Walking to the podium at Jay Street Borough Hall, current Brooklyn Borough President/Mayor-elect Eric Adams told the over-a-dozen assembled media outlets that he had to do a little housekeeping. What gives? pondered the room full of print, radio, digital and online journalists, and new appointee family members and friends.
Adams taped two pieces of A4 paper to either side of the mic on the podium. They read “Emotional Intelligence,” in big black letters.
This, Adams grinned, is what the press conference would be about as he had five strong, experienced female public servants graciously introduce five career-minded, impressive female soon-to-be deputy mayors.
It was an interesting move.
“Anyone that knows me knows I’m a mama’s boy, and I was raised by women,” Adams said prefacing his comments about wanting people in his administration who can read the the temperature of the city on all levels; including being emotionally in-tune with the residents of the five boroughs and what it is they need from the city.
With diversity and inclusion branding doing the rounds, Adams is on topic with his picks who are Black, of Asian descent, and white: Sheena Wright, Anne Williams-Isom, Meera Joshi, Maria Torres-Springer, and Lorraine Grillo.
Each of the women re-introduced themselves as they praised each other’s appointment. Former CEO of the United Way’s Sheena Wright, will be deputy mayor for strategic initiatives; Anne Williams-Isom, former deputy commissioner of the Administration for Children’s Services, will become the deputy mayor for Health and Human Services; the commissioner’s office of the Department of Housing and Preservation Development’s loss, will be the gain for the office of deputy mayor for Economic and Workforce Development with Maria Torres-Springer; former Taxi and Limousine commissioner Meera Joshi will take the office of deputy mayor for Operations; and two-decade City Hall veteran Lorraine Grillo––Mayor Bill de Blasio’s head of pandemic recovery troubleshooter––will become Adam’s first deputy mayor.
Adams introduced five women to be his core team at City Hall, all except for Wright, are veterans of city government in some form or other.
Giving a nod to former women in politics to introduce his new crew, Adams asked former State Senator Velmanette Montgomery, former Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger, one-time Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, former City Comptroller Elizabeth Holtzman, and former Council Speaker Christine Quinn to do the honors.
With their multi-decades in public service and city government, the Amsterdam News asked Adams if his choices of these five women would forever change the political tone of the city?
Adams retorted; “Because of these deputy mayors? I think the politics are going to change in New York because of the mayor. There’s never going to be a mayor like me in the city of New York. We are going to tear down barriers, we are going to do things differently. We’re going to acknowledge those who have been ignored for so long. The plan is clear, and this team is going to execute the plan. There is a clear vision on how [you] should run this city, and we are going to ensure that we execute that plan. People heard my message. It was a clear one. I did not vacillate. I did not change based on the popularity of what people thought were right or wrong. I was consistent in my message.”
“I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and partner with this outstanding group of leaders to help execute Mayor-elect Adams’ vision of a better City for all New Yorkers,” said Anne Williams-Isom, a member of Adams’ transition team, a Fordham University professor and now the deputy mayor for Health and Human Services. A one time head of Harlem Children’s Zone, Williams-Isom currently holds the position of the chair of Child Welfare Studies at Fordham University’s graduation school.
Having worked on current mayor Bill de Blasio’s Education Sector Advisory Council and former Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s New York Forward Re-Opening Advisory Board, Sheena Wright is also the head of Adams’ extensive transition team. The president and CEO of nonprofit United Way of New York City, she said she was excited to be taking on her new position as deputy mayor for strategic initiatives. “Overseeing the architecture of the administration’s key initiatives and priorities is a tremendous opportunity; it is one where we can design innovative and collaborative solutions that will address some of our more complex problems.”
Wright said New York has the most diverse workforce in this county, and small businesses who find a way to tough it out and survive in the most dire of circumstances in terms of servicing their communities, and job growth.
“What Eric Adams has said is that the work of economic recovery is not the work of one agency, it is a whole government approach that will include getting New Yorkers back to work across the five boroughs––businesses small and large.”
Postponing his inauguration due to COVID concerns, Adams said he feels like he is already the mayor, and he’s eager to get to work. With a pandemic, testing and vaccine problems on the frontline, crime on an uptick, Rikers Island staying headline news, and homelessness and mental health issues burgeoning, Adams says he and his newly-appointed diverse team throughout his administration will hit the ground running on January 1st 2022.
“I am so proud of the history these new deputy mayors are making today,” Adams said Monday, “and I hope it sends a message that the most qualified people should not sit on the bench when the game is on the line just because of their gender, their ethnicity, or any piece of their identity.”