Queens Councilmember Adrienne Adams made it known on Friday she’s poised to become the next New York City Council speaker after securing more than the required 26 votes from her colleagues to win. Barring any turncoat votes in next month’s internal election by members of the council, Adams will serve as the council’s first Black speaker, adding to historic gains made by Black lawmakers across the city this year.
As the speaker, Adams will serve as the final voice in deciding who secures coveted committee positions while setting the legislative agenda that has a vast impact on millions of New Yorkers. She’ll also have to negotiate her priorities with those of Mayor-elect Eric Adams, whom she has known for decades (the two are unrelated).
Her imminent win for speaker caps a historical career run for Adams, 61, who will also preside over the council’s first female majority. As the 28th Council District lawmaker, Adams is the first woman to represent the district that covers the diverse neighborhoods of Jamaica, Richmond Hill, Rochdale Village and South Ozone Park.
Entry Into Politics
In an interview with WNYC/Gothamist in November, Adams chronicled her backstory before jumping into public service. A graduate of Bayside High School, where the mayor-elect was a classmate, Adams attended Spelman College, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in psychology.
“I bring to the table an extensive background in leadership,” Adams said in November.
“I definitely hold my experience as an extreme strength in leading this body into leadership in the council.”
After college, Adams entered corporate America, according to her LinkedIn page. She worked at MCI Telecommunications, Winstar Communications, InfoHighway Communications, MedSave USA, and Goldman Sachs in mostly training roles, before turning her attention in 2009 to volunteering for Queens Community Board 12.
“I came into a community board that was in extreme chaos,” Adams said. “I had to conduct every meeting with discipline and respect.
She served as board chair from 2012 until 2017 before winning the race for the 28th Council District, a post vacated by then-Councilmember Ruben Wills following a corruption scandal. Wills would return to run for his seat in the 2021 primary but was handily defeated by Adams, avoiding an instant runoff election after securing more than 50% of the vote. Adams won re-election unopposed.
As a member of the council, Adams sponsored more than two dozen bills, of which 14 were enacted into law. Among those bills passed into law include reforms to the sale of tax liens, approval of street renamings, and enshrining the Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics into the City Charter.
Adams also sits on numerous committees, including Service and Labor, Finance, Land Use and Rules, Privileges and Elections. As the chair of the Public Safety Committee, Adams has presided over pointed hearings involving members of the NYPD. In October, she held a hearing examining the NYPD’s Special Victims Division, which was under scrutiny for its low record of solving rape cases across the city.
But Adams is not been among the contingent of city and state lawmakers calling to defund it. In 2020, amid outrage against the NYPD following demonstrations across the city, Adams voted to keep the NYPD’s budget intact. Her politics largely mirror those of the mayor-elect, who ran on a platform to reduce crime citywide.
At various speaker forums, Adrienne Adams offered an outline of her priorities for the speakership, which include a stalled plan to legalize basement apartments, expanded free legal services to immigrants, help for financially burdened yellow taxi drivers and making Diwali a recognized holiday.
“We will continue to do everything that we can in our power to make sure that our immigrant communities–my brothers, my sisters–are taken care of in District 28 and in the City of New York,” Adams said at a forum hosted by the New York Immigration Coalition and the New York Immigration Coalition Action last month.
Adams also told WNYC/Gothamist that she hopes to continue her work in public safety, an economic revitalization for the city, and improving education.
It’s unclear how the dynamics of the speaker’s race will shape the relationship between Adams and the mayor-elect. Eric Adams had backed Queens Councilmember Francisco Moya, who did not have the necessary 26 votes secured to win the race.
Speaking to reporters, Eric Adams said whether Moya or Adrienne Adams wins, he can work with either one, given their stance to "keep our city safe."
Similarly, Adrienne Adams signaled her willingness to work with the mayor-elect, but maintain a level of independence.
“My hope would be that we would maintain good terms because he does know that I know how to push back as well as know how to partner,” Adams said in her interview with WNYC/Gothamist.