‘Glass half full’ for Mayor Adams on likely state budget deal that fell short on some of his top priorities

Mayor Eric Adams said he is has a “glass half-full” outlook on the tentative state budget deal Gov. Kathy Hochul announced on Monday. Tuesday, April 16, 2024.
Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.

Mayor Eric Adams on Tuesday said he is viewing the tentative state budget agreement Gov. Kathy Hochul announced the night before from a “glass half full” perspective when considering which of his priorities were included and excluded.

While many groups voiced dissatisfaction with the burgeoning Fiscal Year 2025 state budget deal Hochul unveiled on April 15, Adams was quick to give the plan a thumbs up. He applauded its inclusion of reforms he says will help the city build more desperately needed housing, new measures to crack down on unlicensed smoke shops and an extra $2.4 billion in migrant crisis aid — $500 million more than the state ponied up last year.

However, the budget currently does not contain an extension of mayoral control of public schools, one of Adams’ top priorities. Additionally, the real estate industry says a new affordable housing tax break included in the plan, 485-x, will not produce as much housing as its predecessor — 421-a.

Yet, Adams was upbeat about the potential deal, when asked about its shortcomings by a reporter during his weekly news conference on April 16. He held up a glass of water and employed the common idiom “some people view this glass as half empty, I view it as half full” to illustrate that he is focusing on the positive rather than the negative.

“I’m part of the half full team, I know what we were up against going to Albany,” he said. “You may say that you didn’t get everything, that’s life. Life isn’t everything you want, life is enough so that you can complete the task.”

Adams, who has been criticized for not accomplishing enough in Albany during his first two years in office, insisted he has consistently got what he wanted out of the state capital.

“It even amazes me sometimes just how well we’re doing in Albany, year after year after year,” he said. “We land the plane folks, we land the plane. We are the finishers.”

Budget still not done

But the state budget process is not yet over and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, during a Tuesday afternoon press conference, indicated that Hochul’s announcement of a deal on Monday may have been premature. Heastie said that while he, the governor and state Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart Cousins are mostly on the same page, Hochul made the announcement before he was able to brief members of his conference on the plan’s details.

“I would just say the pencils weren’t fully down,” Heastie said. “But I would say conceptually, we probably were close on a lot of things.”

Nevertheless, the mayor is not waiting to claim victory. He even celebrated budget items that fell short of what he said he wanted as recently as two months ago.

For instance, the governor said the city would be getting $2.4 billion in migrant crisis aid, but the mayor in February said he wants the state to cover half of what the city has spent on the influx — roughly $4.6 billion. But on Tuesday, he appeared satisfied with the far more modest sum.

“We would have loved 50-50, we would have loved 70-30, we would have loved 90-10,” Adams said. “We got what we wanted.”

When it comes to mayoral control, Adams did take the opportunity to again push for the policy to be renewed in the final state budget plan. Mayoral control is once again part of budget discussions, according to Hochul and Heastie, after state legislative leaders said it had been taken off the table earlier this month.

Adams argued that he and Schools Chancellor David Banks have taken the city Department of Education in the right direction and they should be given the chance to continue doing so. He argued higher graduation rates, implementing healthier school lunch menus and the city outpacing the state in reading and math scores all resulted from mayoral control.

“Give us an opportunity to continue the work that we’re doing and hold us accountable, we want to be held accountable,” he said.