OPINION: The appointment of Bernard Adams raises larger questions for New Yorkers about what the weeks, months and years ahead will look like under an Adams administration
Eric Adams and his appointments…
Last week I wrote that New Yorkers should fasten their seat belts because Eric Adams had arrived. Well, he has taken flight, and I’m already hitting the call button overhead.
During the Bill de Blasio era, journalists and pundits constantly used the phrase “unforced errors,” a term commonly used in tennis, the favorite sport of the late Mayor David Dinkins, New York City’s 106th mayor. Unforced errors are defined as “a mistake in play that is attributed to one’s own failure rather than to the skill or effort of one’s opponent.” Former Mayor de Blasio consistently made mistakes that he could have and should have avoided. In many ways, he created his own roadblocks and bad press. He created tension and animosity with city residents, unions, local leaders, and so many more. Eric Adams’ recent news that he will be appointing his brother as the new deputy commissioner in the New York City Police Department seems like the new mayor’s latest unforced error. It has raised more than eyebrows in the last few days.The mayor’s brother, Bernard Adams, is a 56-year-old retired NYPD sergeant who served roughly two decades in the NYPD. He retired and most recently worked in Virginia as assistant director of operations for parking and transportation at Virginia Commonwealth University. Yes, you read that correctly. He retired as a sergeant and resides in Virginia. Eric Adams’ announcement on Friday that he would be seeking to appoint his brother as the new deputy commissioner has folks feeling some kind of way.
First, the appointment feels Trumpian. We know nepotism is prevalent in politics. However, there are roughly 9 million people in New York City, and Eric Adams has chosen to pull his brother out of retirement from Virginia for a role where he will be making roughly $240,000 each year as deputy commissioner (again, Bernard Adams retired as a sergeant). That is not to say that his brother is not qualified, but there are countless others who could fill this critical role.
Second, it is unclear whether Mayor Adams will get approval to appoint his brother to this position due to possible conflicts of interest and ethics approval. As of now, the New York City Conflict of Interest Board said that it could not comment on how the law would apply to specific situations. Mayor Adams may have found a loophole in any possible conflicts of interest since, technically, deputy police commissioners are not appointed by the mayor; rather, those appointments fall under the purview of the new African-American female NYPD commissioner, Keechant Sewell, who served in the Long Island police force for years. Sewell’s lack of a previous affiliation with the NYPD will likely become fodder for future articles…
Third, Mayor Adams recently stated on his rounds on cable news programs that due to the rise in white supremacy and hate crimes, he finds it necessary to have his brother in this position. This narrative is inconsistent with the Eric Adams of the campaign trail, who, on many occasions, said New York City would be so safe that he would not need a police detail and he would carry his own gun as permitted by New York City for police officers. By choosing a family member as his primary protector, is Adams saying he cannot trust select NYPD officers to protect him? Or has he changed his stance on allowing a security detail when moving about the city?
The news of Adams appointing his brother was suspect for some due to a few factors. Adams decided to announce this appointment on a Friday, which is normally a relatively slow news day, when New Yorkers were in the middle of a snowstorm and when parents, journalists, and many others were somewhat distracted. More importantly, this news came on the same day as the announcement of the new deputy mayor for public safety, Philip Banks III. Banks is the former NYPD police chief who resigned from the department in 2014 while he was the subject of a federal corruption investigation. It should be noted Banks was never found guilty of any of the accusations ranging from trading favors to abuse of his position. Banks also denies intervening in family matters involving his brother’s partner. Banks’ brother, David Banks, is the mayor’s new schools chancellor (the equivalent of a school superintendent in other cities) and Sheena Wright, the chancellor’s partner, is deputy mayor for strategic operations. See my previous statement on nepotism.The appointment of both Bernard Adams and Philip Banks does raise larger questions for New Yorkers about what the weeks, months and years ahead will look like under an Adams administration. To paraphrase about 20 different conversations from Friday evening, “Gurl! This looks messy AF.”
We would like to think the mayor is surrounding himself with those who are the most qualified for the job, not just those he has known the longest. This is not to say that Banks and Bernard Adams are not qualified; however, their announcements and the seeming lack of competition for their positions put Adams in a precarious position with the press and New Yorkers who have been relatively excited about this new regime. Many New Yorkers are curious to see if Adams will be swayed by public opinion or his own personal preferences when it comes to everything from appointments to policy stances. It is too early to make definitive statements on what an Adams administration will become, but we know one thing for sure, and Eric Adams has made it clear…this is his city now; we’re just living in it.
Christina Greer is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Fordham University – Lincoln Center (Manhattan) campus. Her research and teaching focus on American politics, black ethnic politics, urban politics, quantitative methods, Congress, New York City and New York State politics, campaigns and elections, and public opinion.