Go to an event headlined by Eric Adams and you might hear this line: “When COVID hit our shores others fled, I led.”
That’s a main message of his campaign — he is the seasoned politician committed to the five boroughs.
“The reality is Eric Adams has run a disciplined, smart, grassroots, ordinary campaign,” the candidate said earlier this month, referring to himself in the third person.
We examined his official schedule from Brooklyn Borough Hall for all of 2020 — hundreds of pages of meetings and events, before and after COVID-19 hit New York City. NY1 found the borough president, according to that official government schedule, met with campaign donors or attended their companies' functions at least a dozen times last year, sometimes meeting in person, sometimes virtually or on the phone.
It’s unclear how much the borough president was mixing politics with his official duties.
For instance, in December 2019 the head of Sussman Education donated to Adams’s mayoral campaign. A few months later, Adams welcomes the company into borough hall to show its latest product. He livestreams a demonstration on his twitter page, promoting the company. The quality of the video was quite poor.
“You’re saying right here you have a library for the children that’s online where they can look at the books, over 6,000 books that they can look at?” Adams prompts the Sussman official.
“Yes,” he replies.
The borough president responds: “That’s amazing.”
The company’s president told NY1 the donation was small and in no way meant it received preferential treatment from the borough president. He added he has known and worked with Adams for years.
Several months later, Adams has a meeting with a lawyer on Zoom. Later in 2020, that lawyer, John Giardino, donated $2,000 to the Adams campaign. Reached by phone, Giardino told NY1 he had contacted the borough president because he wanted to support his mayoral campaign and offer to help any way he could. The borough president’s spokesperson told us the meeting was regarding identifying “ways to advance the BP’s reform vision.”
The review of Adams’s 2020 schedule also makes it clear: Adams welcomed real estate executives and interests into borough hall — some of whom also gave him campaign cash. In October, he held an event with the head of real estate powerhouse SL Green. Several months later, the executive’s wife and several employees donated thousands of dollars to Adams.
Adams’s spokesperson said the borough president never solicits donations at government meetings, and does not conduct fundraising calls from borough hall. He said he also abides by all conflicts of interest rules. In a statement, a spokesperson said: “The borough president interacts with thousands of constituents and organizations annually in his role as Brooklyn Borough President and abides by all campaign finance board rules, guidelines, and policies to ensure no conflicts of interest arise.”
Donations and politics aside, for much of 2020, Adams was handing out masks and meals across the borough — in crisis mode in the midst of COVID-19.
He even lived in Borough Hall off and on for six months.
During lockdown, his official public schedule gets more sparse.
But he was regularly posting videos online — some of them were on somewhat unorthodox subjects for a mayoral candidate, like sleeping or making smoothies.
Adams’s team said the borough president wants all New Yorkers to have healthier habits and lifestyles. As for his own lifestyle – and calendar – Adams would like to bring them both to Gracie Mansion next year.