Mayor Eric Adams has rewarded 10 former city council members with plum leadership positions in his administration since taking office in January.
The new hires – which include four department heads and other high-level advisers who have mostly traded council seats for better-paying, six-figure gigs at City Hall – have come under pressure from both sides of the political driveway by former Brooklyn borough president. Political pundits say their campaign support was crucial in helping Adams prevail in a hotly contested Democratic mayoral primary before claiming victory in the general election last November.
Hank Sheinkopf, a longtime Democratic political consultant, said it’s common for new mayors to pay off “political debt” by handing out patronage jobs, but there are growing concerns that Adams has already gone too far in bringing in too many buddies who aren’t qualified or might be in over their heads.
“Ten former board members is a lot,” he said. “It makes the [Adams] the administration looks less like an administration than a political recruiting hall.
“They’ve each backed Adams for mayor, so they’re not going to cause trouble and will do as they’re told, but that’s… not the best way to run a government because it doesn’t appeal to senior executives to lead a city that is in crisis.”
Pols-turned-bureaucrats include Ydanis Rodriguez, a limited-term Manhattan Democrat who turned his efforts to secure the vote for Adams with the Latino community and his experience as former transportation committee chairman into a $243,171-a-year post of Commissioner of the Ministry of Transport.
Board members make NYC DOT commissioner.
Rodriguez inherited a job as a pressure cooker overseeing a beleaguered department scrambling to combat soaring road fatality rates.
Former Council members Dan Garodnick (D-Manhattan) and Eric Ulrich (R-Queens) also now earn $243,171 as Director of the Planning Department and Commissioner of the Buildings Department, respectively. The two now have a say in the city’s mighty construction industry despite their little experience in the field.
Ulrich served on the 2009 Board at the end of last year. He briefly worked as Adams’ senior adviser for four months this year before being named building commissioner last week and getting a pay raise of $42,171 a year, or 21%.
Garodnick, an attorney who served on the Council from 2006 to 2017, most recently served as the director of the Riverside Park Conservancy.
Other former council members who joined the Adams administration include:
- Laurie Cumbo, a Brooklyn Democrat earning $227,786 as commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs.
- Fernando Cabrera, a Democrat and pastor from the Bronx pocketing $227,786 as Adams’ senior religious adviser in the new Office of Faith and Community Partnership.
- Republican James Oddo, who most recently served as Staten Island borough president before landing a $211,150 job as deputy mayor of operations chief of staff Meera Joshi.
- Peter Koo, a Democrat from Queens earning $201,000 as senior adviser to Deputy Mayor of Public Safety Philip Banks. Koo owns a chain of pharmacies and has no reported law enforcement experience.
- Mark Treyger, a Brooklyn Democrat and former schoolteacher earning $195,000 as the mayor’s senior education adviser.
- Paul Vallone, a Democrat from Queens earning $190,000 as Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Veterans Services.
- Darma Diaz, a Brooklyn Democrat and former social worker earning $170,000 as the Assistant Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services.
Republican Curtis Sliwa, who lost the mayoral election to Adams, tore up the hires, saying Koo’s nomination is particularly troubling given the city’s rising crime rate.
“It shows that New York is for sale,” said Sliwa, founder of crime prevention group Guardian Angels. “Peter Koo knows nothing about public safety. He’s a businessman, a pharmacist.
Koo did not return any messages.
The hiring of Cabrera and Cumbo was also not well received, but not for lack of experience.
Adams was widely criticized for hiring Cabrera due to the pastor’s past anti-gay remarks. Critics, including former Council President Melissa Mark-Viverito, ripped cumbo selection because she has previously made polarizing remarks about Latinos and other immigrants.
Cabrera and Cumbo both apologized for their controversial remarks, and Adams said they deserved a second chance.
Asked about the 10 ex-legislators currently working for the city’s executive branch of government, a spokesperson for Adams insisted the mayor “is committed to hiring the best people for the right jobs, and this group of people meets and exceeds that goal.”
“They bring a range of life, government and private sector experiences, and the Mayor is proud to have them on board, bringing new perspectives and experiences to their roles,” he added.