The centrist Democrat is expected to trounce Republican candidate and volunteer crime fighter Curtis Sliwa in the liberal-voting bastion to become just the second African American to lead the Big Apple.
New York mayor is often described as the most difficult job in the United States after president.
If the 61-year-old Adams wins, he will succeed unpopular progressive Bill de Blasio, whose two-term limit ends December 31.
Adams will be tasked with leading the city’s recovery after the pandemic, which has killed more than 34,000 residents and closed hundreds of thousands of businesses.
As mayor for more than eight million people, he will oversee America’s largest municipal budget, crippled by the Covid-19 crisis, and its biggest police force and public school system.
The moderate candidate defeated progressive rivals in June’s Democratic primary by mainly pledging to crack down on violent crime that soared during the pandemic.
He promised to tackle wealth inequalities and reform the education system, as well.
Adams will also have to grapple with a severe lack of affordable housing, violent chaos at the notorious Rikers Island prison and the effects of more extreme weather events on New York City’s creaking infrastructure.
One of his trickiest balancing acts will be trying to reform police practices while keeping onside a heavily unionized force that feels it has been underappreciated during the de Blasio era.
Adams opposes defunding the police, a policy that is a rallying cry for many on the American left. He is also seen as being friendly towards the business community and has not called for higher taxes for wealthy residents.
Reforming the police
He was born into poverty in Brooklyn in 1960, and was raised in a large family living in a working-class neighborhood of Queens. His mother was a cleaner, and his father was a butcher.
Adams briefly ran errands for a gang as a teenager. When he was 15, he was beaten by two NYPD officers after they arrested him for criminal trespassing.
That sparked his determination to join the NYPD so he could reform it from the inside. Adams entered the force in the mid-1980s, serving 22 years and rising to become a captain.
In 1995, he co-founded “100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care,” an advocacy group designed to fight against racism in the police and that still exists today.
Adams retired in 2006, winning election to the New York State Senate that year. He served until 2013, when he was elected Brooklyn borough president, providing a springboard for his mayoral ambitions.
Adams credits veganism with reversing his 2016 diabetes diagnosis and released a book last year that aims to turn African Americans to a plant-based diet.
Polls open at 6:00 am and close at 9:00 pm. Almost 170,000 people out of some five million registered voters have already cast ballots in early voting.