In the early hours of Friday morning, Mayor Eric Adams headed out the door of Gracie Mansion to a sanitation garage on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Mother Nature had decided to throw New York City’s newly-minted mayor a challenge that has wreaked political havoc on his predecessors: a winter snowstorm.
Around 7 a.m. Adams, wearing a plaid scarf and cap, was standing at a podium addressing sanitation crews, whose staffing has been depleted by 20% due to coronavirus. This was his second snowstorm briefing of the week, following a forecast for Monday that turned out to be a bust.
“A COVID storm is not going to stop us, a snowstorm is not going to stop up, an economic storm is not going to stop us,” Adams said. “We’re going to forge ahead.”
Listen to WNYC's Elizabeth Kim chronicle Eric Adams' first week as mayor:
He then urged parents to send their children to school, saying that students had lost too many days of instruction already to the pandemic.
“We don’t have any more days to waste,” he said.
By mid-day, Adams had managed to make a stop in every borough, even finding time to clear and salt the stoop of his own Brooklyn brownstone.
From start to finish, the first week of Adams mayoralty was packed, colorful and, at times, unpredictable. From riding a Citi Bike to shooting down his detractors to invoking himself in the third person, the new mayor evinced a brashness and energy not seen since Hizzoner Ed Koch, according to political experts.
“The first week generally sets the tone, and what people can expect,” said Hank Sheinkopf, a longtime political strategist. “It’s defining who he is as a man and as a mayor.”
Neal Kwatra, another political consultant, said Adams had achieved “a pitch perfect first week from an optics and symbolism point of view.”
His first day as mayor started out stunningly on brand. On Saturday, the former transit cop fittingly elected to take the subway to City Hall. But while waiting for an above-ground J train, Adams observed a fight in progress on a sidewalk below. He immediately took out his cell phone and dialed 911.
“I have an assault in progress — three males,” he said, speaking like a police officer, as incredulous reporters captured the call on video.
Adams, who previously served as Brooklyn borough president and a state senator, is known for making attention-grabbing statements. On Monday, as he promised to keep schools open despite rising coronavirus infections, he opined on what he believed had been missing from the city’s pandemic response.
“When a mayor has swagger, the city has swagger,” he said on Monday at a Bronx school where he welcomed students back from the holidays. “We’ve allowed people to beat us down so much that all we did was wallow in COVID.”
Some New Yorkers accused the mayor of minimizing a deadly and unprecedented crisis.
Two days later, he drew criticism from some progressive Democrats, including U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, for another perceived verbal gaffe: referring to low-wage workers as “low-skill” while he was exhorting white-collar workers to return to the office because service-industry workers depended on them.
Adams, whose mother worked as a house cleaner, responded by calling Ocasio-Cortez the “word police.”
Not all working-class New Yorkers took offense at Adams’s words. On Thursday, Shamim Uddin, a 27-year-old restaurant worker walking through the Fulton Station, offered an enthusiastic appraisal of the new mayor. He said he found it “cool” that Adams made a 911 call. He also singled out a visit to a Queens fire station, where Adams lithely demonstrated a slide down a fireman's pole wearing a tie and dress slacks.
“It’s a great start,” Uddin said.
Bridget Gramling, an Upper West Side resident, said she liked Adams’s confidence. “He definitely seems like a New York guy,” she said, but she quickly added, “I hope he can follow up the big talk with big action.”
By Friday, Adams was courting another controversy: the appointment of Philip Banks as his deputy mayor of public safety. Banks, a close ally and former New York City police chief, resigned in 2014 amid a corruption scandal.
It was one of over a dozen appointments made this week. But given Adams’ emphasis on public safety, the news had outsized importance.
Even still, Adams did not hold a press conference to announce his appointment as he did with his other deputy mayors. Instead, Banks himself revealed his new job in a Daily News Op-ed.
A spokesperson for the mayor told the New York Times, “We do things in a different way.”