Mayor Eric Adams reaffirmed his strong support for embattled Fire Commissioner Laura Kavanagh on Friday before marching side-by-side with her in the annual Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, amid tensions between her and her top chiefs that have led several officials to resign their titles in recent weeks.
“Well, you know, last year I was hanging out with the police commissioner, this year, I’m hanging out with the FDNY commissioner, next year it will probably be the Department of Sanitation,” Hizzoner told reporters before marching with Kavanagh down Manhattan’s 5th Avenue on Friday afternoon.
“Laura said, ‘listen, why [are] you always doing the NYPD?’” he added. “So, I got on my FDNY jacket, you know, [I’m] marching with the Fire Department. Listen, everyone knows how I feel about the commissioner, she is really going to move us forward. And with all of my commissioners, it’s a real partnership and I’m happy to be here and march with her.”
To drive the point home about their rosy relationship, Adams — an avowed Vegan, who sometimes eats fish — said Kavanagh showed him a vegan recipe during a recent “cooking event” at one of the FDNY’s firehouses.
“We did a cooking [event] the other day inside one of the firehouses,” he said. “She showed me a mean dish to cook: vegan.”
The mayor has stood steadfastly behind Kavanagh even as her brief tenure as the first woman to lead the FDNY has become embroiled in controversy.
Not long after Adams first elevated Kavanagh from interim head of the FDNY to its appointed commissioner, tensions reportedly started to rise between her and the top brass of the department. Adams made Kavanagh interim FDNY commissioner last year after she had served as a civilian member of the department for several years, but never as a uniformed firefighter.
Then, in late January, she demoted three of her top chiefs after they didn’t show up to a meeting at the FDNY’s Brooklyn headquarters, according to a published report. That then led two more top chiefs to resign from their posts in protest in early February.
Towards the end of the month, four chiefs who had been demoted filed a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court against Kavanagh, blasting her for her lack of firefighting experience and claiming that she demoted them after they brought up safety concerns.
The commissioner has pushed back on those claims, saying she simply wanted to install her own team.
Since taking over the FDNY, Kavanagh has promised to address the longstanding diversity issues in the majority white and male department. As of last November, a little over three quarters of the city’s firefighters were white, according to figures provided by the City Council, while only 13% were Latino, 8% were Black and just 2% were Asian. And women make up just 1% of its ranks.
While speaking to reporters at the parade, he also reflected on the large crowd-size for this year’s procession and the large numbers of Irish-Americans who make up the city’s municipal workforce.
“It’s exciting and we have a large Irish community here, particularly around the civil servants,” he said. “This is a real blue collar community. You know, our firefighters, our teachers, our members of the police department. This is a blue collar community, I’m a blue collar mayor. I feel home in this parade and many of the other parades that really lift up our everyday, working class people.”