Tense City Council hearing sees members slam Mayor Adams’ new engagement form

City Council Member Lincoln Restler grilled Mayor Eric Adams’ director of intergovernmental affairs, Tiffany Raspberry, over City Hall’s new elected official engagement form during a tense hearing. Wednesday, May 1, 2024.
Credit: Emil Cohen/NYC Council Media Unit

City Council members sharply questioned one of Mayor Eric Adams’ top advisers Wednesday over the need for a new online engagement form which City Hall is requiring lawmakers at all levels to complete in order to meet with agency heads and executive staff.

During a May 1 City Council hearing, Council Member Lincoln Restler (D-Brooklyn) grilled Tiffany Raspberry, Adams’ director of intergovernmental affairs, on the exact purpose of the two-page “Elected Officials Agency Engagement Request” form

Restler, who is a frequent critic of the mayor, charged that the form adds unnecessary red tape, making it more difficult for elected officials to do their jobs by quickly communicating with city agency heads. He further argued the administration actually designed it to slow walk elected officials’ requests for political purposes.

“This process is an unnecessary bottleneck,” Restler said. “It’s not about accountability. It’s about undermining efficiency. It is actually about slowing down engagement and making it harder for us to get our problems solved, because we have the politicization of City Hall that is the lens through which everything is approved.”

Raspberry rejected Restler’s characterization of the administration’s intentions for the form, appearing to take it personally.

“I have to say that it’s hurtful to hear you reduce the work that we’re trying to do in the Adams administration to the level in which you’re describing our efforts,” she said.

Raspberry insisted the form is simply aimed at making agency leaders more accessible to elected officials with less experience navigating city government and grouping similar engagement requests from different elected officials together so as not to hold separate meetings on the same topics. She contended there was a recent instance where a recently elected lawmaker utilized the form to help her connect with city agencies they were still unfamiliar with.

“I can recall an instance where a newly elected official was one of the first individuals to access this tool, because they didn’t probably have the same level of knowledge about how to navigate the city bureaucracy that you mentioned that many of you here have had experience navigating,” Raspberry said.

She added that elected officials can still call agency leaders to get updates on “ongoing” conversations, but they do have to fill out the form in order to get city services deployed to their districts and to set up “formal meetings.”

Restler is hardly the only council member to blast the form as yet another bureaucratic burden. Council Member Gale Brewer (D-Manhattan), during the hearing, described the form as “Big Brother” looking over council members’ shoulders, instead of more efficient government.

City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams last month said the form would “gum up” the wheels of government. At the time, she advised her members not to complete it and to conduct business as they always have.

Even some city agency heads are not a fan of the form. Brewer said 10 commissioners have confided with her privately that it is “impeding their ability” to do their jobs.

But, in a separate portion of the hearing, Raspberry insisted that if an official fills out the form, she does not see any reason why their request would not be granted.

“At this moment, there is no situation that I can envision, under which we will deny a request,” Raspberry said.