Pro-Business Eric Adams Faces NYC’s Most Progressive City Council Yet
(Bloomberg) -- Mayor-elect Eric Adams pledged to make New York City more business-friendly. The most progressive City Council yet could make that promise a tough one to keep.
At least 35 new members will join the City Council after the November race, ushering in a historic shift for the 51-member body, which now resembles its diverse constituency more than ever before.
In a first for the Council, women will account for a majority of representatives; Kristin Richardson Jordan and Crystal Hudson are the first openly queer and gay Black women; and Shahana Hanif is the first Muslim woman elected.
Many of the newly elected Council members are ideologically progressive, endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America or the Working Families Party, if not both. Republicans gained at least one seat, for a total of four, and could pick up another three seats once those races are called. Republican Inna Vernikov won District 48 in South Brooklyn, a seat long held by Democrats.
“We are, without question, looking at the most progressive, leftist City Council we have had in our city’s history,” said Tiffany Caban, the incoming Council member for District 22 in Queens. She said she is eager to work with an Adams administration on some issues, but there will also be times when it will be necessary to take “a very overtly adversarial position.”
The Council is one of the most powerful in the nation, acting as a check on the mayor and the agencies he oversees. Annual budgets, public land-use decisions, changes to property taxes and most other major policy changes have to get the green-light from the Council. That could pose a challenge for Adams, particularly when it comes to the divisive issue of policing.
“It’s not going to be a one-man show,” said Camille Rivera, a partner of political-consulting firm New Deal Strategies. If the new Council members carry out their promises, Adams will have to deal with “a very feisty and on-fire” cohort that will want to put “progressive policies first.”
Adams, a former police captain, campaigned on a promise to clamp down on crime. He wants to revive and reform a controversial plainclothes police unit. He also wants to cut the New York Police Department’s overtime spending, while many new Council members want to cut the overall department budget and instead invest in community-led safety initiatives.
That could make the next round of budget negotiations difficult, said Basil Smikle, who was Ray McGuire’s mayoral campaign manager.
“This is the first major election under ‘defund the police,’” said Smikle, now the director of Hunter College’s Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute. “That’s I think where the tension will come in -- how much are you giving to the department, and for what purposes?”
Housing may be another area where Adams and the Council could butt heads. The mayor-in-waiting has said he would create affordable housing by adding density in wealthy areas, but drew scrutiny over his ties to the real estate industry and for accepting donations from developers -- something more progressive members of the Democratic party have refused to do.
“The Council will certainly be fighting tooth and nail to ensure that our communities are invested in,” said Crystal Hudson, the incoming representative for District 35 in Brooklyn.
Adams does lean further left on some issues, such as allowing documented noncitizens to vote in local elections. Leading up to the election, he also rallied alongside two progressives -- newly elected comptroller Brad Lander and re-elected Public Advocate Jumaane Williams -- emphasizing the need for unity among city officials.
“We all want the same thing, it’s just a matter of how we get to those shared goals of an equitable city, a city that has safer streets,” Hudson said. “If you want to get things done, you’ve got to be willing to have some tough conversations and make some tough compromises.”
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