Professional courtesy and tradition demands that NYPD officers stationed inside City Hall stop what they’re doing and stand when the mayor walks into a room.
However, Mayor Eric Adams, a retired NYPD captain, recently put an end to that practice.
“I tell people I have one rule,” Adams told Gothamist/WNYC in a phone interview Tuesday. “You don’t stand for me. I stand for you.”
He later added: “If they see me as this deified person, I’m not going to get the best out of them. But if they see me as just another person in the building who’s trying to make our city better, they’re going to feel comfortable. And comfort brings confidence.”
The new mayor used the anecdote to explain his management approach, one that builds on his campaign image as a man of the people, emphasizes emotional intelligence and empowers top advisers to make decisions.
Adams’s first days in office were marked with high-profile appearances and compounding crises, including managing the response to the omicron surge, the reopening of city schools and the city’s deadliest fire in decades.
But just two weeks in, the new mayor is still just getting his sea legs at the helm of a vast bureaucracy. As Brooklyn borough president, Adams oversaw a staff of roughly 60 people. As mayor, he is executive-in-chief in charge of around 400,000 municipal employees. And while many of his administration picks have been hailed by political observers, some have fallen under a cloud of controversy.
Adams says he’s not deterred.
He said he spent nearly a year before becoming the city’s second Black mayor reading about different types of leaders, from politics to the armed services to professional sports coaches. Likening his role to a pilot monitoring a dashboard, he has suggested he would take a more hands-off approach to managing his senior staff.
“Once I recruited people who were emotionally intelligent, who were sound, who knew how to handle conflict,” he said, “I can just give them the mission and they are carrying it out.”
Still, the job has bedeviled many of his predecessors. Adams comes into it amid an unprecedented crisis in the pandemic, where policies on testing and vaccination need to be rolled out swiftly and effectively to nearly 9 million New Yorkers.
He is also facing ethical concerns. In his first week, his decision to reportedly hire his younger brother Bernard Adams as deputy police commissioner and appoint Philip Banks III as deputy mayor drew accusations of nepotism and cronyism. Banks, a longtime friend of Adams, is a former police chief who was named an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal corruption investigation.
The controversy has prompted the mayor to pull back on at least one decision. On Wednesday, a City Hall official confirmed Bernard Adams would be appointed as executive director of mayoral security at a salary of $210,000 – not deputy police commissioner as initially reported by multiple outlets. He will manage approximately 40 people. The downgrade was first reported by the New York Times.
“You really need a managerial system,” said John Mollenkopf, a political scientist at CUNY, but added that no matter the model, a mayor must also focus on fostering a good dynamic among cabinet members, each of whom will bring their own set of expertise and viewpoints.
“The team has to be cohesive,” Mollenkopf said. “It has to be able to make decisions.”
The ‘Eric Adams’ System
Although not every New Yorker may have agreed with his policies, Michael Bloomberg, who served from 2002 to 2013, is often invoked as the mayor who showed that City Hall could be managed. The billionaire founder of a financial information company introduced an unprecedented governing style that evoked Wall Street trading floors and placed him at the center of an open maze of around 50 cubicles.
Those who worked for him say the decision to sit in a bullpen made him both more visible and accessible. Not only did he himself hold his meetings inside the bullpen, his deputy mayors were expected to do the same. The arrangement was also credited for imposing a high level of accountability.
Stu Loeser, who worked as Bloomberg’s press secretary, recalled that Shaun Donovan, then the city’s housing commissioner under Bloomberg, never entered City Hall without committing to memory the most updated tally of how many affordable housing units the city had built or preserved.
“Because he knew that there’s a good chance he’s gonna run into Mike,” he said. “And Mike’s going to say, ‘What’s the number? How are we doing? Are we doing fast? Are we doing slower? What are the complications?’”
Bloomberg, a notorious workaholic, was typically at City Hall by 7:15 a.m., Loeser said. There was a standing 9 a.m. staff meeting at either Gracie Mansion or City Hall.
A City Hall spokesman said that the time Adams reports to the office is variable, depending on whether he has a morning event scheduled. He says the mayor is usually in bed by 1 a.m. and rises by 5 or 6 a.m.
Adams said he believes in accessibility but he does not demand frequent one-on-one updates from his staff.
“I’m a big Google Docs person,” he said.
He added that as borough president, he used Google Docs to track meetings, staff changes as well as budget and other data.
“I can see where I need to interfere because we’re not trending in the right direction or something is not being fulfilled,” he said. “So I don’t have to have the physical face-to-face because those documents tell me when I need to call someone.”
His predecessor, Bill de Blasio, by contrast, was known for micromanaging who preferred late-night meetings and phone calls. He often carried a ringed binder to his press conferences along with a series of index cards.
Adams, who said he meditates every morning, is also big on mindfulness. He said he recently began a Zoom meeting involving a “stressful situation” by making everyone do breathing exercises.
“In City Hall, everyone is learning the Eric Adams system,” Adams said.
Slow Appointment Process
But the job of New York City mayor is the antithesis of zen, a constant churn of crises. And by most estimates, Adams is behind on filling out his administration. Nearly two weeks into office, he has appointed just over two dozen people to key roles of advisers, deputies and commissioners. He has yet to announce picks for more than 80 positions, including the critical roles of sanitation and fire commissioners, which are currently being occupied by holdovers from the previous administration.
The pace has been similar to de Blasio, who was often criticized for slow and deliberate decision making. Bloomberg, along with Mayor Rudy Giuliani, took the speediest approach to hirings, appointing roughly 30 members of their administrations by their first inaugurations, according to the New York Times.
Adams’s choices for top members of his cabinet have received both praise and scrutiny. Some have been trailblazing: Keechant Sewell, New York City’s first woman police commissioner, Louis Molina, the city’s first Latino corrections commissioner, and five women deputy mayors. Many of his top advisers are viewed as experienced and steady hands, such as First Deputy Mayor Lorraine Grillo, who worked in high-profile roles under the de Blasio and Bloomberg administrations.
(this story/news/article has not been edited by PostX News staff and is published from a syndicated feed)