Eric Adams’ NYC message is nonsensicalNovember 19, 2023
Almost nothing Mayor Adams is doing now feels right, and none of it can be taken at face value. Start with the brutal and unprecedented mid-year spending cuts he abruptly announced Thursday — without sharing the underlying numbers needed to assess them. As Nicole Gelinas notes, there wasn’t some big change for the worse since he signed the city’s budget this summer. Rather, tax revenue has been higher than anticipated. But Adams says he needs to slash funding for sanitation, libraries and many schools, cut FDNY overtime, lay off injured firefighters and cancel the next five Police Academy classes. As New York State prepares to drop the Regents tests that have long been graduation requirements, the mayor is already using dubious new math. The number of migrants in city shelters and the rate they’re arriving at haven’t shot up since June. In fact, the city is actively making conditions tougher for the migrants already here and those who might follow. What’s gone up, that the mayor says requires spending to go down, is his projection of what services for those migrants will cost. It doesn’t tally. Adams, who’s now pleading with rich New Yorkers to boost their charitable giving and help cover what his administration no longer will, keeps saying he’s just following the law requiring the city’s budget to be balanced each year. But his cuts will still leave vast budget holes in the coming years — ones that wouldn’t be filled even if spending on migrants went down to zero. The bulk of the projected out-year gaps isn’t on account of the migrants, as expensive as they are to support and politically convenient as that would be for the mayor, but results from the end of one-time COVID-era federal aid that largely went to recurring costs along with generous new contracts Adams signed with the city workforce in part to smooth his path to reelection. What Adams is doing by trying to pass the political buck to migrants and the literal bill to Joe Biden — who’s made it perfectly and selfishly plain he’s not interested in bailing out the city — is wielding the mayor’s nearly unlimited power to modify spending mid-year, with little the City Council can do about it before negotiating the following year’s budget. Don’t expect the Council to put much faith in the mayor’s representations in that negotiation, where they do have real leverage, after he’s pulled this amateur-hour move. Contrary to what Adams is suggesting, it was not only foreseeable but was in fact foreseen that New York City was in for a rough post-pandemic ride. It’s just not something Adams wanted to talk about when he was running for mayor, or wants to take responsibility for now that he is the mayor. The city put out a (possibly premature) release last month trumpeting how New York finally recovered all of the jobs it lost during the pandemic shut-down, without mentioning that it took years longer to get back to zero here than in the rest of the county. Another release touted a marginal increase in public school enrollment after eight years of significant decline, without any direct mention of the migrants who are those additional students. As with Adams boasting about how crime is down this year (as it is nationwide, by the way) without mentioning that it’s still up from pre-pandemic levels, this is all cop talk intended to obscure at least as much as it illuminates. Speaking of cop talk, this is the same mayor who now only takes “off-topic” questions once a week. Finally doing so for the first time six days after the FBI raided the home of his 25-year-old chief fundraiser, Brianna Suggs, Adams vowed to be “as transparent as possible” — but didn’t mention that the FBI had seized his own phones two days before he finally faced reporters. Adams also said at that press conference that he’d turned around from his trip to the White House to demand more money for migrants on the morning of the raid because “As a human being, I was concerned about a young 25-year-old staffer that went through a traumatic experience. And although I’m mayor, I have not stopped being a man, and a human.“ Later, however, he said “I did not speak with Brianna the day of the incident because I didn’t want to give any appearance of interference.” The mayor keeps trying to have it both ways: The food is lousy, and the portions are small! There is no God, and anyways He’s stupid! Or maybe it’s New Yorkers who are stupid in Adams’ telling. Siegel (email@example.com) is an editor at The City and a columnist for the Daily News.