Spelman College alumna Adrienne Adams is making history in N.Y.C as the second-most powerful person in the city’s government! Get the full story from and contributor Dana Rubinstein at The New York Post below.
Ms. Adams, who became speaker on Wednesday, will lead the most diverse City Council ever as New York tries to recover from the pandemic. She already faces battles with the mayor.
Adrienne Adams had to overcome several obstacles on her way to being voted in on Wednesday as the first Black woman to serve as speaker of the New York City Council, the second-most-powerful position in city government.
She had a competitive race to retain her City Council seat representing southeast Queens, including a primary challenge from her predecessor, and entered the contest for speaker relatively late. Mayor Eric Adams did what he had said he would not do and tried, unsuccessfully, to tip the scales in favor of one of Ms. Adams’s rivals.
Ms. Adams, 61, a moderate Democrat, prevailed and will now lead the City Council, as New York grapples once again with being a center of the coronavirus pandemic while facing a difficult financial future.
The new City Council, which is more diverse than ever and has its first-ever female majority, also looks to be more ideologically divided than in recent memory. And in spite of public efforts to show they are on the same page, Ms. Adams already faces potential battles with the mayor on everything from the use of solitary confinement in the city’s jails to new legislation that would grant more than 800,000 legal residents who are not citizens the right to vote in municipal elections.
Ms. Adams, who lost her father to Covid, said her priority would be seeing the city through the pandemic and working to strengthen families that have been damaged in its wake.
“We meet here today as the most diverse Council in history, led by the first African-American speaker,” Ms. Adams said in a speech Wednesday after her colleagues voted nearly unanimously to make her speaker. “While this is a moment to celebrate this milestone, we must realize that we are here because New York is at the crossroads of multiple crises — each one competing for our full attention.”
In an interview, Ms. Adams noted that the pandemic had further exposed existing inequalities on issues ranging from medical care to child care, housing and access to high speed internet. “All roads lead through this pandemic,” she said. “When I think of my priorities, I think of rebuilding a city.”
Ms. Adams’s predecessor as speaker, Corey Johnson, said it would not be easy.
“We’re in this painful and uncertain time with Omicron and not knowing what this will do to our economy,” Mr. Johnson said in an interview. “This new Council has more members who are very far left and more who are far right. To get things done will be a challenge.”
He added: “But it’s not an impossible challenge because Adrienne has the skill set, track record and temperament.”
Yvette Buckner, a political strategist who is vice chair of 21 in ’21, a group that helped elect a record number of women to the City Council, said Ms. Adams would “be able to understand the needs of the city from a different lens,” partly because of her experience as a mother of four and a grandmother of 10.
Even as the country goes through “a long overdue reckoning of racial justice,” New Yorkers need to feel safe from discriminatory policing, “safe from the virus and safe from violence,” Ms. Adams said in her speech.
Mr. Adams will be her counterpart in that effort. Though he suffered a significant political loss when Ms. Adams amassed enough support to become speaker, they both say they have a good relationship.
Ms. Adams and Mr. Adams were classmates at Bayside High School in Queens in the late 1970s. Mr. Adams, discouraged by an undetected learning disability, has spoken often about not being a model student. Ms. Adams, on the other hand, was a cheerleader who founded a gospel chorus at the high school, which was mostly white at the time.
“I actually went to class. We knew of each other but we did not hang out in the same crowd,” Ms. Adams said of her time at high school with the mayor. “But we are so proud of each other.”
After graduating from Spelman College, Ms. Adams worked as a corporate trainer for communications companies. She served as chairwoman of Community Board 12 in Queens before running for office in 2017 after her predecessor was convicted of fraud and removed from office. (His conviction was later reversed.)
As a councilwoman, she passed legislation to limit the sale of tax liens and established a task force to make sure the liens were implemented fairly, and she helped allocate $10 million in the budget to create a Black studies curriculum for public schools.
Many in the city’s political class were surprised when Mr. Adams and his team tried to install Francisco Moya, a councilman from Queens, as speaker, particularly because Mr. Adams and Ms. Adams were largely seen as being politically in sync.
Ms. Adams, who was a co-chair of the Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, opposed deeply cutting the Police Department budget as part of the defund the police movement. Mr. Adams is a former police captain who has criticized efforts to cut the police budget and who won the Democratic primary on a message of improving public safety.
“How am I going to dislike someone that shares my same last name?” Mr. Adams said at a news conference on Tuesday. “I love Adrienne.”
The mayor credited Ms. Adams, who endorsed him in the Democratic primary, with playing a “pivotal role” in helping him win.
Ms. Adams also strongly agrees with Mr. Adams that the city, and its schools, should not shut down because of the highly contagious Omicron variant.
But there are already two potential points of conflict. Mr. Adams has raised concerns about a bill passed during the previous City Council session that would give legal residents the right to vote in municipal elections, saying he believes that the 30-day residency requirement is too short. He has not ruled out vetoing the legislation.
Ms. Adams said she “respected the mayor’s thoughts” about the legislation, which becomes law this month if he does not sign or veto it, and that she “would not be opposed” to revisiting the length of the residency requirement.
Theodore Moore, the senior policy director for the New York Immigration Coalition, said the residency requirement matched state election law, which requires people who move to New York from out of state to wait 30 days before voting. A legal challenge to the city law is expected from conservative groups and Republican lawmakers.
“We just need to remind the speaker that you supported this legislation as is, you were a co-sponsor of it and you voted for it,” said Mr. Moore.
The mayor and speaker seem further apart on Mr. Adams’s declaration that he will allow solitary confinement to be used in the city’s jails for incarcerated people who commit acts of violence against others in custody or correction officers.
Mr. Adams said that he was upset council members had written an open letter objecting to his stance rather than speaking to him directly, and that he planned to ignore them. “I’m the mayor,” he said.
Ms. Adams, whose mother was a correction officer, said she agreed with the letter, which was signed by 29 of her fellow council members and decried solitary confinement as “a “form of torture.”
If an incarcerated person has to be isolated for a violent incident, Ms. Adams argued, that time should be used to administer counseling or other therapy to help address the root cause of the violence.
“Let’s go back to the time when correction meant correction, and rehabilitation meant rehabilitation,” Ms. Adams said.
The mayor’s remarks angered those who signed the letter. Crystal Hudson, who just became one of the first two openly gay Black women to serve on the Council, said she felt Ms. Adams had made a strong statement in her response.
“I have full faith in her abilities as the speaker of the City Council to push back when needed and to have her members’ backs,” Ms. Hudson, who represents a district in Brooklyn, said in an interview. “I know that she will stand firm in her convictions.”
The vote to make Ms. Adams speaker on Wednesday was 49 to 2, with two Black Democrats voting against her. One of them, Charles Barron, who represents East New York in Brooklyn, said Ms. Adams did not represent “independent, bold Black leadership that stands for the people over the party.” The other, Kristin Richardson Jordan, who represents Central Harlem, said, “we need more than symbolic representation.”
Diana Ayala, who represents East Harlem, will serve as the deputy speaker; Keith Powers, who represents several other neighborhoods in Manhattan, will be the majority leader and Selvena Brooks-Powers, who represents parts of Queens, will be the majority whip. Joseph Borelli, a Republican councilman from Staten Island, was chosen as the minority leader.
Ms. Adams said the diversity of the new City Council should serve as a “model” for other cities, but she also described it as “bittersweet.”
“It’s amazing and beautiful,” Ms. Adams said. “But it’s still a little disheartening that in the City of New York, we are looking at the first African-American speaker of the City Council.”