Mayor Eric Adams has rewarded 10 ex-City Council members with plum leadership posts in his administration since taking office in January.
The new hires – which include four department heads and other top advisors who mostly traded in council seats for higher-paying, six-figure gigs at City Hall – were tapped from both sides of political aisle by the former Brooklyn borough president. Political pundits say their campaign support was crucial in helping Adams prevail in a highly contested Democratic mayoral primary before coasting to victory in last November’s general election.
Hank Sheinkopf, a longtime Democratic political consultant, said it’s common for new mayors to pay off “political debt” by handing out patronage jobs but there’s a growing concern that Adams has already gone too far by bringing in too many cronies who aren’t qualified or might be in over their heads.
“Ten ex-council members seem like an awful lot,” he said. “It makes the [Adams] administration look less like an administration and more like a political hiring hall.
“They each supported Adams for mayor, so they are not going to make any trouble and will do what they’re told, but it’s … not the best way to run a government because it doesn’t bring top managers in to run a city that’s in crisis.”
The pols-turned-bureaucrats include Ydanis Rodriguez, a term-limited Manhattan Democrat who parlayed his get-out-the-vote efforts for Adams with the Latino community and his experience as former chairman of the transportation committee into a $243,171-a-year job as commissioner of the Department of Transportation.
Council members make $148,500 annually.
Rodriguez has inherited a pressure-cooker post overseeing an embattled department scrambling to combat soaring traffic-fatality rates.
Former Council members Dan Garodnick (D-Manhattan) and Eric Ulrich (R-Queens) are also now earning $243,171 as Planning Department director and Buildings Department commissioner, respectively. Both now have major say in the city’s powerful construction industry despite having little experience in the area.
Ulrich served on the Council from 2009 through the end of last year. He briefly worked as a senior advisor to Adams for four months this year before being bumped up to a buildings commissioner last week and getting a $42,171-a-year — or 21 percent — pay hike.
Garodnick, a lawyer who served on the Council from 2006 through 2017, most recently headed the Riverside Park Conservancy.
Other ex-council members who’ve joined the Adams administration include:
- Laurie Cumbo, a Brooklyn Democrat earning $227,786 as commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs.
- Fernando Cabrera, a Bronx Democrat and pastor pocketing $227,786 as Adams’ senior faith advisor in the newly created Office of Faith-Based and Community Partnership.
- Republican James Oddo, who most recently served as Staten Island borough president before landing a $211,150 job as chief of staff to Deputy Mayor of Operations Meera Joshi.
- Peter Koo, a Queens Democrat earning $201,000 as senior advisor to Deputy Mayor of Public Safety Philip Banks. Koo owns a chain of pharmacies and has no reported experience in law enforcement.
- Mark Treyger, a Brooklyn Democrat and former school teacher making $195,000 as the mayor’s senior education advisor.
- Paul Vallone, a Queens Democrat earning $190,000 as deputy commissioner of the Department of Veterans’ Services.
- Darma Diaz, a Brooklyn Democrat and former social worker making $170,000 as assistant deputy commissioner of the Department of Homeless Services.
Republican Curtis Sliwa, who lost the mayoral election to Adams, ripped the hires, saying the Koo appointment is especially troubling considering the city’s rising crime rates.
“It shows New York City is for sale,” said Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels crime-prevention group. “Peter Koo knows nothing about public safety. He’s a businessman – a pharmacist.”
Koo didn’t return messages.
The hiring of Cabrera and Cumbo also haven’t been well received – but not over lack of experience.
Adams was widely criticized for hiring Cabrera because of past anti-gay remarks the pastor made. Critics, including former Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, ripped Cumbo’s selection because she’s previously made polarizing remarks about Latinos and other immigrants.
Both Cabrera and Cumbo have apologized for their divisive remarks, and Adams has said they deserve second chances.
When asked about the 10 ex-legislators now working for the city’s executive branch of government, an Adams spokesman insisted the mayor “has committed to hiring the best people for the right jobs, and this group of people meets and exceeds that goal.”
“They bring a range of life, government, and private sector backgrounds, and the mayor is proud to have them on board, bringing fresh perspectives and experiences to their roles,” he added.