Secondary Navigation

Transcript: Mayor Adams Appears Live On CNN’s “CNN Primetime”

May 3, 2023

Abby Phillip: So joining me now is New York City Mayor Eric Adams on this and a number of other topics. Mayor Adams, this is something that is really at front of mind for your city right now. It is about both what is happening in the subways, but also about the death of this 30-year-old. What can you tell us about what led up to this incident? What do you know?

Mayor Eric Adams: Well, right now it's still ongoing and really our hearts go out to the family in this terrible incident. And the district attorney, as you stated, the medical examiner's office just ruled the case, and now it's in the hands of the investigators to determine exactly what happened. There's so many unknowns at this time.

Phillip: So one of the reasons that this story is really hitting a nerve is because this man appeared to be having mental health issues. This is something that you've talked a lot about, but I want to read to you. This is a response from the comptroller, Brad Lander. He tweeted this, "New York City is not Gotham. We must not become a city where a mentally ill human can be choked to death by a vigilante without consequence." There's also this from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic congresswoman. She said, "Jordan Neely was murdered." What is your response to what they're saying here?

Mayor Adams: Well, both the congresswoman and the comptroller, the comptroller’s a citywide leader and I don't think that's very responsible at the time where we are still investigating the situation. Let's let the DA conduct his investigation with the law enforcement officials. To really interfere with that is not the right thing to do and I'm going to be responsible and allow them to do their job and allow them to determine exactly what happened here.

Phillip: Can I just ask you though?

Mayor Adams: Yes.

Phillip: I mean on the question of vigilantism, what do passengers do in situations like that? Is it appropriate to take matters into your own hands?

Mayor Adams: Each situation is different and how a passenger… We have so many cases where passengers assist other riders. And we don't know exactly what happened here. The investigation is thorough and each situation is different. I was a former transit police officer and I responded to many jobs where you had a passenger assisting someone. And so we cannot just blatantly say what a passenger should or should not do in a situation like that, and we should allow the investigation to take its course.

Phillip: All right. So I want to move on now to the issue of immigration. You've been talking a lot about this and how it's affected New York City. Next week, Title 42 is expected to end. The estimates are there could be 1,000 migrants coming to the city every day. Do you think that the Biden administration has done enough to prepare for that moment? They sent 1,500 troops to the border just this week.

Mayor Adams: Yeah, and I want to answer that, but I want to go back for, again, the issue on the train. This is what highlights what I've been saying throughout my administration. People who are dealing with mental health illness should get the help they need and not live on the train, and I'm going to continue to push on that.

Dealing with the migrant issues, no, I don't believe the White House has done enough, and I also believe the Republican Party has not done enough with real immigration reforms. And I think Governor Abbott is reckless in his behavior by playing politics with human beings. He has done this for a long period of time, since April of last year, and has cost New Yorkers since April of last year to July, it has cost, up to this year, has cost us almost a billion dollars.

Phillip: But what do you want to see from the Biden administration as it relates to the Title 42 expiration next week? Is there more that can be done right now?

Mayor Adams: Yes. Number one, we need to identify one person that is coordinating the decompression strategy. That is so important. This should not be one city or several cities. This is a national problem. Then we need to expedite the money that's coming from FEMA. Senator Schumer, Congressman Jeffries, and others were able to get $800 million allocated through FEMA. And then we must allow the temporary work status. That is so important. With so many jobs that are needed to be filled, this will allow us to ensure those who come here can be employed.

Phillip: Can I ask you about what you were saying about Greg Abbott? He has been busing, even today, busing thousands of migrants to the city. But you said this week that he's sending them to Black-led cities: your city, Washington, D.C., Chicago. Are you saying here that he is doing this because of the race of the mayor of the city?

Mayor Adams: Well, let's be clear here. It was placed in quotes on one of the front pages of our paper that I called him a racist. It was placed in quotes. I never said that.

Phillip: I didn't say that you called him… [Crosstalk]. I'm saying you said he was sending it to all Black-led cities.

Mayor Adams: Right. I want to be clear. I said the front pages of the Post, not you. That's what they stated. What I'm making clear of the fact, not based on my opinion, he sent them to New York City, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Denver.

Phillip: But what about Philadelphia, which has a white mayor?

Mayor Adams: I have not received any reports from Philadelphia. I believe that he sent them to Black cities. I mean, mayors where Black mayors are. And I don't know if it's to undermine these large cities that are run by Black mayors because of his political agenda. I don't know if he's doing it for the race. I'm giving the facts of where he has sent them to. Washington, D.C. These are cities that have Black mayors and that is a fact. That is not my opinion and that is not defining why he's doing it. I'm laying out the facts.

Phillip: But you acknowledged… I mean we did the research, he did send them to Philadelphia as well. Does that change your view of what he's doing?

Mayor Adams: No, not at all. We have 108,000 cities in America, towns and villages. 108,000. Look where he sent them to.

Phillip: Can you talk to me a little bit more about the impact of this issue on New York City specifically? You've said publicly, speaking of headlines, that migrants are destroying or have destroyed the city. Can you elaborate? How has that happened?

Mayor Adams: I never said migrants have destroyed the city. That is not what we're saying.

Phillip: Not on migrants, but this issue of the migrant flow to New York.

Mayor Adams: I've been very clear on this from day one when this first started to happen, the fiscal dollars that's coming with this issue of migrants is destabilizing our city. Our migrants and asylum seekers are not the issue. We need to be clear on that. It is what it's costing the city, and we're not being compensated by the national government. This is predicted to cost us $4.3 billion as we cycle out of the pandemic. This is a major financial crisis to our city. Our migrants, when I speak with them, they say, "We just want to work. We want to provide for ourselves," and we are not allowing them to do that. That is just wrong in no city. Brownsville, El Paso, New York, Washington, no city should be funding a national problem.

Phillip: So when you make this point, a lot of Republicans in Washington say, "Right on. You're making exactly the point that we've been making." But what I want to ask you is, do you see yourself as being able to play a role in actually getting to a constructive place on immigration reform where it's needed the most in Washington by working with Republicans, for example?

Mayor Adams: I'm going to work with any mayor that would like to coordinate and assist in this national crisis that we're facing. I believe in working with those elected officials, particularly my fellow mayors across the city. When I went down to El Paso, I spoke with the mayor there, communicated with the mayor of Brownsville. I've communicated with all of the mayors that are impacted by this and stated that we should coordinate together to make sure we resolve this national issue. It should not fall on the backs of mayors and cities to resolve a national problem.

Phillip: And on the political front, you are a strong supporter of President Biden. Is that fair to say?

Mayor Adams: Yes. Yes it is.

Phillip: This is an issue, though, that Republicans intend to run on as they run against him for the presidency. Does it concern you at all that you might be viewed as feeding into a narrative that is being used against your political ally?

Mayor Adams: No. You know what concerns me is that New Yorkers are going to be impacted. Every service we deliver will be impacted by the financial crisis that's associated with the migrant asylum seeker issue. Every service. And we're witnessing that every day.

Phillip: Does that include public safety, I wonder?

Mayor Adams: It includes everything.

Phillip: What is your concern as it relates to public safety and this flow of people into the city?

Mayor Adams: I don't understand the question.

Phillip: I'm just asking, you're saying it will affect public safety.

Mayor Adams: Yes, but our law enforcement community had to do what's called a PEG, Program to Eliminate the Gap that is 4 percent in efficiencies they had to find, as all of my agencies had to do that. We had to find the dollars so that we can balance our budget. And much of those dollars, we spent close to a $1 billion thus far, that came out of our coffers.

Phillip: All right. Mayor Eric Adams, thank you very much for all of that.

Mayor Adams: Thank you. Thank you.

Media Contact
(212) 788-2958