The front-runner in the race for mayor of New York City, Eric Adams, took aim at his rival Kathryn Garcia on Monday as the campaign entered its final week and a new poll showed that the two candidates were the leading contenders.
Mr. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, clearly sees Ms. Garcia as a threat: He held a news conference with sanitation workers on Monday to draw attention to allegations that women and minority workers at the city agency received unequal pay. Ms. Garcia ran the Sanitation Department until last year, when she resigned to run for mayor.
Ms. Garcia, for her part, declared the mayoral contest a two-person race and defended her record.
“I guess the mudslinging has started,” she said at a senior center in Manhattan. “So I guess he knows that we’re in a two-person race.”
She said she had left the Department of Sanitation more equitable than she had found it.
“I increased the number of chiefs and leaders in the department who are people of color by 50 percent,” she said.
Early voting began in New York City over the weekend ahead of the primary election on June 22.
In the poll, conducted by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, Mr. Adams had 24 percent support, followed by Ms. Garcia with 17 percent and Maya Wiley, a former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio, with 15 percent. Andrew Yang, a 2020 presidential candidate who had once been considered the front-runner, fell to fourth place with 13 percent.
Under the city’s new ranked-choice voting system, Mr. Adams would win with 56 percent after 12 rounds, while Ms. Garcia was second with 44 percent. The poll was conducted between June 3 and June 9 and had a margin of error of 3.8 percent.
At Mr. Adams’s news conference, held near a sanitation enforcement facility on Flushing Avenue in Queens, he criticized Ms. Garcia’s management of the city’s sanitation system and stood with employees from the department who criticized her for pay equity issues.
“I’m not throwing dirt on anyone,” Mr. Adams said. “We are running to be the chief executive of this city, and the question must be asked of those of us who have previous experience in government, previous experience in other professions, are you going to run the city the way you have actually carried out your actions in your other profession?”
Mr. Adams also criticized Ms. Garcia’s leadership of the New York City Housing Authority, the city’s public housing agency.
“If you’re a New Yorker that states you are pleased with how NYCHA has been run over the years, then she’s the type of manager you want,” he said. “If you believe you are pleased with the cleanliness of our city, then she’s the type of manager that you want.”
Philip Seelig, an attorney for the Sanitation Department enforcement agents, filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in February and plans to file a class-action lawsuit. The agents, who are mostly women and nonwhite, receive less pay and lower pension benefits than the mostly white and male sanitation police, Mr. Seelig said.
“She can’t turn a blind eye to what happened in her agency when she was running it, and she can’t expect to be a better mayor than she was a lousy commissioner,” he said.
Earlier Monday, Ms. Garcia visited a senior center on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Asked how she would frame the choice for voters between herself and Mr. Adams, Ms. Garcia cast herself as a seasoned public servant rather than a politician and implied that Mr. Adams owed payback for political favors.
“This is about experience: When you look at the borough president, he runs a hundred-person shop,” she said. “I run a 10,000-person shop and deliver services every day to New Yorkers.”
“He’s been making deals and getting favors,” she added. “You know, I’ve just been serving the city and showing up.”
Later in the day, Ms. Garcia, who is vying to become New York City’s first female mayor, commented on the poll as she greeted shop owners on Avenue P in the Midwood section of Brooklyn.
“This confirms it,” she said. “We’re in it to win it, and it’s time for a woman.”
Ms. Wiley, who has gained momentum after endorsements from progressive groups and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, voted on Monday at Erasmus Hall High School in Flatbush, Brooklyn, with her longtime partner, Harlan Mandel.
“This is an extremely emotional moment for me,” Ms. Wiley told reporters afterward, standing in front of a group of campaign supporters who had marched behind her to the polling place.
“I’ve never run for public office before,” she added, “and to go in and walk into the high school where my partner’s father went to school and to see my name on the ballot is an experience that is very hard to describe. And it was very moving.”
Mr. Yang held an event in front of City Hall on Monday to announce he had been endorsed by the Captains Endowment Association, the union that represents police captains. Mr. Adams is a former police captain, and Mr. Yang said it was significant that those who had worked with Mr. Adams for years chose Mr. Yang instead.
“This to me should tell New Yorkers all that they need to know about Eric Adams and his leadership,” Mr. Yang said.
Mr. Yang said it was important for the mayor to have a relationship with the police, in contrast to Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has struggled to get along with officers.
“This city needs the police,” Mr. Yang said, adding that he would also rebuild trust between the police and communities of color.
At the Adams news conference, Ydanis Rodriguez, a city councilman and supporter, emphasized that Mr. Adams would be the city’s second Black mayor and said Mr. Adams would ensure that streets in the “poorest neighborhood are as clean as Park Avenue and 75th Street.”
Mr. Rodriguez also said several times — in English and Spanish — that Ms. Garcia was not Latina, in spite of her last name.
“Kathryn Garcia no es una Latina,” Mr. Rodriguez said.
Ms. Garcia is white and does not claim to be Latina, though her ex-husband is of Puerto Rican descent and she has referenced the fact that her children are half Puerto Rican.
After the news conference ended, Mr. Adams returned to clarify to a reporter that he did not say that Ms. Garcia was not Latina.
“I want to be clear that it is not my quote that Kathryn is not Latino,” Mr. Adams said.
Katie Glueck, Michael Gold and Anne Barnard contributed reporting.