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NYC Council gains ground on securing power over mayoral appointments; Adams downplays it

Speaker Adrienne Adams (John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit)
Speaker Adrienne Adams (John McCarten/NYC Council Media Unit)

A that could give the lawmaking body considerably more sway over approving — and rejecting — mayoral appointees went into law late Monday night after the deadline to veto it passed.

The so-called advice-and-consent law has been the source of tensions between Mayor Adams’ administration and the Council for weeks now — and, as it now stands, it could expand the Council’s power over mayoral appointments.

But for it to be fully implemented, New York City residents will have to vote on it through a ballot referendum.

Prior to the bill becoming law, the Council only had the ability to offer its advice and consent on a limited number of mayoral appointees, such as the Department of Investigation commissioner and the corporation counsel. The new law adds 20 more agency commissioners to that list.

Adams and officials in his administration have for weeks said they opposed the bill, but the mayor ultimately declined to veto it. The deadline for him to do so passed Monday night.

On Tuesday, he seemed to change his message slightly, framing the bill as a distraction.

“This administration’s success has been overshadowed by all these back-and-forths,” he told reporters at a City Hall press conference.

“I’m just not doing that anymore. I’ve given you guys eight days of coverage on a bill that the average New Yorker, when I walk down the block, they’re not stopping me in the subway station and saying, ‘Hey Eric, what are you doing with the write and consent bill?'” Adams continued. “No, they’re concerned about crime, affordability and education.”

Mayor Eric Adams answered a reporter's question during his weekly in-person press conference at the Blue Room City Hall on July 9, 2024. (Luiz C. Ribeiro for NY Daily News)
Mayor Adams at the Blue Room City Hall on Tuesday. (Luiz C. Ribeiro for NY Daily News)

He reiterated that he had concerns but added that the Council has “a right to do what they have to do, and that’s the balance of power.”

Prior to Tuesday, Adams and his administration more sharply criticized the legislation, contending it would politicize appointments the mayor makes by requiring consent from a majority of the Council’s 51 members. Lisa Zornberg, the mayor’s chief counsel, has made the argument it’s “deeply misguided” because it could result in staffing delays for leadership posts within city agencies.

Mayoral spokeswoman Liz Garcia said Monday evening that “we have seen this model play out in Washington, D.C., and it simply does not deliver productive results.”

The Council has mostly held to a different perspective, with its members framing the issue as a common-sense check on the executive branch of city government.

“Advice-and-consent is a safeguard of democracy and the public interest being prioritized within our government instead of the interests of individuals,” said Council spokeswoman Julia Agos. “The absence of this well-established process for the appointment of top officials used in cities and states across the country makes New York City an outlier.”

The current debate surrounding advice and consent could end up being beside the point, given that the new law’s actual implementation depends on a ballot initiative because it involves making an addition to the City Charter.

Getting the policy on the ballot may prove to be a challenge for the Council.

After the bill was introduced, Adams announced that may end up blocking the Council from getting an advice-and-consent referendum of its own on the ballot.

Municipal law prohibits a Council-advanced question from appearing on a ballot when there’s already a question on it that was advanced by a mayoral commission.

Since the commission’s unveiling, Council members have accused the mayor of using it as a way to block the implementation of their advice-and-consent bill.

“[The commission’s] sole purpose is, in my opinion, just to delay and to thwart the Council’s legitimate attempt to bring more daylight and better government,” Councilman Jim Genarro, a Queens Democrat, said last month.

Asked Tuesday if that is, in fact, his goal, Adams denied it.

“Not at all,” he said.

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