Lorraine Grillo is stepping down from her role as Mayor Eric Adams’ first deputy mayor at the start of next year, City Hall announced Friday morning.
Grillo is the third major Adams administration official to announce they’re leaving City Hall during his first year in office. Her departure follows a September announcement from the Mayor’s Chief of Staff Frank Carone that he’d be leaving his post at year’s end and the resignation of former Department of Buildings Commissioner Eric Ulrich earlier this month – amid revelations he’s ensnared in an illegal gambling probe by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office.
Although it was only made official Friday, rumors of Grillo’s impending departure – first reported by the New York Daily News – started circulating around the time Carone announced his own plans to leave.
In a statement, Adams heaped praise on Grillo – who oversees all of the city’s other deputy mayors with the exception of Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Phil Banks – for being the living embodiment of what has become his administration’s signature catchphrase: “Get Stuff Done.”
“New York City, as a whole, is better off today because Lorraine Grillo brought her invaluable expertise and inimitable work ethic to this administration and served the people of this great city,” Adams said. “She’s a living example of what ‘Getting Stuff Done’ truly means, and I, and all New Yorkers, will always be in her debt for her dedicated service to New York City. We wish her all the best and will miss her deeply.”
Among Grillo’s signature accomplishments over the past year, according to City Hall, were her brokering of a deal for a new life sciences center in the Kips Bay section of Manhattan, leading the city’s COVID-19 recovery efforts and creating a program to champion minority-and-women-owned business efforts (MWBEs). She also oversees a team of four other women, including Deputy Mayors Maria Torres-Springer, Meera Joshi, Anne Williams-Isom and Sheena Wright who oversee economic development, operations, health and human services and strategic initiatives respectively.
Wright is widely considered the front-runner to succeed Grillo as Adams’ first deputy.
Hailing from Astoria, Queens, Grillo has served in city government for nearly three decades, beginning her career in community relations at the School Construction Authority (SCA) in 1994. She then worked her way up through the ranks of SCA – the agency tasked with building the city’s public schools – until she was appointed its president and CEO in 2010 by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and continued to serve in that role under former Mayor de Blasio’s first term.
De Blasio then chose Grillo to lead the city Department of Design and Construction (DDC) in 2018, while she continued to head SCA.
“Public service has been my life’s work and it has been the honor of a lifetime to serve in the Adams administration in this capacity,” Grillo said in a statement. “Mayor Adams leads from the front with a very steady hand, and his historic team of amazing majority-female deputy mayors have made profound contributions in this first year alone. From spearheading our recovery, to helping those seeking asylum, to ensuring equity is at the center of the work being done — I look forward to seeing how this administration will build on the progress we’ve made to continue bettering the lives of every New Yorker.”
While it may seem early to have so much turnover at the top of the Adams administration in its first year, political consultant Hank Scheinkopf said that even though Grillo and Carone’s departures are coming earlier than in past administrations, it’s not unusual for there to be changes a year after a new mayor takes the helm. He pointed to late-former Mayor Ed Koch firing his senior staff and reorganizing his administration about a year and a half into his first term.
“It’s not unusual for mayors to reorganize a year into their administration,” Sheinkopf told amNewYork Metro. “This is a little bit early, but it’s not unusual for people to leave after the end of the first year of any administration. You know, because then they figure out what fits what doesn’t fit, where they want to be, who the mayor wants, who the mayor doesn’t want.”
However, with Grillo’s departure, Sheinkopf said, there will be an experience vacuum in the top ranks of city government, which could spell trouble for the Big Apple as it enters a possible fiscal crisis and continues to deal with issues like crime.
“Lorraine is a career public administrator and that kind of experience is lacking in a lot of the top positions of the Adams administration,” he said. “And they may need [her] going into what appears to be a fiscal crisis of some sort. And a management crisis having to do with crime and sanitation and other issues.”