In mid-December, “Swagger City” Mayor Eric Adams cast his first predictions for the new year. “2023 is going to be my Aaron Judge year,” he told reporters, referring to the Yankees outfielder who hit 62 home runs this year, beating out Babe Ruth and Roger Maris to set a new all-time record for the American League. Next year he would deliver results, Adams said; 2022 had just been his “rookie” phase.
For what it’s worth, Judge’s inaugural season was five years ago and won him Rookie of the Year; Adams is about to end his with a 33 percent approval rating. But to some degree, the mayor, whose motto is “Get Stuff Done,” was acknowledging the widespread impression that he hasn’t done anything except eat dinner and make things worse.
Some of the things he has made worse: He enacted a “zero tolerance” policy for homeless people taking shelter in the subway, then cracked down on hundreds of homeless encampments elsewhere. He proposed installing metal detectors in the subway, eventually opting to just put more cops there. He scare-mongered about migrants coming to the city, erected an emergency tent camp to house them, then closed it down in less than a month. He oversaw the largest hike in stabilized rents in over a decade. He called to expand bail, defended stop-and-frisk, “exacerbated” the municipal staff shortage, backtracked on expanding public pre-K, killed the city’s affordable broadband project, directed cops to hospitalize mentally ill residents without consent, and cut funding to public libraries to a degree that “may push [them] over the edge.”
But it would be unfair to Adams to write off his first year entirely. Think of all the noteworthy stuff he said and did in that time. Let’s look back at some of the highlights.
CALLING 911 ON HIS FIRST DAY
Adams was sworn in in Times Square, shortly after the midnight ball-drop on New Year’s Day. Later that morning, he took the subway to City Hall, saw three men fighting, and called the cops. He did not tell the dispatcher until ending the call that he was the newly elected Mayor of New York.
VACCINATING NEW YORK WITH SWAG
When a mayor has swagger, the city has swagger. We’ve allowed people to beat us down so much, that all we did was wallow in COVID…We need a mayor with swagger, we need a councilwoman with swagger, we need assemblywomen with swagger, we need a borough president with swagger, we need a chancellor with swagger, we need a police commissioner with swagger…That’s what has been missing in this city.
GETTING PAID IN CRYPTO
Adams, a longtime crypto booster and jet passenger of techno cowboy Brock Pierce, promised after his election to accept his first three checks in Bitcoin. He did actually do that — converting his first check into Bitcoin and Ether shortly before a plunge in the digital asset market. Business Insider estimated that the exchange may have cost him as much as $1,000.
HIRING HIS BROTHER
Two weeks into his term, Adams appointed his deputy police commissioner: Bernard Adams. It turned out that the man was a parking lot director at Virginia Commonwealth University and also his brother. He would have been making about $240,000, until public criticism pressed Adams to demote his brother to “executive director of mayoral security,” which reduced his salary to $210,000. This still seemed like an overly sweet deal for Bernard; two weeks later, the mayor cut his salary to $1.
CALLING WHITE COPS CRACKERS
In Feb. a video surfaced of Adams talking to a Harlem business group in 2019 about white cops in the NYPD, saying that he “kicked those crackers’ ass.”
That one’s actually pretty funny. Unfortunately, he apologized.
That same month, it came out that the allegedly vegan mayor is not vegan. Per Politico:
A restaurant employee told POLITICO Adams usually dines on fish and salad, even though the mayor claims he’s a vegan and wrote a 224-page book about his food regimen. “He’s not a vegan, he’s a pescatarian,” said the staffer, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly about the mayor.
BING BONG JOINING TIKTOK
In March, Adams made his TikTok debut, a very dimly lit video involving a Nutribullet smoothie maker, the faint sounds of cell-phone speaker Beyoncé, and this quote: “Bing bong New York City, your mayor’s on TikTok.”
DANCING WITH CARA DELEVIGNE
Adams rang in the spring with a party hosted by Wells Fargo and Bilt Rewards to celebrate their new credit card that awards points for paying rent. According to The Cut, Adams mingled alongside Dr. Oz, Floyd Mayweather, and Cara Delevigne. He seemed to be having a nice time:
ENDING GUN VIOLENCE AT THE MET GALA
As Eileen Fisher once said: “Clothing is Political,” and Adams proved that at the Met Gala in May. He wore a goth-looking tuxedo jacket, illustrated with the words “End Gun Violence,” a crossed-out handgun, a medley of sad-looking faces, and sketches of several New York City landmarks.
SEEING GHOSTS IN GRACIE MANSION
The same month, Adams kept that goth energy alive during a Yankees game YES broadcast, by declaring his new home, Gracie Mansion, was haunted.
I believe him.
SPEAKING OF HOMES, BEING VAGUE ABOUT HIS APARTMENTS
The alleged New Jersey resident’s real estate portfolio has always been something of a mystery, as this Curbed piece lays out well:
[Adams] insists he lives in Bed-Stuy, but has been hounded since June by questions about whether he actually lives in Fort Lee, New Jersey, thanks to Politico and The City reports that he had recorded spending zero days at his supposed residence in legal documents. Next came a bizarre tour of his Bed-Stuy basement apartment, which left reporters less convinced that he actually lived in the place. Since winning the primary, his campaign hasn’t responded to questions about his schedule, and he seemed to disappear for weeks at a time.
Then it came out in June that Adams also owned a one-bedroom Crown Heights apartment, which he had never listed on financial disclosure forms. Adams had previously claimed to have given the apartment to his ex-girlfriend, Sylvia Cowan. But as he later confessed in a filing to the NYC Conflicts of Interest Board, he still owned half of the apartment. When the New York Times reported on the filing, the mayor “blamed his former accountant, who, Adams has said, continued to work for him after becoming homeless.”
LETTING HATERS BE WAITERS AT THE TABLE OF SUCCESS
When Adams spoke to the graduates of Queens College in June, my coworker Olivia Craighead noticed his speech sounded a little familiar.
Apparently, Adams has been throwing out some variation of the phrase “let your haters be your waiters” since at least 2015. Olivia found seven of them.
RULING THE JUNGLE
In July, Maureen Dowd wrote a weird, very generous opinion piece about Adams. It included this quote from him:
Adams: I am socially awkward. I’m extremely shy. I can spend the whole day binging on documentaries. When I was a child, I would sit down and I would get excited about going home and watching ‘Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom.’ Animal behavior is the unfiltered human behavior. We cover up what we feel. At our heart, we are all vulnerable.
Dowd: So which animal in the jungle are you?
Adams: Clearly, I am a lion. I am meant to rule the jungle.
NAMING HIMSELF THE FIRST “HIP HOP MAYOR”
Back in February, Adams tried to convince social media platform to ban drill videos, saying in one press conference:
I had no idea what drill rapping was. But I called my son, and he sent me some videos, and it is alarming. We are going to pull together the social media companies and sit down with them and state that you have a civic and corporate responsibility.
But by August, he had moved past all that. He announced a new round of funding for the South Bronx’s Universal Hip Hop Museum, then told the crowd: “First time in New York City history, we have a Hip Hop mayor.”
WEARING THIS JACKET
It was for fashion week.
APPOINTING A MEDIEVAL KNIGHT
Or at least, someone who cosplays as one on the side. In November, Adams appointed Dale Fong-Fredrick to the city judiciary. As the New York Post reported:
Fong-Frederick is known among his fellow fantasy Middle Agers as Sir Jibril al-Dakhil, the fictional “son of a Moorish baron and a mother born of Spanish royalty” who’s rumored “to competitively dance the pole in disguise,” according to the Society of Creative Anachronism website.
He evidently takes his charge seriously; in a Zoom last year for SCA, Fong-Fedrick said: “The philosophy of what it means to be a knight, what it means to be virtuous, what it means to speak up for people who can’t speak for themselves, what it means to deliver the king’s justice. They’re not just words. They’re not just concepts of pretend.”
STICKING WITH CRYPTO
The FTX collapse in November forced a lot of crypto boosters to look inward, or at least stop talking outwardly about how much they love scams. Not Adams though! In late November, he brought up crypto at a press conference: “These industries are not going to go away because they reached a low point…This is an industry that we must embrace.”
CLUBBING IN QATAR
The “Nightlife mayor” must have gotten sick of Osteria La Baia, because in December he found a new place to go out: Qatar. He was there for four days during the World Cup, watching games and going to clubs. “The day life, nightlife, everything is alive here right now,” he told the Times.
If that sounds perhaps outside the purview of a mayor’s role, don’t worry. He paid for the trip himself, and managed to eke out a rhyme in the process: “It’s on my dime,” the mayor said. “When I do my dime, I can do my time and I don’t want to hear anyone whine.”
WAGING WAR ON RATS
Adams has had a grudge against rats since before he entered office, but it ramped up in the fall, when he announced a new public role: rat czar. The city’s “rodent mitigation” specialist could make as much as $170,000 if they meet certain requirements: NYC residency, a college degree, base-line familiarity with Microsoft Office products, a “swashbuckling attitude, crafty humor, and general aura of badassery,” as well as a “virulent vehemence for vermin.”
Then it came out that Adams’ vendetta was personal; he was issued a summons by the city health department over a rat infestation in his Bed-Stuy home. The Mayor had to testify to avoid a $300 fine, in which he disclosed that he had “spent nearly $7,000 in March battling rats at the property” and had “even deployed the infamous ‘Rat Trap’ he once showcased as Brooklyn borough president, a grisly demonstration that involved ladling drowned rats out of a vat.”
Adams beat that case, but not the war. On Dec. 8, he told reporters: “Upper East Side, Upper West Side, rats are everywhere. I hate rats as you know, I’m scared of them and when I see one I think about it all day. So, I am fixated on killing rats.” That’s certainly true; Gothamist found that Adams had referenced them upwards of 80 times since October alone.
CRACKING DOWN ON WEED
Just in time for Christmas, Adams decided to target our most harmless neighbors: the shitty weed bodegas that sell an array of weed-leaf merchandise, assorted Delta-8 gummies, bongs that look like guns, and the occasional THC product. They’re fun, they’re ugly, and they are much better than MedMen. But they are no match for Adams’s rhetorical powers. “To those who believe this is going to become the Wild, Wild West of cannabis sales,” Adams said at a presser, “we are saying clearly and loudly, ‘No, it is not.’”