the Department of Sanitation has made the city cleaner under my watch,” Ms. Garcia said.

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That’s it. The one-hour debate is over. It was less chaotic than previous debates, and the candidates were able to show some clear differences between them.

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Last question: one word to describe yourself. Maya Wiley: “silly.” Eric Adams: “workaholic.” Scott Stringer: “comeback kid.” Kathryn Garcia: “fixer.” Andrew Yang: “determined.”

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Moderators ask which superpower candidates would prefer: to fly or to be invisible. All said they would like to fly. It would have been odd for candidates seeking to assume one of the most visible elected positions in the nation to say they’d like to be invisible.

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Andrew Yang says he would be flexible on timing of congestion pricing while other candidates say that it is needed now

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Kathryn Garcia, who has won support from transit advocates, says congestion pricing should start now. “We are not suffering from a lack of cars in Midtown,” she says.

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The candidates had a range of responses when asked about second-hand smoke from marijuana.

With marijuana now legal in New York and people lighting up in public with impunity, the candidates were asked what they would do to protect people from the effects of secondhand smoke.

Eric Adams, who seems to have a first-person story of struggle for every social issue that comes up in the race, recalled that as a child, his father smoked often and said he was “concerned about the marijuana laws altogether.”

He said, “We should make sure we regulate where the smoking is taking place, particularly apartment buildings where people live.”

Andrew Yang said he would “designate particular areas particularly in large apartment buildings that are appropriate for smoking marijuana, and not.”

Maya Wiley said she would treat marijuana like tobacco. “In the places where we are protecting public health from secondhand smoking, we will continue to do that,” she said. “There’s really no reason to distinguish between a cigarette that is a marijuana cigarette and a cigarette that is not a marijuana cigarette.”

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Kathryn Garcia just made the key connection between transportation and fighting climate change and pollution. She turned the discussion of bike lanes and bike licensing toward the need for a holistic plan to make better, more equitable use of open space — from parks to streets and natural areas — throughout the city. She would create an office of open space to coordinate that multifaceted issue.

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Andrew Yang brings up noise pollution by dirt bikes and all terrain vehicles — an issue Eric Adams has focused on. Yang says the city needs to enforce traffic laws to stop the vehicles from overtaking the streets.

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Andrew Yang, who has biked with his children to school, says he received a ticket for not riding in a bike lane.

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Maurice DuBois, who is Black, asks if New York City should still have places, like Stuyvesant Town, named after slaveholders. Scott Stringer, Eric Adams, Andrew Yang, Maya Wiley and Kathryn Garcia all agree that the names should be changed. “We should not honor people that have had an abusive past,” Adams says.

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Andrew Yang going back at frontrunner Eric Adams once again, summarizing his argument for becoming mayor as: “I used to be a cop 20 years ago, I should be mayor.” Adams strikes back saying that Yang has not been as involved in civic life as he has.

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Eric Adams is asked about gun violence in North Brooklyn, an area of the borough that notoriously has some of the highest gun violence rates in the city. It houses neighborhoods like East New York and Brownsville, Black and Latino neighborhoods where distrust of the police is high, and much of the work to combat gun violence has fallen to community groups and volunteers.

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Oddly, a moderator asks Eric Adams “Why haven’t you been able to reduce crime in your own backyard?” The question ignores the fact that borough presidency is a largely ceremonial role. The mayor controls the NYPD, as Adams notes in his response.

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Kathryn Garcia is showing up much more strongly in this debate than the last. She fiercely defends the job she did as sanitation commissioner, talked about her diverse family, criticized Scott Stringer for what she saw as an unfair audit and mentioned her endorsements.

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Maya Wiley and Kathryn Garcia, the two leading female candidates, team up to criticize Scott Stringer, who released an audit recently on Garcia’s tenure at the sanitation department — an audit they said was timed to hurt her politically.

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Maya Wiley and Scott Stringer are going at it, accusing each other of abusing the power of city positions they held. Both are competing for progressive votes, with Stringer seeking to revive his campaign following sexual misconduct allegations.

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Debate moderators are digging into criticisms of each candidate. Andrew Yang is asked about whether he would travel to his second home outside the city; Scott Stringer is asked about sexual abuse allegations and Maya Wiley is asked about decisions she made while counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

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Scott Stringer attacks Maya Wiley. He accuses of her being central to two corruption scandals in the de Blasio administration. Wiley pushes back and says Stringer has used his office to perform audits in his personal interest.

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Scott Stringer inaccurately says he was misquoted by The New York Times in a report about a second allegation of making unwanted sexual advances decades ago. He was not misquoted. In response to the accuser’s description of an unprofessional work environment at a bar he co-owned, he said: “Uptown Local was a long-ago chapter in my life from the early 1990s and it was all a bit of a mess.” Here’s the story: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/06/04/nyregion/scott-stringer-teresa-logan-sexual-misconduct.html

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Scott Stringer taking his turn on the hot seat as moderator Marcia Kramer presses him on a second allegation of sexual abuse. Stringer denies the charges, which he says are 20 and 30 years old and urges voters to  “look at my 30-year record of service.”

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Andrew Yang, asked if he’d take a police detail to his second home in New Paltz as mayor, says he doesn’t expect to leave the city for a single day in his first term. He’ll be in the city “grinding away,” he says. “New Yorkers are going to be sick of me.”

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Maya Wiley responded to the question by saying she was “not prepared to make that decision in a debate.”

Policing has been a major issue during the mayoral campaign, and it came up early in tonight’s debate, when Maurice DuBois asked candidates if they would move to take away guns from the city’s police officers.

None of the candidates seemed particularly enthusiastic about doing so: four of them — Kathryn Garcia, Andrew Yang, Scott M. Stringer and Eric Adams — said unequivocally that they would not.

Maya Wiley, who has sought to become the left’s standard-bearer and has made police reform a central tenet of her campaign, was the exception. She deferred, saying she was “not prepared to make that decision in a debate.”

Mr. Stringer, who has also courted support from left-leaning voters, was more direct, saying he would not take guns away from the police. But he acknowledged that violent crime in the city was rising, saying that when he grew up in the city, the “A train was a rolling crime scene,” a scenario he hoped to avert.

Mr. Adams, a former police officer, jumped off the imagery, invoking overnight shifts when he was on the transit beat.

“I will never forget riding the subway from 8:00 at night until 4:00 in the morning,” he said. “A woman on the train had a knife trying to stab someone, swinging wildly. I had to make a decision, do I draw my firearm with other passengers, or do I take action?”

Instead, he said, he wanted to see better training for police officers.

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This debate is so far more orderly than the last one. Marcia Kramer, one of the moderators, has done a formidable job interjecting and pressing the candidates to answer the questions.

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In defending New York State’s legalization of marijuana, both Maya Wiley and Kathryn Garcia correctly point out that the vast majority of the people the Police Department arrests for marijuana-related offenses are people of color.

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The topic turns to marijuana, which was recently legalized in New York. Eric Adams says it’s important to regulate where the drug can be smoked. Currently, it can be smoked wherever tobacco is allowed, but the city has the option to implement additional regulations designating where it can and cannot be smoked.

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Eric Adams, burnishing his law enforcement profile, says that he’s “concerned about the marijuana laws altogether,” and supports restrictions on second-hand marijuana smoke.

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“He spent months attacking me for not being a New Yorker,” Andrew Yang said of Eric Adams. “Meanwhile, he was attacking me from New Jersey.”

The debate moderators wasted no time delving into the left-field issue that has dominated the mayoral race this week: Does Eric Adams, who has been one of the front-runners all spring, even live in the city he hopes to govern?

The candidates were happy to pile on to Mr. Adams, to varying degrees, though after they got their shots in, the debate settled down considerably.

Andrew Yang, who has faced criticism for having spent much of the pandemic at a second home north of the city, dove in like he’d been waiting to be asked the question all day.

“I want to reflect on the oddness and the bizarreness of where we are in this race right now, where Eric is literally trying to convince New Yorkers where he lives and that he lives in this basement,” Mr. Yang said. “He spent months attacking me for not being a New Yorker. Meanwhile, he was attacking me from New Jersey.”

The other candidates were more circumspect. Maya Wiley and Scott Stringer said that they were not overly concerned with where Mr. Adams lays his head as much as they were with his policies and whether he was being honest with New Yorkers.

“It is absolutely clear New Yorkers want a mayor that is fully forthcoming and honest,” Ms. Wiley said. Mr. Stringer, after wisecracking that “the only time I go to New Jersey is by accident,” turned the conversation back to his own experience in governing. “We need a mayor that will not rely on training wheels when they get to City Hall,” said Mr. Stringer, the city comptroller.

Kathryn Garcia, similarly, said what mattered to New Yorkers was a mayor who “will be able to deliver on their affordable housing promises.”

Mr. Adams himself tried to put the matter to rest, using the word “Brooklyn” six times in about 30 seconds. “I live in Brooklyn,” he said with a broad smile. “I am happy to be there.”

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Maya Wiley has been one of the fiercest critics of Gov. Andrew Cuomo and called on him to resign in response to allegations of sexual misconduct. She says she would work with the governor by organizing constituencies to put pressure on him.

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In discussing his potential relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Andrew Yang says that the rest of the state needs New York City, given that it drives a significant share of the state’s economy. The rest of the state has rebounded better than the city so far. The unemployment rate in the city is 11.4 percent — about double what it is in the rest of the state.

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Since we’re talking about the governor: Last week, he said several times that he thought crime and public safety were the most important issues in the mayor’s race.

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Eric Adams says he’s going to put his ego aside and work with Gov. Andrew Cuomo for “team New York.” Andrew Yang says he has had “a number of calls” with the governor and touts his friendship with Cuomo’s brother, the CNN host Chris Cuomo.

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The candidates are asked how they would work with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has a knack for feuding with Mayor Bill de Blasio and overruling city decisions. “Nobody in Albany, when I’m mayor, will steal my lunch money,” Scott Stringer says.

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Maya Wiley says Justin Wallace, a 10-year-old boy who was fatally shot, did not die because the city didn’t have enough police officers. His death shows the need for “trauma-informed care,” she says.

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Eric Adams decided to attend the debate and not go to the vigil for Justin Wallace, a 10-year-old fatally shot in Queens, because he felt that “attempts to politicize the memorial would be a painful distraction.” Andrew Yang’s co-campaign manager had accused Adams of trying to avoid the debate stage.

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The tone of this debate is much more calm than the last debate, where the candidates were talking over one another and ignoring the calls of moderators to stop speaking. Even the initial debate over Eric Adams’s residency was relatively calm compared with the frenetic opening hour of the last debate.

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The plainclothes police unit Eric Adams has proposed bringing back was disbanded last year by the police commissioner, who said the unit — which was routinely criticized for aggressive tactics and excessive force — contributed to distrust between the police and communities.

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Fifteen minutes into the debate, the questions have so far focused on whether Eric Adams lives in New York, the campaign topic of the week, and public safety, an issue that has defined the campaign for months now.

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Maya Wiley continues to bank on the notion that at a time of rising shootings, New Yorkers want fewer cops, not more.

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Eric Adams has called for the return of the plainclothes police unit whose goal is to get guns off the street. He has also said stop-and-frisk is a tool that can be used legally and effectively. Maya Wiley has hammered at Adams over those points in the last few weeks.

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In a repeat of the last debate, Andrew Yang says that as mayor, he would embark on a “massive recruitment drive for new police officers.”

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For now, Eric Adams’ residency question is coming down to perceptions: Is he evasive, ethically challenged? Or do his paperwork problems and late nights add up to something more ordinary and relatable, the eccentric habits of a man with a life devoted to work and politics and overflowing, like so many other people’s, with conflicting commitments to professional, personal and family life?

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The possibility raised by his Democratic rivals that Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, lives in New Jersey, and not in Brooklyn as he has maintained, raises the issue of whether he is legally eligible to become New York City’s next mayor.

The law seems to say: Yes he can.

For one, even if he did live in New Jersey, state law only says that he has to be living in New York City on Election Day in November, according to the state’s board of elections.

It’s not disputed that Mr. Adams owns a multiunit townhouse on Lafayette Avenue, in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, which he says is his primary residence; the focus of the news media’s recent interest is how many days and nights he spends there, versus at a property he owns in New Jersey.

The text of the state law governing residency states that “residence” means a “place where a person maintains a fixed, permanent and principal home and to which he, wherever temporarily located, always intends to return.” Election law experts said courts have generally been generous in interpreting what residency means for candidates.

Courts have typically allowed candidates to have two residences, and they can select one as their “political home,” said Martin Connor, an election lawyer who was a state senator for 30 years until 2008.

Mr. Connor said courts have at times allowed people to claim a place as their residence even if they stay there only two nights a week. He said that Mr. Adams staying with his girlfriend in New Jersey “doesn’t obviate his Brooklyn residence.”

“Usually you’re OK if you got an apartment, you got a bed, you got a refrigerator, particularly if you own the building,” he said.

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Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, had a long career with the police department before moving into politics.
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Eric Adams is among the most politically seasoned candidates in the race: Before being elected to his current job as Brooklyn borough president, he was a state senator. He began his career in the Police Department, rising to captain while pushing for reform as a result of his own experience being beaten by officers as a teenager.

Mr. Adams, 60, has run as a political moderate, opposing calls to defund the police while proposing to publicly identify officers whom the Police Department is monitoring for bad behavior. Other elements of his platform include giving New Yorkers a real-time ratings for how government agencies perform, appointing an “efficiency czar” and using drones to perform building inspections.

Some of Mr. Adams’s critics claim that he is too cozy with real estate interests, and they have noted that he was a registered Republican from 1995 to 2002.

He has also faced several ethics investigations, including one that found he violated conflict-of-interest rules by soliciting money for a nonprofit organization he controls from donors who had business with the city.

Leading up to the debate, Mr. Adams has faced questions about whether he lives part-time in New Jersey, with rivals linking the issue to other questions about his transparency, as well as to a previous report that he failed to list rental income on his tax returns.

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Scott Stringer, the city comptroller, has cast himself as a progressive candidate with deep management experience.
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Scott M. Stringer, the city comptroller, has worked in and around politics and government for decades. He served on a community planning board as a teenager and rose steadily through New York City’s Democratic ranks from there.

He was a district leader, a state assemblyman and the Manhattan borough president before defeating former Gov. Eliot Spitzer in the 2013 Democratic primary on the way to becoming comptroller.

Mr. Stringer, 61, has cast himself as both a progressive candidate and a seasoned government veteran who is prepared to “manage the hell out of the city” from his first day as mayor.

His bid has been complicated by two allegations of unwanted sexual advances from decades ago, both of which he has denied. A number of progressive officials who had endorsed him no longer do, but he has retained some support from labor groups, most notably the teachers’ union.

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Kathryn Garcia, the former sanitation commissioner, has developed a reputation as a problem solver and crisis manager.
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Kathryn Garcia was one of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s senior cabinet members until last fall, when she left her job as sanitation commissioner to prepare for her campaign for mayor.

Ms. Garcia, 51, has never sought elected office before, but she has an extensive city government résumé and developed a reputation as a go-to problem solver during crises. She has campaigned on that experience and her knowledge, hoping it would resonate voters.

After flying under the radar, Ms. Garcia’s campaign began to pick up steam in recent weeks, particularly after endorsements from the editorial boards of The New York Times and The Daily News.

The wider name recognition has brought more attention to her policy positions and track record at the Sanitation Department, where she oversaw vast programs that are vital to making New York function, including trash collection and snow removal.

But as she has gained more support, she has also faced attacks from her rivals that were absent during the earlier phases of the campaign.

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Maya Wiley is a civil rights lawyer who says her “New Deal New York” plan would create 10,000 affordable housing units and 100,000 jobs.
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Maya D. Wiley is a civil rights lawyer and former MSNBC analyst who was counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio and chair of the Civilian Complaint Review Board during his first term.

As a candidate, she has promoted a $10 billion “New Deal New York” plan that she says would create 100,000 jobs, finance public works and climate-related projects, create 10,000 affordable housing units and pay for the hiring of 2,500 new teachers.

Ms. Wiley, 57, has also pledged to redirect money from the Police Department to community-based groups to tailor their own violence-prevention programs, and to hire a civilian as police commissioner.

She has attracted support from liberal groups and in recent weeks has picked up a number of endorsements from progressive lawmakers and organizations, particularly as other left-leaning candidates have stumbled.

But Ms. Wiley has also been criticized for her stewardship of the review board, a police-oversight agency that some people have said became too secretive in its disciplinary procedures on her watch.

Ms. Wiley has also come under fire for creating a special designation — “agents of the city” — for Mr. de Blasio’s outside advisers during her tenure as counsel. The designation allowed the mayor for a time to keep his communications with those advisers confidential.

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Andrew Yang has cast himself as an optimistic cheerleader for New York’s recovery, though his tone has shifted somewhat in recent weeks.
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Andrew Yang, who has a background in nonprofit management, rose to prominence last year as a presidential candidate with a platform that focused on providing a universal basic income to Americans.

Although he ranked low in the polls, Mr. Yang, 46, outlasted several candidates with more political experience. He ended the race with high name recognition and a national profile.

Before running for president, Mr. Yang had a mixed record as an entrepreneur. He has also been criticized for his lack of involvement in city politics before this year’s race — he has never voted in a mayoral election — and for his reliance on an outside consulting firm with ties to former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Mr. Yang has positioned himself as New York City’s chief cheerleader, running for mayor as an optimistic government outsider. As the race has entered its final weeks, he has occasionally painted a darker picture of the city, in part to convince residents not to vote for contenders that he casts as status quo operators.

Mr. Yang has also sought to portray himself as the anti-poverty candidate, drawing from his presidential campaign’s best-known idea to propose giving about $2,000 a year to the poorest New Yorkers.

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Supporters rallied outside the CBS Broadcast Center before the debate.
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Because of pandemic-related rules, tonight’s debate will not have an audience. But that didn’t keep a swarm of shouting, sign-waving supporters from gathering outside the CBS Broadcast Center in Manhattan as the candidates arrived this afternoon.

Dozens of people supporting Andrew Yang dominated the sidewalk east of the studio, but Eric Adams had backers in roughly equal numbers spilling onto 57th Street, much to the visible concern of police officers trying to keep the street clear. A mix of supporters for Maya Wiley, Scott M. Stringer and Kathryn Garcia massed on the curb across the street from the entrance.

Mr. Yang’s supporters were blasting a recording of “Yang For NY,” a campaign recorded by MC Jin. Mr. Adams’s camp had a customized campaign song of its own, with a rapid-fire beat and a refrain in Spanish: “Sí se puede.”

“This is the biggest pre-debate rally I’ve seen,” said Bryan Clampitt, 58, a Chelsea resident who is backing Ms. Wiley. He attributed the energy outside the studio to a tightening race. “I think it’s about momentum,” he said.

Mr. Adams, who was the last of the five candidates to commit to participating in the debate, was also the final one to arrive. Smiling, he slowly made his way through a throng of demonstrators, including a number of Mr. Yang’s supporters who were chanting, “The status quo has got to go!”

Mr. Yang has sought to himself as a candidate of change, urging voters to choose him over his rivals, all of whom he said would preserve politics as usual. He arrived at the debate a few minutes before Mr. Adams, walking west on 57th Street toward his admirers, who surrounded him and handed him a microphone and a bullhorn.

Mr. Yang, to cheers, promised to “turn the page on the politics of the past” and to lead “a government that works for the people of this city.”

As he finished speaking, Ms. Garcia made a comparatively quiet entrance, gliding through the front door of the studio.

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Marcia Kramer is the chief political correspondent for CBS.
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The moderators of tonight’s debate on WCBS-TV are, appropriately enough, two of the station’s broadcast journalists: Marcia Kramer and Maurice DuBois.

Ms. Kramer, the channel’s chief political correspondent, has been a political journalist in New York for decades. Before jumping to WCBS in 1990, she covered Albany and City Hall for The New York Daily News.

Ms. Kramer has been known for asking direct questions of elected officials and politicians. Notably, in 1992, she asked then-candidate Bill Clinton about his marijuana use, prompting his famous comment that he “did not inhale.”

She would later moderate a debate with Hillary Clinton during her successful 2000 bid for U.S. Senate, and she has questioned candidates in debates in past races for governor and mayor.

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Mr. DuBois, an anchor for WCBS-TV’s 5 p.m. and 11 p.m. newscasts, has been a broadcast journalist in New York since 1997. He has covered past national political conventions in addition to more local races.

Along with Ms. Kramer, Mr. DuBois moderated a heated 2018 debate during the Democratic primary for governor between Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Cynthia Nixon.

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Shaun Donovan, the former federal housing secretary, is one of three Democratic candidates who has participated in previous debates but won’t be on stage tonight.
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The debate tonight will feature only five leading Democrats running for mayor: Eric Adams, Kathryn Garcia, Scott M. Stringer, Maya D. Wiley and Andrew Yang.

Mr. Adams had initially said he would not attend the debate, but changed his mind on Thursday.

Several other candidates who have appeared in other debates were not invited: Shaun Donovan, the former federal housing secretary; Raymond J. McGuire, a former Wall Street executive; and Dianne Morales, a former nonprofit executive.

Mike Nelson, a spokesman for CBS, said the hosts wanted to feature only the leading contenders and the decision was based on polling and the number of small-dollar contributions each candidate has.

Mr. Donovan’s campaign was upset that he did not receive an invite.

“It’s outrageous that CBS would put their thumb so heavily on the scale during a democratic election,” his campaign manager, Brendan McPhillips, said in a statement. “Not only have they failed to reach out to all of the candidates, they won’t even share the criteria for their arbitrary decision.”

The most recent polls have showed Mr. Adams in front, with Ms. Wiley, Mr. Yang and Ms. Garcia not far behind. Support for Mr. Stringer, the city comptroller, has fallen after he was accused of sexual misconduct by two women.

Mr. Donovan, Mr. McGuire and Ms. Morales were all at roughly 5 percent or less in recent polls. Mr. Donovan and Mr. McGuire have failed to take off as candidates despite raising large amounts of money. Ms. Morales has faced growing problems with her campaign staff.

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Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, reversed course on Thursday and said he would debate four of his rivals.
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In an effort to avoid a potentially “painful distraction” for the family of a slain child, Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, on Thursday reversed course and said he would in fact be participating in tonight’s debate.

In a two-part Twitter thread, Mr. Adams decried his opponents’ attempts to “politicize” a vigil for Justin Wallace, 10, who was killed last week in Rockaway, Queens, that Mr. Adams had been planning to attend in lieu of the CBS debate. Mr. Adams said that after speaking with a representative for the Wallace family, he had decided to skip the vigil and “continue to work with the family to bring an end to gun violence.”

Justin, who was just days shy of his 11th birthday, was shot and killed while opening the door to his aunt’s house. The police charged a suspect with murder on Tuesday, the same day that Justin had been planning to celebrate his birthday with a trip to an amusement park.

Various vigils had been planned for Justin this week, including one on Wednesday attended by three of Mr. Adams’s rivals, Andrew Yang, Maya D. Wiley, and Raymond J. McGuire, and another on Thursday organized by Justin’s school and written about in the Rockaway Times.

Mr. Yang had accused Mr. Adams of skipping the debate because he was afraid to answer tough questions, while one of Mr. Yang’s campaign managers claimed Mr. Adams had created his own vigil as an excuse to skip out on the debate.

Donovan Richards, the Queens borough president and a former councilman from Rockaway who has endorsed Mr. Adams, erupted in anger when asked about Mr. Yang’s contention.

“Stop trying to score political points on the back of a 10-year-old boy who should have been graduating,” he said Thursday. “You can go back to your home and sleep at night, but at the end of the night, every person has to lay their head on a pillow, and their pillow sheets are drenched.”

Mr. Adams’ team had also pointed that he was already participating in all three debates required by the city’s Campaign Finance Board, and this is not one of them.

“Andrew Yang fled the city at its darkest moment, so he really shouldn’t be accusing others of hiding,” said Menashe Shapiro, one of Mr. Adams’ campaign aides, referencing the fact that Mr. Yang spent at least part of the pandemic at his house in New Paltz, N.Y.

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