Looking into the crystal ball for 2021 (photo: Joanna Graham/Mayor's Office)
As we usually do around this time of year, Gotham Gazette asked New York politicos to look into their crystal balls for predictions for the year ahead. Below you'll find insights from elected officials, advocates, analysts, and others who are tuned in to New York politics.
As we say goodbye to the horrible year that is 2020, we all hope for a much better, safer, and healthy 2021. When we rounded up predictions in December 2019, no one saw the devastation of COVID-19 coming, but the pandemic forever changed New York, including the tragic loss of so many lives, the widespread illness and job loss, and more. The pandemic also had a drastic impact on our politics and government.
We know that the stakes are raised in 2021 given that our political and civic leaders must immediately help combat a second covid wave while helping coordinate vaccine rollout and helping lead the city's socio-economic recovery. There is, of course, an all-important election for Mayor coming up in 2021, as well as elections for the rest of city government. We know that there will be many important political debates and decisions. But what *exactly* will happen? Read below for some ideas.
Before (or after) seeing this year's predictons for 2021, revisit last year's predictions for this year here — there were some really good ones, and many that missed the mark.
Have something to add to the conversation? Tweet @GothamGazette with your reactions or predictions for 2021 in New York politics.
Predictions for 2021 in New York Politics
State Senator Brad Hoylman
After a year like we’ve just had, who could predict anything for 2021?
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams
Reports of New York City's supposed demise will be buried and forgotten. Our economic recovery will spark new waves of creativity, innovation, and local pride.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer
-New Yorkers will learn to love eating outdoors in all kinds of weather. Special ‘snow menus’: Gourmet dining options during snow storms. High-tech dining domes stay after pandemic ends. More outdoor street art as we rediscover the outdoors as our precious public space. At the same time, more New Yorkers getting familiar with plants as we bring the outdoors inside.
-Children conceived during the pandemic will be known as Generation HOPE.
-Street art and theatrical performances will bloom river to river in Manhattan.
-Booming plant sales will continue because New Yorkers want a little “outside” in their “inside!”
-Zoom is here to stay but it will continue to bring more people to community board, school board, and civic and political discussions. The open meeting laws need to be amended to catch up to the technology.
-Chuck Schumer will be the new Majority Leader of the US Senate!
-By Primary Day 2021, only Brian Lehrer, Errol Louis, or Ben Max will remember the names of the 30 or so candidates who ran for Mayor at any time in the 2020-21 campaigns!
-The Mets’ new owner, Steve Cohen, will make the Mets New York’s team to beat!
City Council Member Helen Rosenthal
-Stock Transfer Tax and Mortgage Recording Tax Expansion passes in Albany, closes New York City budget gap
-Maya Wiley is elected Mayor of New York City
-19+1 newly elected to New York City Council will join the six second-term women for a new total of 25+1 women elected women to the 51-seat New York City Council, finally achieving equity: Elizabeth Adams; Amber Adler; Alexa Aviles; Gale Brewer; Tiffany Caban; Cordell Cleare; Elisa Crespo; Amanda Farias; Jen Gutierriez; Jessica Haller; Shahana Hanif; Crystal Hudson; Jaslin Kaur; Gigi Li; Pierina Sanchez; Lynn Schulman; Felicia Singh; Althea Stevens; Marjorie Velazquez; Marti Allen-Cummings.
-Mets win National League East
City Council Member Carlina Rivera
-In 2021, the NY Health Act will finally get a vote because of COVID-19’s impact and the awareness it has brought to our inequitable public health system; our street vendors will finally be recognized when the Council passes Intro 1116 helping immigrant families across the city formalize their small businesses; and Community Land Trusts will have a big moment in responding to our housing crisis, which has only worsened since the economy entered a recession.
-The New York Knicks will deliver the rollercoaster ride that we’d normally get at Coney Island, giving fans like me only slightly more hope than we usually receive rooting for the Mets.
City Council Member Keith Powers
-A strong return of the arts: Broadway lights up again, live music returns.
-Restaurants and bars make a fierce comeback, with hours-long waits across the city.
-Record high turnout for all 2021 elections.
-Obi Toppin named NBA Rookie of the Year.
City Council Member Joe Borelli
Mayor de Blasio will end the year with a contributor spot at Fox News and a regular spot on The Five. He is articulate and entertaining and will soon be the network's most sought-after villain.
Marc Molinaro, Dutchess County Executive
-Andrew Yang will win the Democratic nomination for Mayor of New York.
-President Trump will continue to have significant influence in our politics.
-The NYS Conservative Party will grow and strengthen.
-There will be vetoes and veto overrides in Albany and Washington.
-Pandemic waste, fraud and abuse will be uncovered, investigated - and, hopefully prosecuted.
-The Mets win the World Series (thank you Steve Cohen). Well, hope never fails...and in 2021 you have to believe!
Dr. Christina Greer, Fordham University professor, FAQ NYC co-host, politics editor at The Grio
-June 2021 primaries will have an abysmally embarrassing turnout and it will take the Board of Elections a few weeks to figure out the results of ranked-choice voting.
-Bill de Blasio will have a relatively quiet 2021 prompting headlines of "Where's Bill?" as crime and homelessness and poverty in New York City continue to rise.
-Andrew Cuomo will continue to Andrew Cuomo. He will congratulate the Democratic mayoral primary winner and immediately offer an underhanded comment about their leadership.
-The MTA will continue its epic mismanagement and subway fares will rise along with crime rates on subways.
-The November 2021 mayoral race will garner some attention, but not enough to inspire more than 25% of eligible New York City voters to actually turn out.
-The millionaires running for mayor will be exposed as all sizzle and no steak.
Jessica Walker, President and CEO, Manhattan Chamber of Commerce
-The logjam on street vendor legislation will finally be broken. But it will be accomplished by creating a task force of vendor and small business advocates to overhaul the entire system together (including new siting and enforcement protocols) before new permits are issued.
-Those in the running to be the next Speaker of the City Council will endorse a plan to analyze the economic impacts of legislation before a vote to ensure it will not unintentionally hurt jobs and small businesses during the city’s recovery.
Nicole Gelinas, Senior Fellow, Manhattan Institute
Congestion pricing will not happen, yet again!
JC Polanco, attorney and commentator
-In the mayor’s race, Scott Stringer and Eric Adams will be the last two standing for the Democrats and the GOP has a tough time supporting non-Trump Republicans into the summer. Cuomo endorses Adams while the DSA and the Upper East Side/Park Slope coalition backs Stringer.
-Hakeem Jeffries becomes Speaker of the House and third in line for the presidency before the year is out.
-Antonio Reynoso, Steve Matteo, Mark Levine, and Donovan Richards all win their Borough President races.
-Cy Vance wins reelection as Manhattan District Attorney.
-The DSA sees large wins in the City Council; Joe Borelli becomes Minority Leader of the Council; and Justin Brannan makes a strong push for Council Speaker.
-The Polanco Bill for open primaries succeeds.
-New York loses two congressional seats, those held by Reps. Brindisi and Ocasio-Cortez. AOC primaries whoever’s district they put her in and wins big.
-Never Trump Republicans are vindicated.
-Brigid Bergin gets a Pulitzer.
Maulin Mehta, Senior Associate, State Programs & Advocacy, Regional Plan Association
-Comprehensive planning moves forward in New York City starting with the Speaker’s legislation.
-At least one mayoral candidate says they’d put NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver in charge of the Department of City Planning.
-A word cloud at the end of 2021 from material produced by NIMBY SoHo/NoHo residents will show ‘equity’ as the most frequently used word.
Moses Gates, Vice President, Housing & Neighborhood Planning, Regional Plan Association
In the interest of both equity and more open space, NYC finally moves to eminent domain Gramercy Park.
Rita Pasarell, Sexual Harassment Working Group
The Sexual Harassment Working Group and our partners will succeed in securing certain workplace protections for staff of elected officials, equal to the protections currently afforded to non-government employees. In New York State, we will fix the abusive "license to harass" loophole, which excludes electeds' staff from full protections against discrimination and harassment (S6828/A8847 Gounardes/Niou). State lawmakers will also correct the public employee whistleblower law so the staff of legislators and judges (S7841/A9904 Liu) are no longer muzzled into silence. There's no excuse for these carve-outs, and we will work hard to protect staff and ensure these bills are signed into law in 2021.
David Bloomfield, Professor of Education Leadership, Law & Policy, Brooklyn College and The CUNY Graduate Center
-In-class public, charter, and private schools open in September; vast majority of students return with required vaccinations wearing masks under reduced social-distancing rules.
-Zoom-schooling fades but renegade home-school pods rise, flouting state regulations which go unenforced by new(?) State Education Commissioner.
-Despite tweeted platitudes, nothing of substance is done by outgoing Chancellor Carranza to address widespread pandemic-related learning gaps.
Betsy Gotbaum, Executive Director, Citizens Union Foundation
-The Biden administration will be much better for New York than the Trump administration, helping New York bounce back from the economic downturn brought on by the pandemic.
-Recent voting reforms, including Ranked-Choice Voting and Early Voting, will be embraced by voters and lead to increased voter turnout and better, more issue-focused campaigns.
-New York City politics is always unpredictable, and 2021 will be no different, making our ElectNYC voter guide project essential to the upcoming city elections.
Eli Valentin, author, professor, and commentator
-A competitive and large field of mayoral candidates will cause a higher than usual turnout and the new ranked-choice voting system will likely cause the Board of Elections to take even longer to give us results. Scott Stringer will be able to put together a broad enough coalition to win the mayoralty.
-In Borough President races: Mark Levine wins Manhattan, Rafael Salamanca wins the Bronx, Robert Cornegy wins Brooklyn, and Donovan Richards will retain his position in Queens.
-Dan Quart will squeak out a victory in the Manhattan District Attorney race.
-Efforts to elect more women to the Council will thankfully be fruitful. Carlina Rivera will be the consensus pick to be the next Speaker, making her the second Latina and third female to lead the legislative body.
Carol Kellermann, Gotham Gazette columnist & former president of Citizens Budget Commission
To raise needed revenue, the State Legislature re-institutes the Stock Transfer Tax. While it is vetoed by the Governor, the debate and the threat that it will continue to be a topic of public discussion causes the New York Stock Exchange to announce that it is leaving New York City and moving its operations out of state.
Amy Cohen, Co-Founder, Families for Safe Streets
New York State passes Sammy's Law (by Senator Hoylman), named after my son who was killed by a speeding driver seven years ago, allowing New York City to establish new life-saving speed limits below 25 MPH throughout our city.
Danny Harris, Executive Director; Juan Restrepo, Queens Organizer; Erwin Figueroa, Director of Organizing - Transportation Alternatives
-2021 candidates advance policy platforms that prioritize people over cars.
-34th Ave in Queens becomes New York City's first permanent ‘Open Street.’
-New Yorkers get expanded access for walking and biking on the Queensboro Bridge AND Brooklyn Bridge.
Tom Grech, President and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce
The City Council's recent vote to approve the Special Flushing Waterfront District will be a sign of things to come. More projects that create affordable housing, provide good long-term jobs, and bring private investment to neighborhoods that catalyzes economic activity supporting local businesses will be approved, getting New Yorkers back to work and helping the city emerge from this economic downturn. However, more of New York City's iconic neighborhood restaurants will close their doors to customers for good if Congress doesn't pass the bipartisan RESTAURANTS Act and the State continues to impose unreasonable restrictions on indoor dining.
Tom Doherty, Partner, Mercury
-Eric Adams wins crowded Democratic primary thus becoming New York City’s 107th Mayor.
-Republicans will pick up a seat or two on the New York City Council, expanding on the three seats they currently have.
Andrew Rein, President of Citizens Budget Commission
-The Governor and Mayor align more and more on pandemic management, helping schools and businesses reopen and ensuring speed and equity in vaccination.
-Another federal aid package is not enough to solve all the State, City, and MTA budget problems. The Governor will propose dramatic solutions to limit spending and possibly raise taxes while trying to care for the neediest New Yorkers and prevent flight, and the Mayor will revive his attempts to issue long-term debt to fund the city’s current spending levels.
-Faced with historic budget gaps, the Legislature agrees to strategic school aid cuts and reforms that improve equity.
-The Mayor's race goes into the Democratic primary with voters choosing from a large number of candidates, who in part diverge drastically on how to manage the fiscal crisis.
Jullian Harris-Calvin, Director of the Greater Justice New York program at the Vera Institute for Justice
The 2021 NYC election cycle will be a harbinger of progressive criminal justice reform’s durability — from policing and budget priorities to decarceration and community-driven solutions. Despite the overwhelming fiscal, public health, and political challenges the city faces, we predict progressive criminal justice reform is here to stay.
Jon Reinish, Managing Director, SKDKnickerbocker
-The Trumps and Kushners will be personae non-grata: no Met Gala tickets or A-list power lunches for them, ever again. New Yorkers will forever reject their arrogance, incompetence, corruption and abject cruelty.
-The New York Republican Party will be ever-more isolated, out-of-touch, out-of-step and out-of-power.
-New York City will come roaring back, provided leaders give struggling families and struggling small businesses the support they urgently need.
-The mayoral primary field will stay rowdy and crowded to the end.
-The race will be seen nationally as a narrative between the moderate and progressive wings of the party – though New Yorkers can and will reject that lazy, simplistic narrative.
-It hasn’t happened yet, it’s too early, but a major theme will emerge in the mayoral: who provides the biggest contrast with Bill de Blasio?
-In contrast to previous cycles, primary voter turnout will be up-up-up.
Vishaan Chakrabarti, Founder and Creative Director, PAU
New York City will be facing an unprecedented housing and equity crisis in the coming year and consider policies that incentivize creating affordable housing through the conversion of older office buildings, many of which are losing tenancy, to housing, similar to the 421G program passed in Lower Manhattan in the 1990s. The city will also look at empty retail storefronts as an opportunity for social infrastructure like vocational training, schools, and public health clinics. And the city will dramatically expand our bus and bike networks by banning private cars. All seizing the moment to build the equitable and resilient city that is New York’s prophecy.
Danny Pearlstein, Policy & Communications Director, Riders Alliance
In 2021, Bill de Blasio will cement something of a progressive legacy as a surprise, better-late-than-never Bus Mayor, responding to riders' demands of him throughout his second term. He may not get the chance to ride much himself, and that's OK given ongoing concerns about crowding and the need for social distancing. But the mayor will recognize and act decisively on several inescapable facts, making major progress prioritizing buses on more busy streets across the five boroughs, in order to create greater racial equity, show essential workers the city is working for them, and give a boost to immigrant New Yorkers. Mayor de Blasio will build on this year's real victories on bus lane and transit signal priority implementation and exceed the 30 bus lane miles per year mandated beginning in 2022, getting a headstart on Council Speaker Corey Johnson's legacy-defining Streets Master Plan law. Combined with an aggressive push on speed limits, automated speed enforcement, and protected bike lanes, the mayor will leave office with a street equity record to be modestly proud of, if still leaving his fiercest Transit Twitter critics to retort, "We told you so."
Chris McNickle, author and commentator
-The New York City economy will come roaring back during the second half of 2021. That will set the stage for economic recovery that responds to issues of income inequality if we have leaders bold enough to seize the moment.
-In 2021 New Yorkers will elect a mayor who has credibility as a crisis manager. The bold ideas that will drive voters to the polls will be a plan for a spiral up economic recovery that responds to income inequality, police strategies that enforce justice not just the law, and a Green NYC infrastructure program majoring on affordable housing, transportation, and broadband access. A commitment to early childhood education beginning at age two might also be part of a winning platform.
Eli Dvorkin, Editorial & Policy Director, Center for an Urban Future
New York will try a legislative approach to help independent workers access portable benefits. After a number of false starts and more limited approaches, the State Legislature and City Council will pass measures in 2021 to expand key benefits to gig workers and independent contractors.
Jake Dilemani, Managing Director, Mercury
Candidates and voters will gain more realization that there is a difference between progressive politics and purity politics, recognizing that history is filled with examples of purity politics having its moment, followed by its demise.
Albert Fox Cahn, Executive Director, Surveillance Technology Oversight Project
-New York City and New York State will enact comprehensive bans on police use of facial recognition.
-New York State will pass the country’s first ban on geofence warrants, as well as consumer privacy laws and new biometric privacy protections.
Andrew Berman, Executive Director, Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation
Housing advocates, neighborhood residents, and elected officials will rally around the Community Alternative Rezoning Plan for SoHo and NoHo, which would mandate the inclusion of affordable housing in all new residential developments in the neighborhood, with deeper and broader levels of affordability than the city’s plan, but without the oversized development, the big box chain stores, and the huge giveaways to developers and donors to the Mayor that the city’s SoHo/NoHo upzoning plan entails. Mayoral and City Council candidates will reject the false dichotomy promulgated by the de Blasio administration and the real estate industry making massive giveaways to private developers in the form of upzonings the only way to get affordable housing in New York City, and they’ll usher in a new regime of creating real affordable housing while respecting neighborhood character and community wishes.
Naftuli Moster, Young Advocates for Fair Education
The New York State Education Department will adopt and enforce proposed substantial equivalency regulations for nonpublic schools to ensure once and for all that every child in New York receives a fair and adequate education.
Stuart Marques, Stuart Marques Communications
-Subway ridership will contend to climb — as will the fares.
-Tiffany Caban and other progressives will be elected to the City Council, making it even more progressive, if that’s possible, and infuriating the police unions.
-The Mets will not face the Yankees in the World Series.
Happy new year. Here's to a better 2021.