New York City

Adams, Hochul kick off National Action Network convention with praise for the Rev. Al Sharpton

The mayor burnished his activist credentials while the governor talked about budget priorities for Black families.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Gov. Kathy Hochul each spoke at the kickoff to the National Action Network’s annual convention.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Gov. Kathy Hochul each spoke at the kickoff to the National Action Network’s annual convention. Don Pollard/Office of Gov. Kathy Hochul

Before Gov. Kathy Hochul caught a train to the nation’s capital for a meeting with White House officials on Wednesday afternoon, she stopped by a high-rise hotel in Times Square for a brief, but important, appearance.

Hochul joined New York City Mayor Eric Adams to make opening remarks at the National Action Network’s annual convention, where both leaders heaped praise on the Rev. Al Sharpton as a voice of moral clarity for New York and the nation.

Sharpton, the civil rights leader who founded the organization in 1991 and remains an influential voice in New York politics, quipped that Hochul told the White House she would be a little late because she had to be at NAN’s kickoff event in the morning. Joking or not, the line rang true. NAN’s annual event is a can’t miss event.

The assembly of New York political players at the kickoff proved that, with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, state Sens. Zellnor Myrie and Jessica Ramos, all four Democratic borough presidents and New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams among those in attendance. Sharpton joked that the first row of the audience was filled with elected officials and the second row with people who want to be elected officials, though some of those seated in the first row were among those who have been rumored to have their sights on a 2025 mayoral run.

Adams, who Sharpton introduced as a founding member of NAN, put a fine point on the importance of having NAN in your corner as a politician. “All of these leaders and all of you in this room who are elected into office right now, you had to pass through NAN to get there,” Adams said.

Sharpton, celebrating 33 years of the civil rights organization headquartered in a small storefront on 145th Street in Harlem, required a larger venue for the kickoff of the annual convention, filling much of a large ballroom at the Sheraton New York Times Square Hotel. And while a host of New York elected officials showed up for the kickoff – which took the form of a ribbon-cutting on the large ballroom stage – it was Sharpton whom Hochul credited with showing up for New Yorkers, including after the racist mass shooting at a Buffalo supermarket in 2022 that killed 10 people, all of whom were Black. “You know who showed up in the aftermath to help heal a community that was grieving? Rev. Al Sharpton showed up,” Hochul said. “That’s what he does.”

Adams took time in his remarks to pay respect to Sharpton’s legacy too, calling him the “conscience of America.” Adams also spent some time taking general aim at his own critics, projecting a vision of unity even with some of his detractors, and found a receptive audience in doing so.

In his remarks, delivered with increasing passion following each round of applause from the audience, Adams professed that New York’s leaders have more in common than they have dividing them, using Williams – who has publicly clashed with the mayor on legislative issues – as an example. “We come from the same background, the same fight, the same struggle. And we’re going to have our philosophical disagreements on things that people want to focus on. But we agree that his child should grow up in a safe city, just as Jordan grew up in a safe city,” Adams said to applause.

Adams went on to burnish his own credentials as an advocate against police abuse and discrimination. “You can be the word police and say, ‘He should have said it this way or that way,’” Adams said, in apparent reference to his critics generally. “Don’t try to give me all that madness. I know where my heart is. And my heart didn’t come here today. My heart was here 33 years ago.”

An array of catchy one-liners from Adams landed to applause in the audience. “Folks right now who are crawling around on the floor in diapers are telling me what I was doing 33 years ago,” he said to laughs. “Listen, I’m not good on how to tweet, I’m good on the streets.”

Hochul too projected unity, even as she’s in the middle of negotiations to pass a delayed state budget, which garnered a mention in her remarks about the responsibility of wielding power. “Power in good hands, the just hands, the hands of the people in this room, can be a force for good that can take us to new levels,” Hochul said. “And that’s why I’m using the power I have, humbly, as a servant of God, a servant of the people of New York, to work on a budget right now.”

Among her priorities in the budget, Hochul mentioned the much-debated topic of a plan to build new housing, connecting the push to the displacement of Black New Yorkers. “We’ve lost 200,000 Black and brown families. Why? They can’t afford a home,” Hochul said. “So we’re going to make sure we start building and building, so kids who were raised here can raise their own families here.”

The convention, which lasts through Saturday, will see a number of other influential New York leaders take the stage, including at a panel on law enforcement and community partnerships featuring Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez and U.S. Attorneys Damian Williams, Trini Ross and Breon Peace.