Major Big Apple initiatives that rely on Albany, such as mayoral control of schools, are in limbo because of a dysfunctional outreach effort by the new regime in City Hall, multiple sources tell The Post.
More than a dozen lawmakers, lobbyists and veteran operatives described how Mayor Eric Adams and officials in his administration attempted to cajole action through press briefings or rallies in New York City — but then often failed to follow through in the halls of the state Capitol.
The efforts made by Team Adams have been hampered by what sources described as a lack of experience in the mayor’s Albany operation and a “befuddling” command structure, which has as many as a half-dozen people involved in the decision making.
“I just think there’s not any clear lines of command,” said one key state lawmaker, who described the contact they had with the Adams administration as “minimal, if at all.”
“It’s not like they all just landed from Mars and are still trying to find the GPS to Albany,” the lawmaker added, pointing out that serious negotiations have yet to begin on these key priorities. “We only have a couple weeks left, so things that aren’t getting done now just will be left out.”
The clock, indeed, is ticking: Lawmakers are set to leave Albany on June 2. Failure could cost the city:
“It’s not a well-oiled machine,” said one veteran lobbyist. “If you were to try and figure out who’s in charge, the organization chart is pretty confusing.”
On paper, the operation should be led by Adams’ government affairs chief Roberto Perez and his top Albany deputy, Christopher Ellis.
The situation, the sources added, has been further complicated by perceived acts of disrespect: Adams appearing virtually at a hearing over mayoral control via a camera phone from the back of his city-issued car as he was driven around, attending a credit card launch party at the height of negotiations over the must-pass budget bills and jetting off to California.
“This dude can go to clubs and hang out with Dave Chappelle,” said a frustrated Albany source. “Meanwhile, there’s a poll out where people are saying they don’t feel safe on the subways.”
City Hall is making an apparent last-minute effort to double its Albany operation during the last days of the legislative session — but even that is struggling to get off the ground.
Adams said Monday he will delay his promised visit to the statehouse to personally push for mayoral control of schools because of scheduling difficulties.
“My IG, inter-government affairs team, is finding out the best time to align my schedule with the schedule of the men and women lawmakers in Albany so we can get the best bang for our buck,” he told reporters on Monday.
“We would love to get up there as soon as possible,” added Adams, whose position makes him one of the highest-profile and most powerful politicians in New York state. “But we have been on the phone, as I stated, I have spoken with the leaders of both the Assembly and the Senate, so we would like to get there as soon as possible.”
Adams’ remarks followed a rally held in front of City Hall with friendly labor unions to renew his drumbeat for mayoral control of schools.
That event was originally set for last week but had to be postponed after Adams’ flight back from Los Angeles — where he attended a technology conference and hobnobbed with celebrities — was delayed for hours.
“He did reach out and we were supposed to meet this week, but there was no specific time. But, I mean, we’re here,” said state Sen. John Liu (D-Queens), who chairs the committee that oversees city schools and mayoral control.
Liu told The Post that while he has been in “persistent and consistent” contact with Adams and Schools Chancellor David Banks, it’s “critical” for the mayor “to meet with other legislators.”
He added: “It’s important for legislators to hear directly from the mayor.”
While Adams was away, other city officials did make the trip upstate. Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez was dispatched last week to press for stalled legislation that would renew and expand the Big Apple’s red light and traffic camera programs.
“For months, Mayor Adams and his administration have been engaged with members of the state Legislature, their staffs, and stakeholders in an effort to not only move the mayor’s agenda forward, but deliver for New Yorkers,” said City Hall press secretary Fabien Levy .
“We’ve engaged with more than 80 members and their teams over the last few months and we’re confident that the Legislature will agree with Mayor Adams that now is the time to prioritize New Yorkers’ needs,” he added.
Gov. Nelson Rockefeller feuded with Major John Lindsay, ditto Gov. Mario Cuomo and Major Ed Koch. Disgraced ex-Speaker Sheldon Silver killed Major Michael Bloomberg’s dreams for a West Side stadium.
That tally means that City Hall’s lobby operation has met with just half of the 148 Democratic lawmakers who serve in both chambers of the statehouse.
While Adams has drawn criticism for his team’s handling of the state Capitol, Albany’s own dysfunction has bedeviled mayors for generations.
Lawmakers ignored calls from then-Mayor Bill de Blasio to include a dangerousness standard when they passed their controversial bail and discovery reforms in 2019. And they then failed to commission a baseline analysis to evaluate how the overhaul impacted crime levels.
Adams touted his credentials as a former state Senator on the campaign trail as proof he knew how to navigate the choppy waters.
But questions about his legislative strategy first burst into view in February when he made his first, and so far only, trip to Albany to push lawmakers to roll back portions of the criminal justice overhaul.
The mayor failed to score any significant concessions from the legislators during the disappointing visit. And in its aftermath, Adams assailed the press coverage it generated.
Behind the scenes, his administration’s efforts to convince and cajole Albany to accept City Hall’s point of view remained “a total mess,” sources say.
“They’re not pushing up there,” said a longtime political veteran.
Glad-handing is an integral part of legislating. But Adams sat down and broke bread separately only once with Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Westchester) and with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-The Bronx) before the budget’s passage, sources said.
Legislative sources say that Adams’ Albany team struggled during this period, failing to make a concerted effort to either convince or cajole lawmakers even on Adams’ biggest issue — rolling back the state’s 2019 bail and discovery overhaul.
Hizzoner’s direct involvement, sources added, was limited, too. It largely consisted of attempting to build public pressure for the changes by holding occasional rallies in the city and responding to questions from reporters on the topic during unrelated events.
Eyes rolled when Adams was publicly spotted dining with disgraced ex-Gov. Andrew Cuomo and attended a credit card launch party as Gov. Kathy Hochul and the lawmakers hashed out a budget deal.
The resulting agreement gave Adams a partial win by including limited changes to the criminal justice reforms. But the deal also left most of the Big Apple’s non-bail priorities on the sidelines.
“They just didn’t do the things, spend the few days, that they needed to do,” added another insider.
Another City Hall misstep that insiders frequently cited was Adams’ decision in March to video phone into a key hearing about mayoral control from the back of his city-issued SUV, which outraged committee chairman, Liu.
“I guess I’m a little bit appreciative that the mayor showed up for a few minutes at the beginning of our hearing — disappointed that he’s not here to answer questions from our fellow legislators,” Liu said after Adams left.
“So as we deliberate this topic it would seem like it would be appropriate and possibly responsible for the mayor to actually be at this hearing — as the previous mayor, Bill de Blasio, was when he answered hours of questions from fellow legislators,” he added.
Liu has been more complementary of Adams’ outreach since the February hearing.
But other lawmakers, including Adams’ allies, described a City Hall outreach effort that had been inconsistent at best on mayoral control.
“They’re trying to turn a battleship in a bathtub and it’s only been five months,” said state Sen. Kevin Parker (D-Brooklyn).
“They’re trying to fill positions, and figure out priorities and figure out where the bathroom is all at the same time,” he added. “And so I’m giving them some grace in terms of, you know, their first legislative session and how they’re handling things.”
Meanwhile, there is no guarantee that mayoral control of the city’s schools will be renewed. Then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg was forced to temporarily restart the Board of Education in 2009 after his bid to extend City Hall’s authority was sunk by Albany dysfunction.
Sources say Adams will likely, in the end, keep public school control — but that any renewal will be short-term and not the three-year extension he originally sought — let alone the four years Hochul promised.
And they were more pessimistic about Adams notching late wins on the city’s other major priorities.
“He’s a former member. Former members think they just have an in, and they’re part of it as an alum,” said a longtime lobbyist. “But, you can’t think that when there’s so many members of the party going in different directions.”