Eric Adams said he hadn’t stepped foot in the state Capitol since 2013, when he wrapped up his seven-year stint in the Senate, representing central Brooklyn.
But during his return visit to Albany on Monday – his first as mayor of New York City – Adams insisted he didn’t forget how things worked there.
“It’s the same Albany,” he told reporters at the Capitol’s ornate Million Dollar Staircase. “You go in and advocate on those things that are important. You navigate these halls. You walk these halls. That’s how you get stuff done.”
And walk those halls, he did.
Adams shuttled back and forth to a series of rapid-fire, private meetings with state lawmakers, crisscrossing the Capitol and the Legislative Office Building twice before catching an Amtrak out of town in the mid-afternoon. It was a visit preceded by tensions between Adams and Democratic leaders in the Assembly and Senate, who have criticized parts of his plan to reduce crime across the city. Some of those elements fall under the state’s purview.
The mayor didn’t walk away with any legislative deals; that wasn’t the point of the meetings, he told reporters. But he sought to highlight what he viewed as the positive nature of the discussions, making the case for his legislative agenda in Albany even though a major piece – scaling back recent reforms to bail laws – has been opposed by top legislative Democrats.
“I shared my thoughts,” he said. “They shared their thoughts and it was a very healthy dialogue. And we’re going to be focused on doing what we could possibly do to keep our city safe. And that’s where we are right now.”
When it comes to bail laws, Adams wants to restore the ability of judges to keep a criminal defendant behind bars before trial if they have a history of violent felonies.
In 2019, state lawmakers and then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo passed a series of reforms that prevented judges from implementing cash bail requirements for most misdemeanors and violent felonies.
“We should do a better job making sure dangerous people are not on the street, just as we should do a good job of making sure weapons are not on the streets,” Adams, who ran on the promise of reducing crime, said.
But to this point, state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, both Democrats, have held firm. They’ve argued that allowing judges to consider “dangerousness” would invite racial bias into the equation.
On Monday, however, Adams and the legislative leaders stood shoulder-to-shoulder in a show of Democratic unity after they met for a half hour in private.
“We know that we have to continue to look at how we can make the system better in the context of COVID, in the context of the proliferation of guns,” Stewart-Cousins said when asked about the issue of crime.
Adams said he came away from the meetings with the belief that legislative leaders are committed to balancing the issues of justice and safety – a common theme throughout the mayor’s public comments.
He also made a point of emphasizing that bail laws weren’t the only thing he discussed with lawmakers. Many other pieces of the mayor’s agenda – including an expansion of the city’s earned income tax credit – require Albany approval.
“There are so many other issues,” Adams said. “We’re looking at our earned income tax credit, universal childcare, raising the limit on our borrowing. There’s so many issues that we have to look at, that I have to navigate up here, and this is how it’s done.”