Migrant crisis | Mayor Adams fires back at critics over his remark that influx would ‘destroy’ city

Mayor Eric Adams leading a rally urging the federal government to allow more migrants to work at a rally in Foley Square late last month.
Credit: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.

Mayor Eric Adams was on the defensive Thursday, firing a barrage of broadsides against his critics in the wake of incendiary comments he made last week about the migrant crisis and a new round of budget cuts he proposed to deal with the influx.

Hizzoner then dramatically exited an unrelated Staten Island news conference where he made the comments — the first where he’s taken reporters’ questions in over a week — by walking out to his adopted theme song: “Empire State of Mind” by Jay Z and Alicia Keys.

The mayor bristled at a reporter’s question about his response to a Tuesday rally led by faith leaders that charged his administration isn’t working well with others in addressing the migrant crisis.. He brushed off the criticism, pointing to a separate demonstration on the same day, where another group of faith leaders came to his defense.

“Well, we cannot be selective in determining the rallies that faith leaders have because there was another rally of a larger group of faith leaders stating that it is ridiculous to say Eric Adams is anti-immigrant,” Adams said, referring to himself.

‘A great mistake’

Both protests followed the mayor last week declaring in dramatic fashion that the ongoing migrant crisis would “destroy New York City” — comments that were lauded by Republicans and condemned by progressive pols and immigrant advocates as xenophobic.

City Council Speaker Adrienne Adams was just the latest to reject the mayor’s framing of the migrant deluge during a separate Thursday press conference.

“It is a great mistake to act as if we as a city are powerless, and that people seeking asylum are a threat, or simply a cost,” the speaker said.

The mayor said criticism of his response is an “embarrassment” and an “insult” to city workers on the front lines of the crisis and all New York taxpayers, who are footing the bill, to criticize his administration’s management of the influx. He then repeated a familiar call for his detractors to get off the sidelines and join his administration in its efforts instead of finding faults with them.

“Those who are now sitting in the bleachers, calling out what we could have done better, roll up your sleeves, no one is stopping you from participating,” the mayor said. “I’m not going to accept people insulting the civil servants who have stood up and stepped up.”

Mayor Eric Adams at Staten Island press conference
Mayor Eric Adams spoke about his previous comments on the migrant crisis during an unrelated press conference on Staten Island on Sept. 14, 2023.

Comptroller ‘trying to be mayor’

Then the mayor was asked about a new round of potential 15% budget cuts he ordered over the weekend, with the stated purpose of dealing with the financial fallout of the asylum seeker influx, which City Hall forecasts could amount to $12 billion over the next two years. Adams responded by turning his ire on someone who has become a familiar foe: City Comptroller Brad Lander.

The comptroller recently rejected a $432 million contract between the city and medical services provider DocGo to handle migrant services. He also penned an op-ed in The Nation this week where he said Adams’ budget cuts and comments about migrants last week are “fanning flames of xenophobia by slashing services and blaming the newcomers.”

Adams said Lander is spending too much time “trying to be mayor” instead of doing his job of watching the city’s finances.

“You’re the comptroller of the city of New York, you’re supposed to be protecting our budget,” Adams said. “And he’s running around saying, ‘well, it’s no problem.’ He’s in contrast to the reality that’s on the ground, he should not be so desirous of trying to be mayor. He needs to be a comptroller right now.”

The mayor also returned to another familiar attack, going after Lander for taking issues with his handling of the influx while not traveling to Washington D.C. to lobby the federal government for desperately needed aid and resources like other citywide officials including Speaker Adams and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.

“And why is he the only citywide elected that has not gone to Washington D.C.. to say ‘stop doing this to New York City,” the mayor said.

When contacted by amNewYork Metro, Lander’s office declined to respond to the mayor’s latest attacks. The comptroller has previously hit back at Adams by arguing that going to D.C. would only distract citywide elected officials like himself from holding City Hall accountable.

Prior to their most recent clashes, Adams and Lander stood shoulder-to-shoulder at a rally late last month urging Washington to speed up approvals for migrant working papers.

Adams abruptly ended the Q&A session after he was asked about whether or not his administration has been properly tracking which migrants are already eligible to apply for work permits, following accusations from the state and feds that it hasn’t been.

He charged the state and the feds are blaming the city for not doing a good enough job at solving problems they’re supposed to be addressing.

“The crisis that was created, now we’re looking at the individuals who are trying to fix the crisis and saying, ‘you’re not doing a good enough job,” he said.