Days before a scheduled visit from President Joe Biden on Thursday, Mayor Eric Adams made an unsubstantiated boast that offered a glimpse into the blossoming relationship between the two Democrats.

“I’m the Biden of Brooklyn,” he said, speaking to reporters at City Hall, adding that if the president were to be asked to identify his favorite mayor, “He’ll clearly tell you it’s Eric.”

He later added: “We’re just like these blue-collar guys.”

Presidential trips to New York City are standard fare, but political experts say Thursday’s visit by Biden carries added significance for two Democrats who need one another at a pivotal moment. New York City, like many parts of the country, is still struggling to recover from the pandemic and all of its related crises, including a rise in violent crime.

Adams has been demanding more help from the federal government to stem the flow of illegal guns into the city. Biden, whose approval ratings have been slipping, could be bolstered by a success story in America's biggest city — both in recovering from the pandemic and tamping down crime.

“Typically, relationships between mayors and presidents flourish when their respective self-interests align,” said Mason Williams, a political science professor at Williams College, in an email.

For Biden and Adams, the seeds of their relationship were planted last summer when Adams, then the winner of the Democratic primary, was invited to the White House to discuss gun control. Adams’s predecessor, Bill de Blasio, a Democrat who ran for president and later endorsed Bernie Sanders in the primary, was not invited to that meeting.

Political historians say the best example of a mutually beneficial relationship between a New York City mayor and president was the one between Mayor Fiorello La Guardia and President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who had previously served as New York governor.

Williams, who wrote a book about the two politicians called “City of Ambition,” said even though they belonged to different parties — La Guardia was a progressive Republican and Roosevelt was a Democrat —the two had similar ideas about the role of government and participatory democracy — and their close relationship conferred political benefits.

“As a progressive Republican, La Guardia helped provide the New Deal with bipartisan legitimacy,” Williams said. “As the most beloved politician in New York City, FDR’s warm relationship with La Guardia helped the latter in a city where the overwhelming number of voters were Democrats.”

The stakes are similarly high in the current moment.

As the new mayor, Adams has benefitted from the continued flow of billions of dollars in federal funding to infrastructure, education and anti-poverty programs. New York City has thus far managed to avert a budget crisis due to better than expected tax revenues along with $13 billion in federal funding. The city stands to reap even more federal funding if Congress passes the Build Back Better Act, a social spending bill that has stalled. Included in the bill is $5 billion set aside for cure violence programs across the country.

He needs the support of the mayor of the largest city and economic engine in the country.
Doug Muzzio, a public affairs and political science professor at Baruch College

Meanwhile, Biden is under increasing pressure over the country’s uneven economic recovery. His approval ratings continue to slide as the country heads into a critical midterm election year.

Doug Muzzio, a public affairs and political science professor at Baruch College, said he should be invested in seeing New York City, a bastion of liberal Democrats, make a full comeback.

“He needs the support of the mayor of the largest city and economic engine in the country,” Muzzio said.

George Arzt, a political consultant who served as a press secretary for Mayor Ed Koch, added that as a Black mayor with a national profile, Adams can also help Biden with an important political base.

Thursday’s visit, which will include U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, is set to focus on crime. On Tuesday, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said Biden and Garland are scheduled to meet with Adams and Governor Kathy Hochul at police headquarters in Lower Manhattan.

Following that meeting, the group will go to Queens to meet with community organizers to talk about community-led strategies on gun violence.

Since the slaying of two police officers in Harlem, Adams has faced mounting pressure to address New Yorkers’ growing concerns about public safety. Last week, he released a plan that entailed more policing as well as social intervention strategies. But the mayor has also called for policy changes outside his control, namely a re-examination of bail reform at the state level.

Read More: Why Eric Adams Faces A Far More Difficult Test Than Previous Mayors In The War On Crime

At the federal level, he has urged lawmakers to ban assault weapons and make gun trafficking a federal crime, increase penalties on the illegal purchase of guns, and to crack down on so-called “ghost guns,” which are firearms made from special kits, making them hard to trace.

Adams is likely to find a sympathetic ear in Biden, who spent decades both as a U.S. senator and later as vice president under Barack Obama unsuccessfully trying to break the political gridlock on gun control. Gun control advocates, however, have thus far voiced disappointment in the president’s lack of action on the issue.

Both Adams and Biden have also opposed any efforts to defund the police. In the summer, the president said states could use $350 billion in coronavirus relief money to hire more police officers. Adams, who has yet to deliver his first budget proposal, has not signaled that he plans to expand the NYPD force, which has about 35,000 uniformed officers.

On Wednesday, the Fortune Society, a nonprofit that offers services for the formerly incarcerated, issued a statement urging Biden not lean on past aggressive policing practices, but rather invest in programs mental health, homelessness, and job training.

"We urge him not to return to the national response we had in the 1994 Crime Bill where the emphasis and investment mostly went to increasing policing, expanding jails and prisons, and increasing mandatory sentences," the statement read.

Aside from hammering out important policy agreements, the meeting will also be important in establishing a closer rapport between Adams and Biden.

Along those lines, the mayor on Monday suggested that there would be a few “surprises” in the itinerary (although the Secret Service scopes out locations in advance.)

“This is a personal relationship,” Arzt said.

Williams, the political historian, said the significance of presidential and mayoral relationships have diminished over the past five decades as the city’s share of population has shrunk relative to the rest of the country, and as the state has become less of a decisive factor in presidential elections.

But there have been some recent constructive relationships. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who began his mayoralty as a Republican, got along well with President George Bush. In 2004, New York City hosted the Republican National Convention.

Although Bloomberg was critical of Obama, he pushed the president toward a stronger position on gun control, according to Williams.

Mayor Ed Koch had a good working relationship with President Ronald Reagan, one that was established early when Koch, a Democrat, invited then-Republican presidential candidate Reagan to Gracie Mansion.

The gesture was considered a rare breach of political unity between mayors and presidents — President Jimmy Carter, an unpopular Democrat, was running for re-election.

Arzt, who was a reporter at the New York Post at the time, broke the story.

“It really rocked the Democrats and Jimmy Carter,” he said.