New York Times: Why Eric Adams and Kathy Hochul Might Actually Get Along

Originally published in New York Times on January 03, 2022.

The first public sign that things would be different between Eric Adams, the new mayor of New York City, and Gov. Kathy Hochul came on election night, when she appeared onstage to celebrate his victory.

“We’re going to need her,” Mr. Adams said, as Ms. Hochul inched toward the microphone.

They have since appeared together a handful of times, vowing to work as a team instead of fighting over every little thing, as their Democratic predecessors, former Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, had done for nearly eight years.

“In the past, there has been this tension, a polite way of saying fighting, between the governor of New York and the mayor of the City of New York,” Ms. Hochul said at a recent holiday fund-raiser for the Democratic Party of Brooklyn, which Mr. Adams also attended. “The era of fighting between those two bodies, those two people, is over.”

In theory, the governor and the mayor of the nation’s largest city should have each other’s interests at heart; one can rarely prosper without the other. Yet that has not always been the case in New York, where conflicting political parties and personalities have often caused rifts.

Mr. de Blasio feuded constantly with Mr. Cuomo over matters great and small: how to pay for the city’s expansive prekindergarten initiative, subway funding, the response to the pandemic and the homeless crisis. They even fought over whether to euthanize a deer.

Ms. Hochul and Mr. Adams, both Democrats, seem intent on trying again, and both have compelling reasons to do so.

Mr. Adams takes office as the city faces a resurgence of the coronavirus and a raft of issues that may rely on the state’s assistance. Ms. Hochul needs support from Black, Latino and moderate voters in New York City, the same base that Mr. Adams cultivated to become mayor, as she faces a moderate opponent and two likely challengers to her left in a June primary.

“Every mayor, no matter who they are, is eventually confronted with the fact that New York City is a creature of the state,” said State Senator Diane Savino, a moderate Democrat who represents Staten Island and who endorsed Mr. Adams. “New York City is a significant part of the Democratic Party vote, and I’m sure the governor would like to have his support.”

Ms. Hochul and Mr. Adams and their staffs often speak ahead of major announcements on issues related to Covid policy. They have also been in touch about Ms. Hochul’s State of the State address this Wednesday and the policy proposals under development. And they’ve known one another for years and share more moderate views than some of their party’s left-leaning elected officials.

 

They have both, for example, reached out to business leaders to seek their guidance on the city’s economic recovery from the pandemic.

“Frankly, neither Governor Cuomo or Mayor de Blasio had a working relationship with leaders of the business community,” said Kathryn Wylde, the president of the Partnership for New York City. “This is a dramatic and most welcome reversal.”

 

There is politicking happening behind the scenes between the two camps. With Ms. Hochul facing a contested primary, Mr. Adams is keenly aware of his political leverage: In November, Mr. Adams, who did not endorse anyone in the Democratic primaries for New York City comptroller and public advocate, said he planned to make an endorsement in the Democratic primary for governor.

Among the items on Mr. Adams’s agenda are gaining long-term mayoral control of schools and a $1 billion expansion of the earned-income tax credit to help moderate and low-income families. Mr. Adams has a plan to provide universal child care and also wants federal funds to be released to the city more quickly.

Ms. Hochul has also said she will work with the mayor on revisiting the state’s bail laws, with Mr. Adams suggesting that recent increases in crime are linked to changes in bail law that ended cash bail for many low-level offenses.

“Hochul has great strength in a general election but needs to solidify her position in New York City to win a Democratic primary. That gives her an incentive to want to be helpful to the new mayor,” said Bruce Gyory, a Democratic strategist. “The new mayor has tremendous incentive to do very well in that first budget because the perception will have an impact on the finances of the city. They have an enlightened self-interest to work well together.”

But there is also risk associated with Ms. Hochul’s and Mr. Adams’s potential alliance. State Senator Michael Gianaris, a sponsor of some bail reform measures, said efforts to change the bail law would “set the stage for a less than amicable relationship right out of the box” with the State Legislature. Mr. Adams “also needs the Legislature,” Mr. Gianaris said.

Mr. Adams would have had more leverage had Letitia James not dropped out of the race for governor. Ms. James, who decided to run for re-election as the state attorney general, was Ms. Hochul’s strongest opponent, according to early polling.

Getting Mr. Adams’s backing would have helped Ms. Hochul with working-class, Black and Latino voters outside of Manhattan who might otherwise have supported Ms. James.

Even with Ms. James out of the race, Mr. Adams still has some leverage. Jumaane Williams, the public advocate of New York City who is running to the left of Ms. Hochul, also has a strong political base in Brooklyn, as does Mr. de Blasio, who is considering running for governor. When Mr. Williams ran against Ms. Hochul in the Democratic primary for lieutenant governor in 2018, he received almost 167,000 votes in Brooklyn, about 71,000 more than Ms. Hochul.

“Tish James being out of the race takes some pressure off Hochul but doesn’t completely change the dynamic,” Mr. Gyory said. “If anything, Hochul now wants to get a larger share of the Black vote.”

Mr. Williams and Mr. Adams have a cordial relationship, according to several sources familiar with both men. Though Mr. Adams, a former police officer, is considered more of a law-and-order candidate, and Mr. Williams is to the left on police reform, both are interested in holistic approaches to addressing gun violence.

Mr. Williams and Mr. Adams spoke about setting up a meeting with progressives concerned about Mr. Adams’s stance on policing in the fall. In November, Mr. Williams asked Mr. Adams for his endorsement in the governor’s race.

Mr. Adams didn’t say no. He told Mr. Williams to “do well, generate momentum,” and “then let’s have a serious conversation,” said a person familiar with the conversation who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to discuss it.

“Anybody would be smart to want to get the mayor of New York City’s support for their campaign,” Mr. Williams said.

Mr. Adams also has a good relationship with Representative Thomas Suozzi, a Long Island Democrat who endorsed him for mayor and campaigned on his behalf. Mr. Adams asked Mr. Suozzi to be one of his deputy mayors, but Mr. Suozzi declined and soon announced that he was running for governor.

Some saw the request from Mr. Adams as a favor to help pump up Mr. Suozzi’s run for governor, but Mr. Suozzi, who said he and Mr. Adams agree about how the “defund the police message” and “socialism message” are “killing Democrats,” saw it differently, pointing out that Mr. Adams will need Ms. Hochul’s support to govern effectively.

 

“I perceived it as a vote of confidence. He asked me to play a big role in helping him to accomplish his mission,” Mr. Suozzi said in an interview. “But I’ve been around a long time in politics, and I doubt he’s going to be able to endorse me because he’s got to get a budget done in the state of New York.”

With another moderate in the race, it’s even more important for Ms. Hochul to tap into Mr. Adams’s base. Both Ms. Hochul and Mr. Adams have cast themselves in the vein of moderate Democrats, similar to President Biden.

“They are both sensible Democrats,” said the Rev. Al Sharpton. “Nobody thought either one of them would become governor or mayor, so they’ve got something to prove, and they can prove it together.”

Mr. Sharpton recalled that when Ms. Hochul and Mr. Adams attended the 30th anniversary of his civil rights organization at Carnegie Hall in November, his staff did not need to jump through hoops to ensure that they didn’t cross paths, as they had done for Mr. Cuomo and Mr. de Blasio at similar gatherings.

“I don’t know if ‘like’ would be the right word, but I think they both know they need each other,” Mr. Sharpton said