Mayor Adams’ Credibility Took A Hit This Week. He Must Do Better

The second week of incoming New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ tenure has not been a good one.
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The second week of incoming New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ tenure has not been a good one.

Mayor Adams’ credibility is taking a serious hit because of allegations of nepotism in the hiring of his brother, and due to his connection to the owner of the Bronx apartment building where 17 people, including 8 children died in Sunday’s disastrous inferno.

Adams immediately came under fire after the hiring of his brother, Bernard Adams, to serve as deputy commissioner with the NYPD. His brother, a former NYPD sergeant, who spent 20 years in the NYPD, had been working for some years at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Many questioned the ethical choice of the mayor not only hiring his brother for the position but apparently doing so without receiving a waiver from the Conflict of Interest Board and doing so in December before he was sworn in as mayor. This week it was announced Bernard Adams would not serve as deputy commissioner but would be executive director of mayoral security. The job of deputy commissioner would have paid $240,000. The director of mayoral security job pays $210,000, where the mayor's brother will oversee his security.

This week, the mayor has been defending the hiring of his brother and says the media is misinterpreting the situation. However, the mayor should’ve realized this hiring would be closely scrutinized.

On the hiring of his brother, Mayor Adams cited his brother’s NYPD experience while noting the “increase in white supremacy and hate crimes.” It is indeed the case that white supremacy is on the rise. But using this rationale to justify his brother’s hiring is problematic–especially, since his brother was first reportedly to be given the deputy commissioner’s job.

As the city’s second Black mayor, Adams does face special challenges. This is why it is important for the Adams administration to be careful about doing things that look improper particularly in a way that give the appearance of nepotism.

While it is understandable that Adams has a special trust in his brother, he should have known hiring his brother in this manner would lead to the conflict of interest questions now swirling around.

If the situation regarding Mayor Adams' brother wasn’t enough drama for one week, we must now also grapple with the reporting emerging around Adams and developer Rick Gropper, the owner of the Bronx building where a fire took the lives of 17 people including 8 children.

Gropper was a member of Adam’s transition team–on matters of housing.

As The Intercept pointed out Adams said that the “one message’ people should take from the tragedy was to close doors in the name of fire safety, implicitly placing blame on the family who fled their burning apartment for failing to close the door behind them, enabling the smoke to spread. He did not note that the door should have been self-closing.”

Of course, we can safely say that asking people, fleeing from a fire, to remember to close doors can’t be the “one message” we should take regarding fire safety from this Bronx fire tragedy.

As Color Of Change pointed out this week “This fire was preventable” had Gropper, who they call a slumlord, addressed the alleged numerous complaints his tenants filed regarding the lack of adequate heat and problems with self-closing doors, two of the main reasons for this tragedy. Moreover, it was reported this Bronx building only had four battery powered smoke detectors–and none of them were said to be in working order when the smoke was circulating through the building.

Unfortunately for Mayor Adams, because of his ties to Gropper, some will now question whether he was trying to shift blame for this deadly fire away from Gropper.

Color Of Change in a petition has made it clear that Mr. Gropper should have no position in the Adams’ administration on housing. If these accusations against him are sustained, Gropper should also face accountability for the 17 lives that were lost, and all those who were injured because of what appears to be blind greed and racist indifference.

Many New Yorkers, especially Black New Yorkers, are counting on the Adams’ administration to bring needed change to the city and fix problems–particularly, those related to systemic racism. Adams must remember, regardless of however unfair it is, that Black politicians are held to a higher standard of ethical conduct in America.

Mayor Adams and his administration must do better than this moving forward.

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