When Mayor-elect Eric Adams won in November, there was a celebration, but an unease about the future. His connections to law enforcement might disrupt any improvements made between cops and the Black community. Would he be one of the many mayors beholden to real estate leaders? Would he look out for the marginalized?
With all his connections, Adams could end up being the most powerful mayor the city’s ever had. That title could belong to a Black man. But no one is discussing that possibility…due to the unease.
Here’s where Adams’ transition team comes in. A group from many facets of NYC life: finance, unions, the marginalized, and others. When Adams puts ten toes down on City Hall on Jan. 1, he’s expected to jump right into the fire created by the previous mayor and take hold of the extinguisher.
He has a few people in his ear to help him along the way.
United Way of New York City CEO and President, and transition team co-chair, Sheena Wright refused multiple requests for comment but did express how she felt in a release announcing the names on the transition team.
“Eric Adams has a clear vision for New York, and it is our job to ensure he has the tools to realize his goal of a safer, fairer, more prosperous city,” stated Wright. “Over the next seven weeks, we will task a dozen committees and dozens of committed experts and advocates with the essential work of preparing the Adams administration to deliver for New Yorkers.”
Members of the transition team, including co-chairs, include Wright, Infor Chief Executive Officer Charles Phillips, soon-to-be former Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Chief Financial Officer Stephen Scherr, Ford Foundation President Darren Walker, and President of the New York Hotel and Gaming Trades Council Rich Maroko. (Scherr and Maroko weren’t available for comment.)
Jeremy Saunders, co-executive director of the social justice group VOCAL-NY, said that he hopes Adams lives up to his “progressive” stances on issues such as addressing mental health, homelessness, housing, and supporting the legalization of weed. He said to some degree the transition team is just “pomp and circumstance.” Saunders doesn’t think that a financial group such as Goldman Sachs, which co-chair Stephen Scherr is the CFO of, should have any more influence in the city than it already does.
“But bringing on transition partners who know how to tackle these long-term crises, that really is needed,” said Saunders.
But recently, leaders at VOCAL-NY were critical of Mayor-elect Adams after recent remarks that he would resurrect the same anti-crime units that were responsible for the controversial NYPD Stop-and-Frisk program.
He also plans to bring back plainclothes cops, much to the dismay of activists like New York Black Lives Matter leader Hawk Newsome.
“Mayor elect Adams’ ill-conceived proposal to task judges with predicting future ‘dangerousness’ is a law enforcement trope that will do nothing to make communities safer and will only entrench racist pre-trial practices,” stated VOCAL-NY Civil Rights Campaign Coordinator Keli Young. “It is shameful that we are having this discussion because of law enforcement lies connecting bail to crime when the data clearly shows none exists. Dangerousness is not reform, it is a giant step backwards to a racially-coded scheme for pre-trial incarceration and the decimation of Black and Brown communities.”
This is where Black, Brown and other marginalized communities get scared.
“We are going to have a new relationship. I’m going to have the backs of my police officers,” Adams told the Queens Chronicle in October. “I’m going to tell them you are going to do your jobs, you are going to respond to the calls for services and you are going to deal with some of the crimes consuming the city and we are going to do it effectively.” Adams believes that police reform and public safety aren’t mutually exclusive.
AmNews’ attempts to contact Adams were unsuccessful.
Marquez Claxton, of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, told the AmNews that things will change Adams’ tenure. He promised it.
“Too often in the past, political lobbyists determined the administration’s make-up and priorities,” said Claxton, via text, to the AmNews. “Mayor-elect Adams is demonstrating that the paradigm has shifted and the people who actually make the city run are qualified to have input in the transition. They have practical expectations and recommendations on what effective mayoral leadership is and how the administration should operationalize their priorities.”
Unions are represented as well with individuals like SEIU 32BJ President Kyle Bragg. Bragg played a role in shoring up union votes for the incoming mayor. While speaking to the AmNews, Bragg said that Adams’ transition team will ensure that no New Yorker would be left behind.
“Our members enthusiastically got behind Adams because they recognized him as one of their own, and trust that he is the right person to lead our city through a worker-led recovery,” Bragg said. “I and other labor leaders on the mayor-elect’s transition team look forward to rolling up our sleeves on behalf of our city’s workers to advise the incoming administration on what New York workers need to take our city into a better future.”
Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, is one of the other co-chairs and said that he was introduced to the new mayor this summer. Walker is a man of many trades who has worked on social justice philanthropy and criminal justice reform while cultivating the arts and supporting artists as the “lifeblood” of the city.
“Eric’s approach to many of our city’s most pressing problems is to include all stakeholders and all those who can make a positive difference in tackling challenges, whether it is public safety, health or our economy,” said Walker in a statement, “and our job is to bring those voices together to shape the administration and its policies in order to execute his vision.”
Adams’ vision includes work with the community, finance, real estate, labor unions, marginalized communities, and law enforcement. Mayors before him haven’t been able to balance the priorities. The late David Dinkins was pushed over by a power structure that denied his attempts at progress. Rudolph Giuliani ran roughshod through the marginalized and forgot that New York was more than just Manhattan. Michael Bloomberg bought his way into the hearts of many leaders, but also treated Manhattan like it was the only part of the city. Bill deBlasio accomplished some of his missions to mixed results.
Adams has a lot to do to win the confidence of all New Yorkers.