Eric Adams and Curtis Sliwa Meet in N.Y.C. Mayoral Debate

Mr. Adams, the Democratic nominee, and Mr. Sliwa, his Republican opponent, face off in their first of two debates. Follow updates here.,

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:46 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:46 p.m. ET

Troy Closson

Many incidents of violence across the subway system have involved people with documented histories of “emotionally disturbed person” calls — but the city has struggled to address deeper mental health issues during the pandemic.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:46 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:46 p.m. ET

Grace Ashford

Sliwa says as mayor he would investigate ThriveNYC, the mental health organization run by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s wife. The organization set out to tackle substance abuse, depression and suicide, but has been dogged by questions over how it has spent hundreds of millions of dollars.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:45 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:45 p.m. ET

Andy Newman

Adams says he will help mentally ill homeless people by partnering with organizations like Fountain House and other supportive housing providers that have shown results in helping mentally ill homeless people find stability.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:44 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:44 p.m. ET

Michael Gold

Curtis Sliwa, when asked what he would do to fix the city’s mental health system, doesn’t really offer specifics but says he will get people into mental-health facilities to get treatment they need. But he promises to investigate ThriveNYC, the mental health effort run by the current mayor’s wife.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:43 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:43 p.m. ET

Dana Rubinstein

Eric Adams has said that the day after he takes office, he will fly to Florida and implore New York businesses to come home. Curtis Sliwa has other plans. On his second day in office, he says he would move into the warden’s house on Rikers Island, and stay there until the situation at the jail complex improves.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:43 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:43 p.m. ET

Jeff Mays

Curtis Sliwa calls Eric Adams Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “ally” as he criticizes the mayor for waiting so long to visit Rikers Island as it descended into chaos.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:42 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:42 p.m. ET

Troy Closson

City officials have proposed closing the Rikers Island jail complex by 2026 — and Eric Adams agrees that it should be closed, without addressing that specific timeline, viewed by many as potentially challenging.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:42 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:42 p.m. ET

Nicholas Fandos

Questions earlier about where Eric Adams lives and vacations stem in large part from the fundamental lack of transparency that has surrounded his campaign. As the mayoral front-runner, he has declined to release a public schedule on many days.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:40 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:40 p.m. ET

Anne Barnard

Eric Adams says basement apartments should be brought up to code to prevent deaths like those of people who drowned in illegal apartments during the post-Ida floods. Curtis Sliwa notes correctly that it’s difficult to get owners to do that, and adds a dig that Adams has a possibly illegal conversion in his Brooklyn townhouse.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:39 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:39 p.m. ET

Andy Newman

The candidates are asked about how they will make illegal basement apartments — where many people died during the Ida floods — legal and safe, as they are an essential source of cheap housing. Eric Adams says the city should allocate money for the apartments to be renovated.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:39 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:39 p.m. ET
As questions swirled over his residency earlier this year, Eric Adams gave a media tour of a ground-floor apartment in Brooklyn where he said he lives most of the time.Credit…Dave Sanders for The New York Times

Throughout the race, there has been a significant degree of confusion surrounding the question of where Eric Adams resides.

Given the confusion surrounding his residency, and how he accounts for his real estate on his tax returns, a moderator asked Mr. Adams how the electorate could trust him.

Mr. Adams said, as he has in the past, that he takes responsibility for omissions on his tax returns, and then blamed his accountant, who he said was homeless.

“He went through real trauma,” Mr. Adams said of his accountant. “And I’m not a hypocrite, I wanted to still give him the support that he needed.”

Mr. Adams also insisted, again, that his primary residence is in Brooklyn.

Mr. Adams owns a multi-unit townhouse in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn in which he says he keeps an apartment. In one of the more bizarre moments of the mayoral primary, he gave a media tour of that apartment, with reporters observing non-vegan food items apparently belonging to Mr. Adams’s son. (Mr. Adams has been a vegan for years.)

But Mr. Adams also co-owns a co-op in Fort Lee, N.J., with his partner, and he has said that he moved into Brooklyn Borough Hall for a time after the pandemic arrived. During the primary, Politico New York reported that Mr. Adams used conflicting addresses in public records and that he was still spending nights at Borough Hall.

He has had to refile his tax returns in part because of irregularities concerning his residency, the news outlet The City reported. The outlet also reported that the city is seeking to inspect his Brooklyn residence following an allegation of an illegal apartment conversion on the property. His campaign has said he intended to rectify those issues, though the complaint remains active.

Mr. Sliwa recently led a journey from Manhattan to Fort Lee “to find out where Eric Adams really lives.”

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:38 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:38 p.m. ET

Michael Gold

Though as Eric Adams pointed out, the flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Ida had little to do with sea walls, which protect low-lying coastal areas. Flooding occurred across the city.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:37 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:37 p.m. ET

Anne Barnard

“We were caught off guard” by flash floods, Eric Adams says, and says he would improve warning systems and flood resiliency. He’s got a detailed plan for fixing flood protections. Sliwa says the city needs to build sea walls, designate flood zones and clean sewers and drains more regularly.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:37 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:37 p.m. ET
The high-stakes test, which is typically administered in January, has helped create a cottage industry of test preparation for young children in New York City.Credit…Marian Carrasquero/The New York Times

The most pressing question on gifted and talented education for both candidates is whether they would continue the use of the widely criticized admissions exam for incoming elementary school students, which Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would permanently end.

But it will be up to the next mayor to decide whether or how to use that exam, which is given to 4-year-olds against the advice of many proponents of gifted education.

The high-stakes test, which is typically administered in January, has helped create a cottage industry of test preparation for young children in New York City.

The city’s advisory school board rejected the contract for that exam earlier this year, leaving Mr. de Blasio, who has sharply criticized the test, without a clear admissions system.

Both Mr. Adams and Mr. Sliwa have said they would keep the gifted program in place, but they have not provided details on whether they will continue administering the test, overhaul it or replace it with some other form of screening.

During the debate on Wednesday, Mr. Adams said that the city should re-examine the admissions exam, while making sure to expand opportunities for “accelerated learners, make sure it is in every district in our city and every ZIP code.”

“I made it clear that we need to look at that exam,” he said “I don’t believe a four-year-old taking the exam should determine the rest of their school experience. That is unacceptable.”

Mr. Sliwa also reiterated his support for expanding the gifted program to all schools, noting that his son was one of thousands of students who took the test and “lost out.”

“We seem to be taking it out on Asian families and Southeast Asian families because they’re doing so well,” Mr. Sliwa said. “We need to expand gifted and talented so it is in all schools, even if only three or two children qualify.”

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:35 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:35 p.m. ET

Jeff Mays

One of the strangest elements surrounding Eric Adams’s incorrectly filed taxes is that he says his tax preparer has been homeless for multiple years.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:34 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:34 p.m. ET

Emma Fitzsimmons

Eric Adams refuses to say how many nights he has slept in his Brooklyn apartment in the last six months. He says he spends time in Brooklyn Borough Hall as well.

Credit…WNBC-TV and the New York City Campaign Finance Board
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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:34 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:34 p.m. ET

Andy Newman

On the question of where Eric Adams really lives that has dogged his candidacy, he once again blames his accountant for putting a wrong number on a return.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:33 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:33 p.m. ET

Anne Barnard

In one of the candidates’ sharpest disagreements, Eric Adams says New York should remain a “sanctuary city” limiting cooperation with federal immigration authorities. Curtis Sliwa says it should not and rattles off a list of gangs that he says immigration authorities are hunting.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:32 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:32 p.m. ET

Michael Gold

Shoutout to “the TikTok girls,” who if you’re not in Gen-Z or glued to your phone, are Charli and Dixie D’Amelio.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:31 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:31 p.m. ET

Michael Gold

Neither candidate takes the bait when asked who would have their support in the race for governor next year.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:30 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:30 p.m. ET

Emma Fitzsimmons

Eric Adams complains that Curtis Sliwa isn’t following the debate rules and says he keeps interrupting: “Can he please adhere to the rules?”

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:30 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:30 p.m. ET

Nicholas Fandos

Almost halfway into this debate, Eric Adams is largely sticking to clipped answers and avoiding rebuttal. He does not want to tangle with a candidate running so far behind him. Curtis Sliwa is trying to cut in as often as he can and, so far unsuccessfully, pull Adams into extended direct confrontations.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:30 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:30 p.m. ET

Michael Gold

Curtis Sliwa wants city public schools to have a shorter summer break. Eric Adams wants more classroom time, whether that means longer hours during the week or a shorter summer break.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:29 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:29 p.m. ET

Emma Fitzsimmons

In response to a question about the gifted and talented program, Eric Adams talks about growing up with an undiagnosed learning disability and reiterates his support for universal dyslexia screenings for students.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:29 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:29 p.m. ET

Anne Barnard

Curtis Sliwa says gifted and talented programs should be expanded. Adams says he will review the gifted and talented exam and doesn’t believe children’s educational path should be set by a test they take at age 4.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:29 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:29 p.m. ET

Jeff Mays

Appearances are important. Curtis Sliwa has on his red Guardian Angels beret but Eric Adams is not wearing the earring he got after winning the primary. I can’t see if Adams has his meditation beads around his wrist.

Credit…WNBC-TV and the New York City Campaign Finance Board
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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:27 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:27 p.m. ET

Emma Fitzsimmons

Curtis Sliwa opposes a vaccine mandate for public school students. He notes that he has three sons in public schools, and he doesn’t want to give any parent a reason to keep their child home.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:26 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:26 p.m. ET

Anne Barnard

Eric Adams says he will “follow the science” in response to a question about his pledge to require Covid-19 vaccination for all public schoolchildren once vaccines are approved for children 5-11. He says he is “open to a remote option” for those whose parents refuse.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:25 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:25 p.m. ET

Matthew Haag

Curtis Sliwa calls for repurposing some office buildings in Manhattan for affordable housing, a unthinkable proposal a few years ago that has been endorsed by the Real Estate Board of New York, which represents large developers. But Mr. Sliwa brings up Hudson Yards, whose office buildings do have large tenants like Facebook and WarnerMedia.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:24 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:24 p.m. ET

Nicholas Fandos

Eric Adams is not just a technocrat. He is downright techy in his aspirations. He says the key to reviving the New York City economy will be fostering investment in tech companies, including drone development.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:24 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:24 p.m. ET

Matthew Haag

Eric Adams, asked about how to revitalize the city’s lagging economy, calls for eliminating some of the burdens and fines that small businesses face. “We are an unfriendly city for businesses,” he said.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:23 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:23 p.m. ET

Andy Newman

Eric Adams refuses to say whether he supports the city’s biggest municipal union’s opposition to mandated return to office for city employees. The union, DC37, has endorsed him. “They have a right to go to court as any other union should do,” is all he will say.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:21 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:21 p.m. ET

Jeff Mays

Eric Adams sees himself as a technocrat. One of his other major platforms aside from crime is making the city run better. Adams has spent time talking to another technocratic mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:20 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:20 p.m. ET

Anne Barnard

The candidates are competing to come off as the old-school “people’s candidate,” as Eric Adams’s slogan puts it. Both are well-known characters from 1980s-90s New York: Sliwa patrolling subways with the Guardian Angels, sometimes called vigilantes, and Adams speaking out against police brutality under Giuliani.

Credit…WNBC-TV and the New York City Campaign Finance Board
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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:19 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:19 p.m. ET

Michael Gold

A fight over outdoor dining structures that sprung up during the pandemic has emerged in some neighborhoods, where residents say they take up too much space. Eric Adams would allow them to remain in streets. Curtis Sliwa wants to “downsize” them.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:17 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:17 p.m. ET

Emma Fitzsimmons

Curtis Sliwa says he wants to keep the statue of Thomas Jefferson that’s on display at City Hall. Eric Adams says he believes that it should be removed.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:17 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:17 p.m. ET

Dana Rubinstein

Eric Adams contends he is not calling for aggressive policing, although his campaign for mayor was premised on the notion that only he could crack down on crime. Adams says he would instead rely on “precision” policing.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:17 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:17 p.m. ET

Jeff Mays

Asked recently about Curtis Sliwa’s criticism that his past remarks about carrying a gun served as a bad example to Black men, Eric Adams said that he has not carried a gun, although he is allowed to as a former police officer, in 15 years.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:15 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:15 p.m. ET

Nicholas Fandos

To an unusual degree, both candidates have built their campaign platforms around very personal experiences with crime and policing. That’s on clear display tonight as they vie over whose views on policing are more authentic. Eric Adams was abused by police before he became an officer. “I’ve put my life on the line,” Curtis Sliwa said, repeating that he’s been shot five times.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 7:14 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 7:14 p.m. ET

Anne Barnard

Just pondering: When was the last time both major-party candidates for New York mayor were born-and-bred working-class New Yorkers with impeccable New York accents? Indeed, both were born in Brooklyn: Sliwa in Canarsie, Adams in Brownsville (and grew up in South Jamaica, Queens).

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Oct. 20, 2021, 6:55 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 6:55 p.m. ET
Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

Curtis Sliwa, the Republican mayoral nominee, is unquestionably a long-shot candidate, given New York City’s overwhelmingly Democratic tilt, and the view among many political observers that he is a fundamentally unserious public figure.

While some New Yorkers remember him with fondness for his early work with the Guardian Angels, which he founded, or his ubiquitous news media appearances, Mr. Sliwa has also admitted to faking crimes for publicity. And on the campaign trail, he is perhaps best known for living in a 320-square-foot studio apartment with more than a dozen cats.

Mr. Sliwa will likely use the debate to highlight his central campaign themes, touching upon issues including public safety, animal welfare and confronting homelessness.

The debate presents a chance for Mr. Sliwa to surprise viewers with a sober-minded demeanor that matches the mood of an anxious city. But he is more likely to aggressively challenge the Democratic nominee, Eric Adams, on a variety of subjects, including questions of his residency.

Mr. Sliwa can also be a brawler onstage, as seen in his first major debate in the Republican primary against Fernando Mateo, where the men traded insults and continued to yell at each other, including while muted.

But even some political strategists were barely aware that the debate was occurring, suggesting that Mr. Sliwa will be able to do little to move the dial much with the general public.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 6:45 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 6:45 p.m. ET
Eric Adams, center, the Democratic nominee for mayor of New York City, is expected to avoid damaging exchanges with his long-shot opponent, Curtis Sliwa, in Wednesday’s debate.Credit…Hilary Swift for The New York Times

For Eric Adams, the Democratic mayoral nominee, the debate imperative is clear: Do no harm.

Given the overwhelming Democratic tilt of New York City, Mr. Adams heads into the matchup as the clear front-runner, and few political observers expect that there is much that could unfold in the debate that would meaningfully change that.

Still, it has been months since Mr. Adams found himself at the center of a debate-stage clash, and many Democrats believe he would be wise to stay above the fray no matter how much Curtis Sliwa, his Republican rival, seeks to provoke him.

Instead, the debate offers a chance for Mr. Adams to lay out his vision and emphasize unity before a city that last saw him in the midst of a crowded and contentious Democratic primary battle.

Mr. Adams is best known for his public safety plans, but the debate may also challenge him to offer details about how he would handle the many other problems New York City confronts.

More broadly, it will be a moment for Mr. Adams to show that he understands the mood of a city that is by turns optimistic about continued reopening, and deeply anxious about the lingering pandemic and its attendant health, educational and economic consequences.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 6:30 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 6:30 p.m. ET
David Ushery, an anchor for WNBC-TV.Credit…Hiroko Masuike for The New York Times

The four moderators for this evening’s debate have been asking questions of public figures for decades.

In fact, David Ushery, a news anchor for WNBC-TV in New York, has been interviewing prominent people since he was an 11-year-old host on “Kidsworld,” a news show where he interviewed Walter Cronkite. Mr. Ushery grew up near Hartford, Conn., and has written for the Hartford Courant and the Los Angeles Times.

Sally Goldenberg, the tireless City Hall bureau chief for Politico New York, got her first job in journalism in 2002, at New Jersey’s weekly Hillsborough Beacon, where she did the police blotter and covered school board meetings. Ms. Goldenberg recently broke the news that Mr. Adams — who had declined to say where he had gone on his post-primary European vacation — had vacationed in Monaco. She enjoys the Olympics and old-school R&B.

Melissa Russo, WNBC’s political and government affairs reporter, has covered four mayors and is known for her tough investigations of issues affecting children, which have focused on problems at the New York City Housing Authority and the Administration for Children’s Services. She likes photography and a capella music.

Allan Villafana, an anchor for Telemundo 47, was born in Puerto Rico, studied journalism at Ohio State University and spent time in Miami, where he worked as an anchor for Mega TV. An animal lover, he recently brought two dogs — Petunia Marie and Yoyo Jesus — to the blessing of the animals at Our Lady of Good Counsel Church in New Jersey on the feast day of St. Francis of Assisi.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 6:15 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 6:15 p.m. ET
Curtis Sliwa, the Republican candidate for mayor, is seldom seen without his red beret, a vestige from his days leading the Guardian Angels.Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times

There is more to Curtis Sliwa than his 16 cats and his famous red beret.

Mr. Sliwa, 67, has received more attention over his small army of rescue cats than anything else on the campaign trail, as he wages a long-shot bid as the Republican mayoral candidate.

But Mr. Sliwa has been a celebrity in New York City for decades.

He became famous in the 1980s for leading the Guardian Angels, a civilian crime-fighting group. He became a conservative radio host known for saying outrageous things. He survived a shooting that left him with five bullet wounds and testified at a federal trial against John A. Gotti, the Gambino crime family scion.

He got involved in politics, and led the Reform Party of New York State; in 2018, the last statewide election, the Reform Party drew the fewest votes for governor among 10 parties on the ballot. He became a Republican last year and decided to run for mayor, winning a bitter primary in June against his longtime friend Fernando Mateo, a restaurateur.

Mr. Sliwa has focused on a law-and-order message, and he has criticized former President Donald J. Trump and said that he did not vote for Mr. Trump in 2016 or 2020.

He acknowledges that there have been few parallels to his campaign.

“Who at the age of 67 is running around wearing a red beret and a red satin jacket and going out there like a crime fighter and a superhero from our days reading comic books?” Mr. Sliwa told The New York Times over the summer. “That’s a bit eccentric.”

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Oct. 20, 2021, 6:00 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 6:00 p.m. ET
Eric Adams, the Democratic mayoral nominee, argues that he can improve public safety without infringing on New Yorkers’ civil rights.Credit…Dieu-Nalio Chery for The New York Times

Eric Adams’s message during the Democratic primary was that he would be a blue-collar mayor whose lived experiences matched those of everyday New Yorkers.

By focusing on his biography of growing up poor, suffering abuse at the hands of police and then joining the department to try to change it from within, Mr. Adams, 61, successfully argued that he would be able to focus on public safety while preserving civil rights.

If elected, Mr. Adams would be only the city’s second Black mayor.

After the June primary election, Mr. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president and a centrist, proclaimed that he was “the face of the new Democratic Party,” and vowed to “show America how to run a city.”

He has since worked to significantly expand his base, courting the city’s business community, holding several fund-raisers and consulting with former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and his team about how to govern.

Mr. Adams’s primary campaign focused on crime. Although the issue remains a significant focus for him, he has also begun to lay out some of his other ideas, calling for neighborhoods such as SoHo in Manhattan to be rezoned to create more affordable housing; pledging to build hundreds of miles of new bike lanes; and promising to keep and expand the city’s gifted and talented program in public schools after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he was phasing it out.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 5:45 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 5:45 p.m. ET
Eric Adams, left, and Curtis Sliwa, right, will debate each other at the WNBC-TV studios on Wednesday night.Credit…Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

In the months since Eric Adams won a highly contested Democratic mayoral primary in June, most of his focus has been on fund-raising, vetting potential administration officials and preparing for his likely transition to the mayoralty.

But for at least one hour, Mr. Adams will be forced to devote some attention to his Republican opponent, Curtis Sliwa, as they go head-to-head on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the first of two official debates among the two leading candidates for mayor of New York City.

The one-hour debate will be aired on WNBC-TV Channel 4 and also on Telemundo, Channel 47, in Spanish.

NYC Life TV will offer a simulcast on Channel 25.1.

The debate will also be livestreamed on NBCNewYork.com, Telemundo47.com and Politico New York.

A team of reporters from The New York Times will provide live commentary and analysis for the debate, which will be moderated by four journalists: David Ushery, a news anchor for WNBC-TV in New York; Sally Goldenberg, the City Hall bureau chief for Politico New York; Melissa Russo, WNBC’s political and government affairs reporter; and Allan Villafana, an anchor for Telemundo 47.

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Oct. 20, 2021, 5:30 p.m. ETOct. 20, 2021, 5:30 p.m. ET
Eric Adams, right, has mostly ignored his Republican rival, Curtis Sliwa, left, in the weeks leading up to Election Day.Credit…James Estrin/The New York Times; Hilary Swift for The New York Times

With Election Day less than two weeks away, the two major-party candidates running for mayor of New York City will face off at 7 p.m. Wednesday in their first of two televised debates.

The clear front-runner is Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, who won a competitive Democratic primary in June and who holds a strong lead in fund-raising, endorsements and in party favoritism: Registered Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by nearly seven to one in New York City.

His Republican opponent, Curtis Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels subway patrol group, has struggled to gain momentum as a candidate, and is expected to use the debates to attack Mr. Adams, who has largely ignored him on the campaign trail.

The candidates have already traded barbs in recent weeks ahead of the Nov. 2 election. Mr. Adams called Mr. Sliwa racist and said that he was making the campaign a circus. Mr. Sliwa has criticized Mr. Adams’s campaign against a whistle-blower police officer in the 1990s and has raised questions over where Mr. Adams lives.

Both candidates have focused on a law-and-order message. But Mr. Adams, a former police captain, has treated the election almost as an afterthought, proclaiming himself as the future of the national Democratic Party and holding meetings on his likely transition to the mayoralty.

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