A Few Differences Between New York City Council Speaker and Mayor

By Guamacice Delice

New York City Council speaker Adrienne Adams and Mayor Eric Adams said they were willing to work together on some of the most pressing issues facing New Yorkers according to The New York Times. Recent statements from two of the city’s highest-ranking  officials appear geared toward a common search for meeting the demands and defending their voters’ interests.

Two signs predicted future collaboration between the two. The first one was that Adrienne Adams had endorsed Eric Adams’ bid for mayor. The second, the then elected mayor Adams congratulated Ms. Adams when assuring her election last December. 

After her election in Dec. 2021 to become the first female New York City council speaker, Adrienne Adams emerged as a fierce opponent to then elect mayor Eric Adams. Media and observers anticipated a conflict as both officials disagreed on several topics including some pillars of Mayor Adams’ agenda. 

A times article reported that one of those topics was Mr. Adams’s plan to allow the punishment by solitary confinement of incarcerated people involved in violent acts. Adrienne Adams supported a letter signed by 29 council members in which they compared  the practice to a “form of torture.” Ms. Adams noted that violence in the city’s jails needs to be addressed therapeutically and from its roots.   

Another subject of disagreement between Mayor Eric Adams and Speaker Adrienne Adams concerns elections in New York City. The mayor contested a recent bill passed by the City Council to open the rights to vote in municipal elections to people with 30 days of residency. Mr. Adams said that the residency requirement should have been longer. 

The council passed the bill in December. Under city law, the mayor had 30 days to veto it, but since he chose not to, it automatically became a law on Jan. 9 that will go into effect on Jan. 9 of 2023. Speaker Adams said she would welcome the idea of amending the law to extend the required time for residence. 

Mayor Adams has voiced his unhappiness about having had no say in the process, which some predicted would mark the start of a difficult collaboration between the mayor’s office and the council. 

The mayor and speaker, while not related, do have much in common. Both were born in 1960 and attended Bayside High School in Queens, but were not friends. Both are considered moderate democrats with similar political positions. 

After endorsing the mayor in December, the speaker said she believed in “his plan to bring New York out of the pandemic and into stability once again,” and his ability, “…to bring us into abundance, to bring our tourism back, to bring our streets back, our safety back, to bring back the confidence in New York that the world has always had.” 

For his part, Mayor Adams rushed to congratulate the new speaker after the council voted her in, acknowledging that she had a “pivotal role” in his win. “Not only did Adrienne Adams endorse me, (but) she (also) voted against defunding the police,” he told The New York Times.

Both have taken similar stances on eradicating gun violence while combating racial bias in the NYPD. Both have similar positions on the need for more affordable housing, better health care and schools, although they do not always agree on how to achieve those goals. 

Both clearly favored the appointment of Keechant Sewell, the first woman NYPD Police Commissioner who is also African American.

The speaker has chaired the Council’s Committee on Public Safety, which includes within its purview the NYPD, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice, courts, legal services, District Attorneys, and the Office of the Special Narcotics Prosecutor.

During her first term on the city council, she sponsored or contributed to fifteen bills which became laws. They include a police report on traffic encounters, financial disclosure from individuals with any interests in taxicab license, reports on arrests, summonses, removals, escorts, and use of force incidents in Department of Social Services/Human Resources Administration job centers and SNAP centers, assessment of risk factors associated with sexual harassment required from Department of Citywide Administrative Services.

Mayor Adams appreciates the fact that the speaker teamed with other city council members in 2020 to block a bill that would have defunded the NYPD’s budget by a third. “What a lot of us recognized was that in some areas of New York City, shooting and criminal activity were on the rise and the hashtag, Defund the NYPD, doesn’t speak to that tragedy or to the residents who are affected by it,” said then-Councilwoman Adams at the time.

The good news is that gun violence, Covid19 pandemic, economic crisis, social justice, and racial injustice sound like common ground to Mayor Eric Adams and Speaker Adrienne Adams. But from New York residents’ lens, the rest counts for little.  

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