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Transcript: Mayor Eric Adams Appears on PIX 11's "PIX on Politics"

December 17, 2023

Dan Mannarino: Good Sunday morning, everybody, and welcome to PIX on Politics. I'm Dan Mannarino. Well, it is that time of year, right, when many of us take some time to reflect on the past 12 months. And what a year it has been: what we learned, what we went through, what could be better; and, a look ahead to 2024.

And this morning I'm doing just that with Mayor Eric Adams, the mayor's first term hitting its halfway point, and some could argue it had a bit of the terrible two's: a migrant crisis sent tens of thousands to an already crowded city looking for shelter and provision, the issue dominating the headlines since May.

And frustrations leaving Mayor Eric Adams with an historically low approval rating. I did ask the mayor about it all when he goes on the record. And Mr. Mayor is joining me now, so thank you for being back on PIX on Politics.

Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you. Good to be here.

Mannarino: Mr. Mayor, we've come to the end of what was a very eventful 2023, right? So, when you look at the totality of the year, if you had to describe it— and it's tough to do— in one word, what would that word be, and tell me why.

Mayor Adams: New York. This is a place where every day you wake up you could experience everything from a plane crashing into our Trade Center through a person who's celebrating a new business that's open. This is a very, very complicated city, and that's why it's the greatest city on the globe.

Mannarino: When you look at the highs and lows, right, can you describe one high and one low for 2023?

Mayor Adams: The high, we have more private sector jobs in the history of the city, it shows a real healthy movement towards our city coming back. And the low is clearly 150,000 migrant and asylum seekers that really put a real bump in the road of our recovery effort in the city.

Mannarino: And I will talk about the migrant crisis in just a second, because that's going to be one of the topics we discussed here, is a big event that took place in New York City.

But I want to talk about your approval rating. Ending the year 2023, 28 percent, the lowest for a mayor since the 1990s. And I've heard you talk about this quite often, that you don't really look at poll numbers, right? But what do you see as the driving factor to that 28 percent?

Mayor Adams: Well, I could have told you that before a poll came out, because I'm in the streets. New Yorkers are angry. They're angry.

Mannarino: At you, or the situation?

Mayor Adams: They're angry at just the totality of where they see this situation has brought us. And you know, beginning of the year and even into the year, they thought this was Eric Adams just opening our city up not looking at the impact of what [is] this crisis. And we had to do a real job of explaining to everyday New Yorkers that the federal government has abandoned this important issue that's a national issue.

So, they're angry, and it's going to come up. I'm the mayor, you know, and so you're going to point towards the mayor if your trains are not on time, if your trash is not picked up, if you see cuts in services. That is my role. I have to navigate us through this.

Mannarino: All right. So, how do you plan on changing that? How do you plan on bringing up that approval number?

Mayor Adams: Working hard. You know, any mayor would tell you that go through a period where your approval numbers are down, what do you do? Continue to work hard, produce the product. Before becoming mayor, I spoke with some of, you know, some mayors across the country and said, what do you do when you're in a slump? What do you do when you're doing great? And they constantly state, work hard, produce your product. And that's what I'm going to do.

Mannarino: I think I know the answer to this, but there's a lot of talk when you look at approval numbers, right, about possible primary challenges going into a possible second term for you. Governor Cuomo's name was mentioned. He says he doesn't want it unless you were to step aside. Real talk here, do you want a second term?

Mayor Adams: Oh, yes! I want to continue to do the job until the job is done. You know, I don't quit in anything that I do. You know, I've failed two sergeant's exams before I became a sergeant, but those who passed it before me were saluting me by the time I retired as a captain. I've never give up, I never surrender, from being a child that's dyslexic, to having troubles in my youthful years. You don't surrender.

Mannarino: So, when you look you said you want a second term, do you welcome, then, the competition from your fellow democrats?

Mayor Adams: Well, you're supposed to be competitive. This is a competitive city. And so anyone that believes that you automatically are going to be reelected automatically will be decided by the people who they want, that is dumb to do. My product is a good product: decreased crime, I promised; increased jobs, I promised; invested in our communities, housing— all the things I promised on election day I delivered on them. People are back on our subway system.

Mannarino: Yes, and the curveball, though, was the migrant crisis.

Mayor Adams: Oh, curveball? That's not even a curveball. That's a brush back pitch that knocked us to the ground. But we've got to get back up and knock it out of the park.

Mannarino: Sometimes I don't understand sports references, but that's okay… I think I got that one.

Let me begin here, though, because when you look at the approval numbers, a lot of it had to do with the migrant crisis, right? You've been to D.C. many times. So, again, real talk here. Is it fair to say at this point looking at 2024 no federal aid is coming?

Mayor Adams: I believe that. I believe that Congressman Jeffries and Senator Schumer are really pounding the pavement. I think it's unfortunate, number one, the Republicans are not in favor of any real immigration reform. And I believe that we are not seeing that this should not be on the backs of New York City; and other cities, because now the coalition has grown.

Remember, I was by myself at one time; now you see mayors of Chicago, you're seeing Massachusetts electeds, Denver. People are realizing this is unfair to cities across America.

Mannarino: So, without federal aid— which is not happening, again— you're anticipating in 2024 more cuts. What do cuts look like in 2024, and can you give me a definitive answer as to one or two what it looks.

Mayor Adams: Well, let's be clear. What we're going to have to do is extremely painful. We're going to have to see how do we deliver services to our agencies all without the resources we normally have. And so there's a lot of creativity that comes with that, like what we rolled out today of using technology to know where our snowplows are going. We're going to have to become even smarter and better of delivering a product with less resources.

Mannarino: Okay. So, when you look at cuts, though, what will there be specifically in terms of cuts?

Mayor Adams: Well, everything's on the table, but we want to minimize the impact to low income New Yorkers, our educational institutions, our public safety and keeping our city [safe]. But everything's on the table, Dan, because remember, I have to balance the budget by law.

Mannarino: Every two years.

Mayor Adams: We have a $12 billion hole in a 30‑something billion dollars.

Mannarino: So, I'm not a mathematician but when you look at doing that and balancing, cuts only go so far, right, in terms of time...

Mayor Adams: Yes.

Mannarino: have. So, do you have to look at layoffs?

Mayor Adams: We have, everything's on the table. Everything's on the table. Just, I like to break it down to the smallest level. If you are a homeowner and you have budgeted yourself for your rent, your electricity, your water, et cetera, then all of a sudden your roof caves in, your insurance policy should pick up on that.

Our insurance policy was the federal government. They're not paying us. So, everything in that household is going to be impacted. You're going to have to turn off the lights longer than you want to. You may not have to have two meals, three meals a day, may only have to have two. We must now find out how to balance our budget.

Mannarino: If you did layoffs, where would you begin?

Mayor Adams: Again, everything's on the table, Dan.

Mannarino: That's just [inaudible].

Mayor Adams: Everything's on the table.

Mannarino: Okay, let me try it this way. When you're looking at the scenario here, right, there's a potential...the Comptroller, Brad Lander, said back in 2023, somewhere February, March, he said raise the taxes specifically for the rich.

Mayor Adams: Um‑hmm.

Mannarino: Now, I know you're saying everything's on the table, but are raising taxes a possibility, specifically on the rich?

Mayor Adams: Well, I'm not in control of taxes, payroll taxes. That's the state. I'm in control of property taxes. And when you start raising taxes on middle income, low income New Yorkers, you're placing them further in the hole. What the real conversation that I'm hoping the comptroller and others do, we need to be all universally speaking to Washington. We should not be finding ways out of New York City taxpayers to pay for a national problem.

Mannarino: So, would you raise taxes, property taxes for the rich?

Mayor Adams: Everything's on the table. That's all I can say. Because remember what I'm trying to, what I want New Yorkers to understand. There's only a finite amount of money; and once that money dry up on our traditional sources...

Mannarino: Right.

Mayor Adams: have to find...I'm going to be, I'm going to be required to balance the budget.

Mannarino: Okay. And so while we talk about budget cuts, less services that people will be looking at, right, park cleanup and so on and so forth, there are things are going up and things people are going to have to pay more for, congestion pricing being one of them. Are you satisfied when you look at the totality of the plan, there's been a heck of a lot of talk about it. Are you satisfied with how the plan looks right now?

Mayor Adams: No. I think more needs to be done. Yellow cabs, buses, emergency service vehicles, people who must get to Manhattan because, let's say, medical issues. I think that's the only place they can go for their medical or cancer treatment. We must make sure that those who go and drive to Manhattan for luxury purposes should be treated differently from those who are doing it for necessity.

Mannarino: Right, so for people who have to travel into the zone for those medical reasons...

Mayor Adams: Yes.

Mannarino: ...child care reasons, right, and they don't necessarily have a mass transit option, how are you fighting for them to get an exemption?

Mayor Adams: Well, remember, this is the MTA and this is the federal government and state government. You know I'm going to continue to use my advocacy to fight on behalf of those individuals that I just mentioned, but the final determination is going to come through the MTA processes that [are taking place].

Mannarino: But besides those exemptions and so on, you're happy with the idea of congestion pricing?

Mayor Adams: Yes, with the idea, with the concept. But you know, idealism sometimes collides with realism.

Mannarino: Mmm.

Mayor Adams: We know. We need to operationalize this [so] that it doesn't hurt low-income New Yorkers and displace the environmental concerns in places like the South Bronx.

Mannarino: I want to talk about another big topic here, and that's crime, right? The stats show overall crime— which is a big one for you— is down specifically in transit. That was big, that was part of your campaign as well.

Mayor Adams: Yes.

Mannarino: But for the first round of budget cuts, some NYPD academy classes are canceled. Do you think that's going to have an effect going into 2024 about how crime looks going down?

Mayor Adams: That's a great question. I'm not going to do anything that is going to endanger public safety. The police commissioner and I, we sat down, we did an analysis, so nothing will impact public safety. You know me: the prerequisite to our prosperity is public safety. And so people who are concerned that we're going to take actions that's going to impact public safety, that is not going to happen.

I ran on safe, down in five of the seven major categories, down in homicides, down in shootings. You are seeing a significant proper deployment of police, and we're not going to jeopardize that.

Mannarino: And lastly here, Mr. Mayor. You often talk about congress and the federal government, you talked about it with the migrant crisis. Big this year was the news of redistricting, which could have a big factor in 2024 of which who has the balance of power. Are you in favor of allowing the redistricting process to play out?

Mayor Adams: Yes. It should play out. And I think it was unfairly done and negatively impact[ed] democrats. Politics should not be in the redistricting process. And I'm hoping like all heck that the dems take back the congress.

Mannarino: All right, Mr. Mayor, you're not going anywhere. Again, we have much more after the break including questions into the investigation into his campaign, a big topic in 2023. PIX on Politics back in two minutes.

And welcome back to PIX on Politics, joined once again by Mayor Eric Adams. So, Mr. Mayor, I want to focus now on a big part of 2023, which you called a distraction, the FBI investigation into your campaign finances, right? Now, you told me once, when there is smoke there is not always fire. But you have retained counsel personally. So, when you do that, do you think you're going to be subpoenaed, and do you welcome that?

Mayor Adams: Well, first you said I called it a distraction, no, to the country, no distraction, stay focused and grind, those are my three words. And being the mayor, there are always things that happen, and you must be able to stay focused and be able to compartmentalize each one of them. And so the federal investigators must do their review, and we're going to cooperate fully as we have done. And the outcomes will be the outcomes.

Mannarino: Do you welcome a subpoena?

Mayor Adams: Who..? Who welcomes a subpoena! [Laughter.] I mean, you know, you don't wake up every day and say, I hope I get a subpoena. No. What my job must be is to cooperate as I've always done. Listen I'm a former law enforcement officer. I understand the process, I understand how reviews are done, and I'm going to fully cooperate.

Mannarino: If the legal process does play out further and there is an indictment, do you think you'd step aside?

Mayor Adams: Well, listen, I think it's ridiculous for somebody to say if there's an indictment. People are throwing these words out there. Let the process carry out. That's what...that is what's great about our country. There is a due process system in place. I am going to serve as the mayor of this city and navigate us through this until the people of this city determine [inaudible].

Mannarino: The only reason I throw it out is because, you know, people look at all scenarios. They look at every possible scenario.

Mayor Adams: Yes, which is good, which is fine. Um‑hmm.

Mannarino: And you maintain that you held your campaign to the highest standards, right?

Mayor Adams: Yes.

Mannarino: And you told me days after this that you had full confidence in Brianna Suggs, who was your chief campaign fundraiser, but she's no longer running the fundraising operation. Is she still involved in the campaign?

Mayor Adams: Yes.

Mannarino: In what role?

Mayor Adams: She's going to do, there's so much administrative paperwork, documentation. Dan, one day I want to walk you through what it takes to run the internal mechanism of [a] campaign. I think it's unfair. I think it's unfair to low-income New Yorkers that want to run for office. We must make it easier. And so all of that documentation, she knows it well, and she's going to be part of that processing.

Mannarino: Is there a title?

Mayor Adams: Yes, we will come up with the official title and roll that out.

Mannarino: Okay. So, when you look at it overall, right, because a lot of folks would say, well, when there's an investigation there's a trust factor, right, and it goes back to the approval question from early on. Do you think you have a trust problem with New Yorkers; and if so, how do you restore it?

Mayor Adams: Well, I think that New Yorkers are reading all of the headlines, they're reading all of the information. And you know, you're limited on what you can say, you know, so I'm not able to be that normal Eric Adams because you don't want to in any way infringe on the process of the investigation.
So, it's one thing if some heckler's in the crowd calling you names; and you know, me I like going to toe to toe.

Mannarino: Ah, yes.

Mayor Adams: But you know, I don't want to infringe on the process, and I don't want anyone to believe, okay, he's trying to, you know, get in the way of the review. Let the review take its course. I have so much more to do in this city that I'm focused on doing.

Mannarino: A big year in 2024. So, a couple of questions here. Number one, of course, we're entering a presidential election cycle. You once called yourself the Biden of Brooklyn. Do you fully support the president in 2024?

Mayor Adams: Yes, I do.

Mannarino: Okay. I want to talk about you now as we head into the new year. Most successful achievement this year?

Mayor Adams: Clearly, like I stated, bringing down crime. I ran on that. That was my platform, bringing down crime, bringing down shootings, bringing down homicides. And people tend to believe that our police officers are not working no. Look at the number of arrests, number of guns off the streets, number of, you know, citation for quality of life issues. They are out there humming, and that to me was so important. New Yorkers had to get back on the subway and feel safe.

Mannarino: Aside from the migrant crisis, one issue that you think you need to improve upon in 2024?

Mayor Adams: Probably communications. We've done some great stuff. We have so many victories and so many wins, and that is why I think I have to communicate more with my New Yorkers, because a lot of great stuff we do never get out, like the plan we did the other day for young people, pathway to employment and tech jobs. You didn't read that anywhere.

Mannarino: We had the deputy mayor on [inaudible] ...talking about it. You know, you're always welcome here if you want to converse with New Yorkers and us.

Mayor Adams: Yes.

Mannarino: And heading into 2024, two goals for you, and be specific here.

Mayor Adams: Well, number one, to continue to lean into public safety. You know, that is, to me, is crucial. And number two, turning around this migrant crisis. That's important. 50 percent of the people who were in the system, we were able to get them self-sustaining, 80 percent that we gave a deadline of 30 days are out on their own. We've had some real victories, people from across the globe are looking at what we've done and trying to duplicate it. But I have to get this under control.

Mannarino: Mr. Mayor, appreciate your time and I appreciate you being here.

Mayor Adams: Yes.

Mannarino: Happy Holidays to you, and we'll see you in 2024.

Mayor Adams: Thank you.


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