The Crumbling of Eric Adams
How far can he fall?
Longtime readers of mine know I’ve been, somewhat inadvertently, chronicling the doings of Eric Adams, New York City’s 110th mayor, for a while. The first investigation I ever wrote on Adams was published in the spring of 2013, when he was a state senator running for the ceremonial post of Brooklyn borough president. Adams always seemed like a man on the make and someone of dubious intent; scandal had shadowed him virtually his entire political career, and there was the question of what would ever happen if he found genuine power. He told me, as early as 2014, he had his sights set on City Hall, and I had no reason to doubt him. Adams was always, from a young age, remarkably ambitious. He cannot be said to have delusions of grandeur; he got exactly what he wanted, and made the haters his waiters, as he’s fond of saying.
One of these days, I intend to round up all of my writings on Adams and produce a handy guide for the uninitiated. Adams, like Donald Trump, has led a peripatetic political life, and he is a confusing presence for those who don’t know the New York scene well. He deemed himself the “Biden of Brooklyn” and he was, for a kind of prestige national pundit, a dream politician: a Black moderate who was going to get tough on crime and cow the progressive left. Adams, as many know by now, is a former police captain, and this experience, paired with his working class upbringing, made him, fleetingly, one of the more well-regarded politicians in America. It was the summer of 2021, after he won the Democratic primary for mayor, and it was a peak he is very unlikely to reach again.
Federal investigators are now probing a possible bribery scandal tied to his 2021 mayoral campaign. FBI agents raided his chief fundraiser’s home and seized his phones. In an unrelated scandal, his former Buildings commissioner, a close ally named Eric Ulrich, has also been indicted. Both the Manhattan DA’s office and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District have his administration in their crosshairs. Adams has not been accused of any wrongdoing. But none of this helps his political standing.
Public polling on his administration has been scant, but Marist finally released their second poll measuring Adams’ job approval with New Yorkers. Among NYC voters, according to Marist, 37 percent approved of the job Adams has done as mayor while 56 percent disapproved. In March of 2022, Adams had a 61 percent approval rating with Marist. How much the federal investigation actually drove these numbers down remains to be seen. My hunch is that Adams would’ve performed poorly anyway because there is a sense, among New Yorkers, Adams isn’t serious about running this city and nothing is being handled particularly well. The migrant crisis has been a font of misinformation and lousy budgeting; Adams, strangely, thinks it’s now a fine idea to slash Sunday library service. Crime is down, but Adams talked so long about how out of control it all was (it was never out control), the narrative hardened.
Now Adams is on the brink, deeply unpopular. He’s never been more vulnerable.