City Council opposition to Adams’ likely corporation counsel nominee Mastro grows

Randy Mastro, corporation counsel nominee
Randy Mastro, the lawyer representing New Jersey in its congestion pricing suit, is expected to be named the city’s Corporation Counsel by Mayor Eric Adams.
Photo by Ben Brachfeld

Randy Mastro, Mayor Eric Adams’ presumptive pick to be the city’s next top lawyer, is growing increasingly unpopular with the City Council, as yet another caucus of members came out against him on Friday.

The council’s six-member LGBTQAI+ Caucus joined the far larger Black, Latino and Asian Caucus (BLAC) in opposing Mastro, an alumnus of former GOP Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s administration, as Adams appears likely to nominate him to be the city’s next corporation counsel.

Mastro would replace the position’s current occupant, Sylvia Hinds-Radix, whom Adams has confirmed will be stepping down — though it is unclear when exactly that will be.

While Adams has insisted there is “no disagreement” between himself and Hinds-Radix, the New York Post reported earlier this week that he ordered her ouster after she voiced concerns about the city representing him in his sexual assault suit.

The City Council must confirm any mayoral nominee to the position of corporation counsel — who runs the city’s Law Department and its lead attorney.

In its statement, the caucus — co-chaired by City Council Members Tiffany Cabán (D-Queens) and Erik Bottcher (D-Manhattan) — said that appointing Mastro as corporation counsel would mark a return to the conservative Giuliani administration, where he served as both chief of staff and a deputy mayor.

They also alleged that Mayor Adams is appointing Mastro to act as his personal attorney as his legal troubles continue to grow — even though the corporation counsel represents the city at large.

“Corporation Counsel is the people’s lawyer, not the mayor’s, and the people are staunchly against returning to the Giuliani era,” they said. “The City Council’s LGBTQIA+ Caucus opposes Randy Mastro’s nomination to this vital position.”

Besides his time working for Giuliani, the caucus said it takes umbrage with Mastro having represented clients that clash with its core principles. Those include former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie in the infamous “Bridgegate” scandal and the oil giant Chevron.

The lawmakers also pointed to a specific example of what they called Mastro’s “underhanded tactics.” 

The incident involved the lawyer sending undercover private investigators dressed as plumbers to take shirtless photos of a homelessness advocate. The move was part of Mastro’s work representing a group trying to evict homeless individuals from the Upper West Side’s Lucerne Hotel, where they were being temporarily housed during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Even beyond Mr. Mastro’s troubling history of representing clients that directly contradict the values and principles we uphold as a City Council committed to equality, justice, and inclusivity, his dirty, underhanded tactics disqualify him from a position which calls for someone of the utmost honor and integrity,” they said.

‘Long history of fighting for most vulnerable’

City Hall spokesperson Liz Garcia, in a statement, responded to the LGBTQIA+ Caucus by pointing to instances she said show Mastro has a “long history of fighting for the most vulnerable, including LGBTQIA+ and unhoused New Yorkers.” 

Garcia said those include Mastro’s successful push for legislation during the Giuliani administration, when same-sex marriage was still illegal, to grant unmarried same-sex couples the same rights as married couples. Additionally, she said, “he defended the Bowery Residents’ Committee against a wealthy, ‘not in my backyard’ coalition that tried to stop the organization from establishing multiple shelters and treatment programs in Chelsea,” in 2011.

Adams’ chief counsel, Lisa Zornber, also gave a multi-minute defense of Mastro’s record earlier this week. She pointed to his work with good government groups like Citizens Union and defending Black Lives Matter protesters who were swept by law enforcement out of Lafayette Plaza in Washington DC in 2020. 

Nonetheless, Mastro’s chances of making it past the 51-member council are growing ever dimmer.

There are 36 council members between the two caucuses that have already come out against Mastro. But that does not necessarily mean every council member in the two caucuses would vote against Mastro, as they only needed majorities to vote in favor of putting out their statements opposing him.

Council Speaker Adrienne Adams even voiced her dissatisfaction with Mastro in a phone call with Adams last weekend, according to a report from Politico New York.

But Adams expressed confidence in a Thursday interview on PIX11 that the speaker would “allow the process to go forward.”

“I think it’s important for any candidate we put forward to sit down and communicate, sell themselves, to whomever is going to look over them and they’ll make the final determination,” the mayor said. That is not my role. The city council has its role, I have my role.”