“We are past our breaking point. New York’s compassion is limitless, but our resources are not,” said Mayor Eric Adams in August while outlining a potential $12 billion price tag the city is facing to help arriving asylum seekers.
Adams is feeling the heat from the migrant crisis—both politically and financially.
With nearly 3,000 asylum seekers arriving in the city weekly, the mayor sometimes sounds exasperated—never more so than at a town hall meeting this week.
“A 110,000 migrants. We have to feed, clothe, house, educate the children, wash their laundry sheets, give them everything they need,” Adams said on Wednesday night in the Upper West Side.
Further aggravating him — both the state and federal government have had sharp words for the city’s migrant operations, including some fellow Democratic city officials like Comptroller Brad Lander.
“The loudest, I think Eric should, the loudest person in the city has yet to go to Washington, D.C.,” he said back in June while doing an impression of Lander.
With the mayor not facing re-election for two more years, Lander is emerging as one of Adams’ fiercest critics.
“Now the year is over, we’re in the second year, we’re going into the third year and people start to criticize more and start to see people are vulnerable and they start to take shots,” Chris Coffey, a democratic consultant, said.
The influx is straining the governor and mayor’s relationship, with the mayor arguing that the whole state should be shouldering the burden, while the governor believes only the city is required to help by law.
The two are still trying to present a public united front, even as cracks have started to show.
“You remind me of Sandra, my favorite sister. Even when we have a philosophical disagreement, I have her back. And I have your back,” Adams said on Tuesday while making remarks at the annual Financial Control Board meeting.
It’s an attempt to show that mayors and governors can actually work together.
“It’s very rare for a governor and mayor to get along. They have different needs, different constituents,” George Arzt, a political consultant and former press secretary to Mayor Ed Koch, said.
The summer for Adams was also one about revelation.
In July, the mayor’s knack for spinning tales and embellishing stories was put under the spotlight by a New York Times report, focusing on his claim that he keeps a photo of a slain police officer in his wallet.
“And I pulled out this photo. This photo is of Robert Venable. He was one of my closest friends when I was a transit police officer,” he said back in June 2022, one of the first times he pulled out the photo for public view.
The mayor says the stories are part of his ability to connect with everyday New Yorkers, and some observers agree.
“I think part of being mayor is entertaining, and when you’re entertaining you tend to embellish stories,” Arzt said.
Adams prioritizes his relationships, especially those that align with his politics.
In August, the mayor took a trip to Israel with the country in the middle of a major political dispute over the power of its judiciary.
On the three-day trip, Adams met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well as leaders of the pro-democracy movement.
“I just wanted to be here, not to interfere but to learn,” he said while in Israel over the summer.
Adams has very close connections to the ultra-orthodox Jewish community in New York, which is an important part of his base. Liberals criticized him for a meeting with the conservative prime minister.
“The fact is, if he ran for mayor but had not gone to Israel, he would have been the first mayor in fifty years that hadn’t been to Israel as Mayor and he would have been wide open to criticism,” Coffey said. “You have to be able to chew gum and juggle at the same time. It was August, the slowest possible time.”
But the wave of migrants coming to New York is showing the mayor, and the rest of the city, that there may not be a slow time in New York—at least not for the foreseeable future.