“I want to wake up in a city that never sleeps and find I'm king of the hill, top of the heap.” – Kander & Ebb
If you feel a strong breeze, it could be coming from the revolving door to Mayor Eric Adams’ cabinet in City Hall.
Already dealing with the departures of some of the top members of the team that took office with him last year, Adams last week was hit by a resignation gut-punch from NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell.
While there was no official reason given by Sewell in her farewell e-mail to the department, it was telling that she never once mentioned the mayor or thanked him for giving her the job.
A former police captain with many lasting ties to the NYPD, Adams never seemed comfortable handing over the department’s baton to Sewell, whose closest connection to New York City was geographic; she previously served as Nassau County’s chief of detectives.
While relations between past mayors and their police commissioners have sometimes been stormy, it’s the earliest departure of a first-term mayor’s new police commissioner since 1952. Before the job search commences for Sewell’s successor, the mayor could save the city some money by buying a rubber stamp.
But in defense of rubber stamps for a moment, Rudy Giuliani’s police department was micro-managed from City Hall in the wake of Police Commissioner Bill Bratton’s resignation and crime continued to plunge.
Talking to reporters about his leadership style, the mayor boasted: “I am the only mayor … that has actually worked in a city agency. I know city government. When I sit down with my DOE chancellor, when I sit down with the Department of Parks, when I sit down with everyone, I know what is happening. Every other mayor had to turn over those agencies and allow people to just run them the way they desire. That’s not how I function.”
Adams is conveniently overlooking the history of some of his predecessors, including David Dinkins, who had previously served as Manhattan Borough President and City Clerk; Abe Beame, who was City Comptroller; Bill de Blasio, who was Public Advocate; and William O’Dwyer who, like Adams, was a former cop.
But put those former mayors to the side. In terms of management skills, Adams has far more in common with Giuliani and former Governor Cuomo. There are no constellations of shiny talent in some administrations because there is only one star.
There are different ways to run things successfully but it’s harder to attract top-tier talent to an administration if every commissioner’s desk is equipped with a rear-view mirror pointing at the mayor’s office. While Michael Bloomberg had his own share of shortcomings in the job, one of his greatest strengths was finding many strong commissioners who were often allowed to wave high their policy freak flags.
The good news for Eric Adams is there’s a long way to go before the end of this first term. The bad news for Eric Adams is he’s already looking for some key members of a new team.