Four takeaways from the last NYC mayoral debate before early voting begins this weekend

In their final debate before New Yorkers begin early voting on Saturday, five of the leading candidates in the Democratic mayoral primary on Thursday night delivered closing messages to voters and last-ditch attacks on each other.

After two previous gatherings that included eight contenders, the smaller stage made for more tense exchanges between rivals who have spent months campaigning for the chance to replace the departing, term-limited Mayor Bill de Blasio. That familiarity bred rounds of contemptuous debate over everything from police reform to the candidates’ connection to the city — literally so in the case of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who has been accused of lying about where he lives.

Adams on Wednesday gave reporters a guided tour of his Brooklyn apartment, while denying suggestions that he spent more time at another residence he shares with his partner in New Jersey. On this night, the first question from the moderator gave each of his competitors a chance to weigh in — and they lapped it up.

The candidates were also given an opportunity to address an issue that has wrenched New York politics for nearly eight years: the relationship between de Blasio and Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Their endless backbiting, which continued apace even during the worst days of the Covid-19 pandemic, has New Yorkers hoping (fruitlessly, if history is any teacher) for a more constructive partnership between city and state leadership.

But the debate, like the two before it, ultimately returned to what has becoming the defining question of the primary campaign: public safety and whether the New York Police Department is equipped to restore it during a period of rising violent crime.

Here are four takeaways from the third Democratic mayoral debate, with one more to go next week ahead of the primary on June 22.

Crime and gun violence divides the field

There is no debate over the fact that violent crime is surging in New York. But on the question of what to do about it, the Democratic field is split.

Adams, who retired as a captain in the NYPD before entering politics, and Andrew Yang, the former 2020 presidential candidate, have pushed harder lines and advocated for stepped-up policing. But Adams has insisted that his experience on the force makes him uniquely qualified to turn his vision into reality.

Yang sought to undermine that argument on Thursday, describing it as simplistic and mocking Adams’ campaign message as thin.

“Eric’s campaign seems to go like this: you’re concerned about crime. I used to be a cop 20 years ago. I should be mayor,” Yang said.

Adams responded, as he has done in the past, by casting doubt on Yang’s bona fides.

“I don’t know where Andrew has been until a shooting happened down the block from his house,” Adams said, referencing a recent incident in Times Square. “No one can question my commitment around ending violence in this city. No one on this stage can tell you that they have put their life on the line to save New Yorkers.”

When the moderators asked whether the candidates would consider taking guns away from police officers in certain cases, the idea was dismissed out of hand by four of the five candidates.

Civil rights lawyer and former de Blasio counsel Maya Wiley, who has emerged as the new progressive establishment’s top choice, was less committal.

“The mayor’s job is safety,” Wiley said. “Safety is job one.”

But after being pressed by moderator Marcia Kramer — the same famed reporter who got then-candidate Bill Clinton to admit he smoked (but “didn’t inhale”) marijuana back in 1992 — Wiley eventually tapped out, saying she would not “make that decision in a debate.”

Eric Adams faces (more) questions about where he lives

Adams says he lives in Brooklyn, the borough that he leads. He even invited reporters into his apartment there, in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, on Wednesday for a tour, open fridge and all, to push back on a report in Politico suggesting he might actually be spending more time in New Jersey, where he also owns a home.

The first question of the night offered his rivals a chance to go on the record: do they believe him?

“He spent months attacking me for not being a New Yorker,” Yang said, “meanwhile he was attacking me from New Jersey.”

Others were a bit more circumspect.

Wiley said that voters “want a mayor who is fully forthcoming,” while Kathryn Garcia, a former sanitation commissioner, who delivered her most assertive performance to date, called the story that blew up the issue “utterly confusing” and asked if “this is a ‘Where’s Waldo?’ moment.”

“The only time I go to New Jersey is by accident,” New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer deadpanned.

Adams again insisted that he resides in Brooklyn and dismissed the back-and-forth as “silly conversations” — but not before adding a dig at Yang.

“I don’t live in New Paltz,” he said, referring to Yang’s Ulster County home north of the city. “I live in Brooklyn.”

Yang tries to erase doubts about his commitment to the city

Yang’s time away from the city last year, which he spent at his home in the Hudson Valley with his wife and two young children, has often been used as a cudgel by his rivals, who have sought to cast him as a dilettante politician with a dubious understanding of city politics.

Asked who would foot the bill for his travels upstate, Yang made a pledge of sorts: “I don’t expect to leave the city a single day my first term,” he said — words that won’t soon be forgotten, should he win the office.

“New Yorkers are going to be sick of me,” Yang continued. “They’ll be like, Yang, go away.”

But Yang also sought to turn the issue back on Adams and his now famous Brooklyn dwelling.

“I’ve never seen that basement apartment,” Yang said, before adding that Wednesday’s open house for reporters “raised more questions than it answered.”

The candidates pledge to make peace, up to a point, with the governor

Feuds between New York City mayors and the New York governors, who control major parts of the city — like its subways — are nothing new. But the vitriol of the de Blasio and Cuomo era has been something to behold.

So when the moderators asked what the candidates would do to mend that relationship, or at least make it workable, they were all prepared with ideas.

Stringer criticized de Blasio, saying that, “Nobody in (the state capital of) Albany, when I’m mayor, will steal my lunch money.”

Adams said he would sideline his “ego” for the greater good, or as he put it, “Team New York.”

Wiley leaned into her progressive argument, suggesting that only a mayor with a unified city behind her could counter an aggressive state executive.

“What’s critical to getting along with the governor,” she said, “is making sure we are organizing the constituents that he serves along with the mayor of New York City.”

Yang touted his friendly relationship with Cuomo and argued that harmony could be achieved through mutual self-interest.

“The state needs the city,” Yang said. “The city needs the state.”

By that point, though, Stringer, who has spent decades in the politics of both New York City and Albany, had heard enough.

He dismissed Yang’s approach as “naïve” and called it “de Blasio 2.0” — which, despite the current mayor’s success in winning two terms, was anything but a compliment.

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The pandemic changed the way we ate and shopped — not always for the better

The pandemic changed the way we ate and shopped — not always for the better

FILE – In this May 23, 2011 file photo, consumer Sonia Romero shops for tomatoes at a Superior Grocers store in Los Angeles. As food costs continue rising, many grocery shoppers are seeking new ways to cut costs. After you’ve tried every store brand and linked, scanned and clipped every coupon in sight, what about buying in bulk? (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)

(CNN) — Covid-19 affected our lives in so many ways, including how we ate and shopped. The changes were not always for the better, according to a series of reports presented Monday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Nutrition.

Increase in junk food intake

An analysis by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found some of us increased our consumption of unhealthy snacks and desserts, including chips, cookies and ice cream, while also guzzling more sugary drinks such as sweetened coffee and teas, regular sodas, fruit drinks, and sports or energy drinks.

Over a third (36%) of the nearly 4,000 Americans who were surveyed in June 2020 reported sometimes consuming more unhealthy snacks and desserts than before the pandemic, while 22% said they sometimes drank sugary drinks.

However, 16% said they ate snacks and sweets often or always, while 10% said the same of sugary beverages. People who reported consuming the most unhealthy foods and drinks were more likely to identify as Hispanic or Black and be younger than age 65, obese, female, and of lower income and education levels.

The same survey also asked about food availability and safety. Nearly 6 in 10 people — predominately lower-income, unemployed, Black or Hispanic adults — said they were worried about not being able to obtain food at nearby stores or were concerned they might catch Covid-19 from food. Early fears that Covid-19 could be spread via food packaging were quickly discounted by scientists.

These findings “highlight the importance of strategies and communications that reduce fears and prevent unintended negative behaviors,” such as food hoarding and panic buying, said dietitian Brianna Dumas, a fellow in the CDC’s Research Participation Program, in an abstract.

In addition, public health officials should stress “consumer awareness of food access options during emergencies, including promotion of hunger safety net programs, especially among disproportionately affected groups,” Dumas said.

A drop in healthy foods

Another study analyzed the diets of more than 2,000 Americans before and during the pandemic and found a decrease in the consumption of healthy foods, including vegetables and whole grains, during the past year.

“This decrease was the most pronounced among women, black and Latino study participants, and participants who gained at least five pounds or more since 2018,” said Caroline Um, a postdoctoral fellow at the American Cancer Society, in a statement.

Um plans to follow study participants to understand how their diets might continue to change. Other studies will investigate which factors, such as mental health or financial stressors, might be involved in the change in eating behaviors.

Kids gained weight

Nearly 30% of 433 parents surveyed by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University said their child had gained an average of 9.6 pounds in the months between May and September of 2020.

Parents of children between 5 and 18 years old were questioned before the pandemic and again in May and September of 2020 about their concerns regarding their child’s weight.

Families who said their child gained weight during that time period were concerned about that trend and attempted to monitor and restrict their child’s eating habits in both May and September. However, in families where children did not gain weight, parents were initially concerned and monitored their child’s food intake in May, but had stopped doing so by September.

Further research is needed to investigate and target the “different behavioral, societal, environmental, and psychosocial factors” that might contribute to weight gain among children and adolescents, wrote Melanie Bean, an associate professor of pediatrics and co-director of the Healthy Lifestyles Center at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at Virginia Commonwealth University, in an abstract.

Teasing people about their weight

Another study presented at the conference looked at the impact on children when family members teased them or made other critical comments about their weight. Researchers from Tufts University found that exposure to negative family comments about weight “as little as 3 times per month was significantly associated with moderate to high levels of weight bias internalization,” according to the study.

Prior research has shown that when children and adults experience weight stigma and internalize it, that itself can predict weight gain.

“A common perception is that a little shame or stigma might motivate people to lose weight, but that is not what we see in research,” Rebecca Puhl, deputy director at the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at the University of Connecticut, told CNN in a prior interview.

“In fact, when people experience weight stigma, this actually contributes to unhealthy eating behaviors, lower physical activity and weight gain,” Puhl said. “Our studies show that when parents shift the conversation to healthy behaviors, that tends to be much more effective.

“The focus isn’t on the number on the weight scale, but on the whole family eating fruits and vegetables, replacing soda with water, getting daily physical activity,” she added.

Online grocery shopping

A study done in the early days of the pandemic — March and April of 2020 — found that a third of the nearly 18,000 households surveyed said they were shopping online for groceries, and, of those, 60% said they planned to continue to do so after the pandemic passed.

Their top reasons? Over 80% said it was to “avoid public germs and Covid-19,” while 44% wanted to “take advantage of the convenience,” according to Shu Wen Ng, an associate professor in the Department of Nutrition at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Higher food prices in areas with higher restrictions

Researchers from Tufts University’s Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy analyzed retail prices for food and other consumer goods in 133 counties in the United States and compared them to the levels of Covid-19 restrictions imposed by local governments.
Results showed that a higher level of government restrictions during the pandemic was associated with higher food prices, but did not affect the cost of other consumer goods.