Albany Agenda

This was finally Eric Adams’ year in Albany

Gov. Kathy Hochul helped deliver key wins for her partner in New York City.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams traveled to Albany for “Tin Cup Day” in February and followed it up with several notable wins in the state budget.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams traveled to Albany for “Tin Cup Day” in February and followed it up with several notable wins in the state budget. Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

For three years running, New York City Mayor Eric Adams has looked at the negotiated state budget and declared that the city and his administration has emerged, for the most part, with a record of wins. “When you look down the list, every year, 90% of the things that I needed from Albany, they gave,” Adams said in a January interview on “The Capitol Pressroom.”

But in his first two years in office, Albany has delivered a mixed bag on Adams’ major requests during budget negotiations. Reporting on the challenges he has faced in Albany has prompted defensive reactions from the mayor. “Many people stated that Eric had a terrible time in Albany last year. That is just not true,” Adams told conservative radio host Sid Rosenberg in a January 2023 interview. “I walked out of Albany with more success than I know mayors have traditionally received. Was there one, two items we disagreed on? Yes, but the overwhelming number of things that I needed, Carl Heastie, Andrea Stewart-Cousins and the governor gave New York City.”

This year, while the mayor’s cup may not runneth over, he’s certainly not off base in looking at his mix of achievements and concessions with a glass half full perspective.

“This year he won because he didn’t take a beating,” said longtime Democratic political strategist Hank Sheinkopf. “The question with Albany and the mayor is how badly did they beat you up and what did they do to you? This year they did things for him as opposed to against him.”

While lawmakers didn’t officially wrap up passing the $237 billion state budget until Saturday afternoon, Adams has had plenty of positive things to say about its contents as leaders hashed out the final details over the past week. He already heaped a bevy of praise on legislative leaders and Gov. Kathy Hochul, “who has really stood up and fought for the city.”

The glowing words make sense. Of Adams’ five key budget requests, the state budget delivered to some degree on all of them. That included a housing package that creates a new incentive program for developers to build affordable housing in New York City, a two-year extension of mayoral control, $2.4 billion in migrant-related aid, measures that will give the city greater authority to shutter illegal cannabis shops and a measure that will allow the city to borrow $12 billion from the state over the next two years. Adams also scored resources and higher penalties to fight retail crime, as well as “Sammy’s Law,” which will give the city the ability to set its own speed limits on some roads, both of which were among his priorities.

There are some caveats, of course. The $2.4 billion in migrant funding was far less than Adams’ initial request. The housing package was rife with compromises, and a pilot program only legalized basement and cellar units in parts of the city. While Adams will retain control of the city’s school system for another two years, that power was diluted somewhat as the state will now get to select the chair of the Panel for Educational Policy. Another stipulation that moved the state to extend mayoral control so late into the budget process will require the city Education Department to budget sufficient funds to ensure it can comply with the state law mandating smaller class laws.

Adams’ record in Albany during the first two years of his mayoralty was more of a mix of successes and failures. In 2022, his first state budget as mayor, Adams came up empty-handed on two of his top priorities: extending mayoral control and renewing the 421-a affordable housing tax break for developers. Mayoral control was eventually extended for two years during the legislative session, but it was still a bruising first negotiation. Lawmakers accused Adams and his team of being absent, arguing the new administration waited until the last minute to push its priorities.

Things shaped up a bit more in the mayor’s favor in 2023. Adams walked away with about $1 billion in aid to help with the costs of asylum-seekers, a measure giving judges greater discretion on bail for repeat offenders that stopped sort of weakening new rules on discovery evidence, a deal to reallocate “zombie” charter school licenses, and the city only having to contribute an extra $165 million to the MTA budget crisis – far less than the $500 million initially proposed by Hochul. His housing-related requests – much of which ended up crossing the finish line this year – fell through in 2023.

When asked for comment, a City Hall spokesperson referred City & State to the mayor's earlier statement on the budget.

Politically, now is a good time for the mayor to score a win and prove his ability to advocate for the city. He’s up for reelection in 2025 and recent polling hasn’t been kind, with one survey showing the mayor had worse favorability numbers than Donald Trump among likely city voters.

Sheinkopf noted that Adams seemed less confrontational this year than he had in the past while testifying to lawmakers about the city’s budget needs, which likely helped him.

 “It was smart behavior by him to show he knows who the boss is, which is the Legislature and the governor, so he’s well positioned going into the last year of his mayoralty before the election,” Sheinkopf said.

Some lawmakers also had some positive things to say about the mayor’s approach this year. 

“He wanted mayoral accountability and he accepted mayoral accountability. That’s a good sign,” said state Sen. John Liu, who chairs the New York City Education Committee, of the Adams’ administration’s efforts. “It’s a more collaborative effort and also tone.”