Mayor Eric Adams has appointed a longtime community activist as New York City’s “gun violence prevention czar,” a newly-created, volunteer position that represents his latest response to the surge in shootings since the pandemic began.

At a Thursday press conference outside City Hall, Adams announced that Andre T. Mitchell, the founder of the Brooklyn violence interruption group Man Up!, would be the first individual to serve in such a position. Mitchell will co-chair a task force on gun violence with Deputy Mayor of Strategic Initiatives Sheena Wright. Other members include NYPD commissioner Keechant Sewell, Deputy Mayor of Public Safety Philip Banks III and representatives from other city agencies.

“We've been using the same tactics over and over again and we've been getting the same results,” Mitchell said. “So no one should have a problem with us trying something different.”

“Give us a chance to prove ourselves,” he added.

But the policy impact of the czar and task force — and whether they will be able to stem the rise in shootings — is yet unclear. The task force will neither draw a budget nor have the power to direct city resources, raising questions over its effectiveness. Under an executive order, the group will hold weekly meetings and come up with recommendations on how city agencies could better serve communities affected by gun violence.

Jeffrey Fagan, a law professor at Columbia University who studies policing, said the initiative runs the risk of being more symbolism than substance.

“This is a poor substitute for policy,” he said.

NYPD statistics show shootings are down slightly compared to this time last year, but violent crime typically rises in the summer. Adams and criminal justice experts have also expressed concern over an anticipated U.S. Supreme Court ruling that would strike down a state law requiring gun owners to show “proper cause” to carry a handgun in public.

The mayor, who has drawn scrutiny over some of his hiring, was forced to defend his latest appointment. Mitchell was the subject of a 2019 city investigation that found hemismanaged his taxpayer-funded nonprofit and hired family members. Man Up! has been awarded tens of millions of dollars in funding since at least 2010, according to the city comptroller’s office. The nonprofit currently has $6.6 million in city contracts, according to CheckbookNYC.

“This is a 30-year relationship of a person who I have witnessed on the ground at shootings, on the ground talking to people who are in gangs,” Adams told reporters when asked how many people he considered for the job.

Asked about the city’s inquiry into Man Up!, Adams said Mitchell had appropriately followed the recommendations outlined in a city Department of Investigation report.

In an interview with Gothamist, Felipe Rodriguez, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and a former NYPD detective, applauded the mayor for “thinking outside the box.”

But he questioned whether Mitchell’s history made him the right person for the job. “It’s definitely going to be interesting,” Rodriguez said.

Despite concerns about Mitchell, the new task force drew support on Thursday from a bevy of lawmakers – including Public Advocate Jumaane Williams – who have implored the mayor to tackle gun violence by pouring more investment into community intervention programs.

At the same time, Williams reiterated his concerns about increased policing, citing an $11 billion NYPD police budget.

“We are about to go to the fourth or fifth surge of police in the subways,” he said. “And we still have violence.”

Ahead of Adams’ announcement, anti-violence workers gathered outside City Hall to call for more resources for the Crisis Management System, a network of city-funded violence prevention groups. They also called for other potential solutions to gun violence, such as trauma counseling in schools, better-paying jobs and emphasizing the importance of listening to those who are directly affected by gun violence.

For some, the mayor’s decision marked a shift in the way elected officials view violence interruption programs.

Jeremy Arce, an assistant director of school-based and after-school programs for Man Up!, said things were different when he started doing this work about eight years ago.

“It’s just a beautiful feeling to go back to the neighborhoods knowing that there’s people inside of the building that’s fighting for us the way that they are,” said Arce. “We are very appreciative of that.”

Samantha Max contributed reporting.