By Jeff Coltin | November 21, 2023
NEW YORK — For more than a year, Mayor Eric Adams has been demanding financial support from the federal government to pay for migrants in the city’s care.
A federal investigation into the mayor’s fundraising — unrelated to the crisis of housing migrants — hasn’t changed his attacks on the White House and Congress.
In fact, it has served as a way for Adams to continue to show he’s in control of the city and fighting, even with President Joe Biden, for its needs as scandal swirls around him.
“We’re not trying to negotiate with Washington. We’re trying to say that 140,000 people — three to four thousand [a week] — are coming here. There is a cost,” Adams said at a wide ranging City Hall press briefing Tuesday.
Adams confirmed plans to ask nearly all city agencies to make further 5 percent spending cuts to their budgets before he releases his preliminary city budget in January. And he’s planning to cut spending on housing and serving migrants by 20 percent.
Last week, Adams released his November financial plan, which included 5 percent cuts to agency spending totaling nearly $4 billion over two years — which includes cuts to garbage collection, new police recruits and library hours.
The cuts are necessary, in part, because the city projects spending nearly $11 billion on migrants over this fiscal year and the next, Adams has said.
The federal government has barely given New York City any money to cover the new costs, and Adams is quick to point the finger — turning the angst facing him and his administration onto those in Washington.
Cuts include a $60 million reduction to the school food program, which Adams suggested Tuesday would hurt his healthy eating initiative.
“That’s how painful this is. The initiative that we put in place to improve the lives of everyday, working class people, is being impacted right now,” he said. “And D.C. needs to do its job.”
That echoed his comments at a town hall in Brooklyn Monday night. “D.C. has abandoned us, and they need to be paying their cost to this national problem,” he said. If you have a problem, “Don’t yell at me, yell at D.C. We deserve better as a city.”
The White House didn’t respond to a request for comment.
City budget cuts are not leverage in his tough talk to federal officials, Adams said. It’s a reflection of the costs of trying to house more than 50,000 migrants.
Adams has been calling for federal funding for more than a year, dating back to summer 2022, when the increase in homeless asylum-seekers coming to the city was first acknowledged.
He’s also called for a “decompression strategy,” hoping the federal government would divert migrants away from the city. It has created a growing rift with the White House — Biden and Adams haven’t talked in nearly a year, and Biden didn’t meet with him in his latest visit to the city.
But it makes sense that Adams would want to divert blame — and perhaps talk about policy rather than his own political troubles.
The FBI briefly temporarily seized his electronic devices earlier this month as part of an investigation into the Turkish government’s influence in local politics.
Adams and nobody else has been charged, and his chief counsel said she had no reason to believe Adams was the target of an investigation.
But amid that news, Adams’ approval rating is sagging. Only 37 percent of New York City voters approved of the job Adams is doing, while 56 percent disapproved, according to a Marist poll released Tuesday.
Adams is keeping his focus on Washington amid all the troubles swirling around him — despite it dogging him wherever he goes.
Earlier this month, he ditched a White House meeting to ask for federal migrant funding when his campaign fundraiser’s home was raided by the FBI. But Adams said Tuesday he’s scheduling another trip to the capital with clergy members.
“I’m looking forward to getting to D.C.,” he said, “to have a real conversation around the impact of the migrant crisis on our city.”
New York’s leaders in Congress, meanwhile, have taken a muted approach on migrant funding for the city.
And Adams is pressing them too — saying again Tuesday he wants his fellow elected officials to push for federal funding as much as he is.
City Comptroller Brad Lander and leadership of the City Council have accused Adams of using misleading budget practices, deliberately underestimating revenue while overestimating spending on migrants to present a more dire fiscal situation than reality.
Adams ripped them, calling for message discipline.
“If one wants to dispute that you should pay $300 [per day for shelter] instead of $315, OK let’s do that argument. But to constantly send out the signal that this is not impacting our city, I just think is wrong,” Adams said.
“And when you have elected officials looking for political points, instead of making the point that New York City tax dollars should not be going to paying for a national problem? Every conversation should start with that from my elected officials.”