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Friday, July 22, 2022

Judge Frank Blocks the NYC Department of Education From Implementing Proposed Budget Cuts


Judge Lyle Frank

We love Judge Frank. He gets it - the harm that the NYC Department of Education is doing to the kids under their care.

His ruling against the NYC DOE is fantastic news, and he will make it permanent, we hope. 


NYC Cuts School Funding, Mayor Calls Protestors "Clowns"

Judge Denies City Request to Vacate Temporary Restraining Order Against Budget Cuts to Schools



This morning, Judge Lyle Frank rejected the City’s request to vacate his Temporary Restraining Order, which means that any further cuts to school budgets will continue to be blocked until the August 4 hearing when the case will be heard.


His order, as well as all the legal papers submitted so far, can be found here.


Laura D. Barbieri, the attorney from Advocates for Justice representing the parents and teachers who sued the City and who are asking for a revote of the City Council on the education budget, said the following:


“The Court having considered both the City and the Petitioners' submissions denied the City's motion to vacate the TRO before the hearing on August 4, 2022, when both sides will be presenting additional evidence and arguments. Here at Advocates, and on behalf of all the parents, teachers, students and concerned New Yorkers   who are supporting the lawsuit, we are happy with this decision and believe the City should take this as a signal and restore school budgets immediately.” 

NYC judge issues blocks Education Dept. from implementing budget cuts

A Manhattan Supreme Court judge temporarily blocked the city Education Department from proceeding with hundreds of millions of dollars in planned school budget cuts — the latest twist in an ongoing funding fight.

Judge Lyle Frank said in a four-page ruling Friday that the city is barred from any “further implementation” of the cuts included in its Fiscal Year 2023 budget and must revert to Fiscal Year 2022 funding levels in the meantime.

A hearing is scheduled for Aug. 4 to determine whether Frank will issue an order that would effectively make his order permanent.

The order came in response to a lawsuit filed by a group of parents and educators who argue that the city violated state law by adopting the city budget before giving the city’s Panel for Educational Policy the chance to approve the schools portion of the budget. The suit asks the court to annul the DOE’s portion of the city budget and force the City Council to recast its vote.

It is still unclear what the temporary restraining order will mean on the ground for the Education Department and school principals, who are in the midst of making staffing decisions for next school year.

The DOE has already distributed a big chunk of schools’ budgets for the upcoming school year, with the cuts reflected in those allocations.

Laura Barbieri, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the order means that any decisions to fire, or “excess,” staffers based on reduced budgets must be temporarily paused. She also maintained that schools that received more money this year than last won’t see their budget cuts because of the order, arguing “it can’t reduce, it can only add.”

Frank’s order says the DOE is temporarily “enjoined from spending at any levels other than as required by the FY 2021-2022 Department of Education Budget.”

The DOE didn’t immediately respond to a question about the effect of the restraining order.

Amaris Cockfield, a spokeswoman for Mayor Adams, said, “the budget was duly adopted by the City Council and is in accordance with all charter mandated protocols.” She said the city planned to file a motion to vacate the order on Monday.

Monday, July 18, 2022

NYC Cuts School Funding, Mayor Calls Protestors "Clowns"

Protester Thrown Out at Police Athletic League Meeting

NYC Mayor Eric Adams is deaf to those who disagree with him. There are way too many events to bring up here, so let's look at what happened on Monday, July 11, 2022, at the Police Athletic League meeting. Protesters were removed by guards. Adams called them "clowns". See the picture above.

Parents and employees of the NYC Department of Education are distressed over the cuts to school funding that Adams has said are necessary due to the many students who are not returning in September, some say 30,000 or more. Both sides have truth to their argument. The problem is, no one on either side is negotiating a compromise.

Basically, it is a no-brainer that since so many students and educators will not be back in September, funding has to be reduced or at least school budgets have to be reviewed. Maybe Principals could each get a little less in their paychecks? Maybe Mayor Adams could offer to reduce his discretionary spending, and maybe donate some of his salary to the kids?

Yeah, you are right. I'm joking.

But the joke is really on all of New York City, and his name is Eric Adams. 

Remember, in the last couple of months the Mayor fired 914 employees of the Department who did not get the COVID vaccine and could not justify their reason (i.e. medical issues or religious beliefs). However, looking closely at the appeals of the denials of the exemptions, anyone can see violations of Constitutional Laws and rights cited in the First and Fourteenth Amendments.

It seems that Mayor Adams does not see what we see. 

And then we hear that the NYC DOE sent 55 employees to a swanky hotel in Orlando, Florida for a few days. Why? Because NYC has no one who can teach STEM to anyone.

Just kidding.

All funniness put aside, Mayor Adams has many years left to rule on where resources go and how they are allocated. He has lost the public trust so quickly, I just don't see a happy medium occurring anytime soon.

He should listen to the "clowns".

 Betsy Combier

Protesters against school budget cuts escorted out of mayoral event

Mayor Eric Adams was confronted Monday night by a group of Upper Manhattan protesters denouncing controversial cuts to local schools.

"See, this is the clown, this is the clown," said Adams. "And this is what we're up against — people want to spend time being disruptive, that's what people want to do. But we got to stay focused, and not get distracted."

"Because people want to spend time on what they disagree on, and not spend time what they agree on," he added.

The protesters were immediately escorted out of the Police Athletic League, where Adams was to hold a discussion on public safety with members of his administration and local residents.

"So all that noise, that's what folks don't understand," said Adams. "Because you are the loudest does not mean you are saying something."

Close to 1,200 schools are seeing cuts to the primary source of their individual budgets through the Fair Student Funding formula, according to a New York City Comptroller analysis.

"The mayor and the Chancellor and many others had been really trying to gaslight the city for weeks, really trying to justify or pretend like these are these are good budget cuts," said Matt Gonzales, one of the protesters who was escorted out. "So we really needed to come here to demand an answer in public, right in front of him."

"They basically threw me out here and they started getting in my face, trying to shame me, reprimand me for using my constitutional right to demand a response from the mayor," Gonzales said.

The slashed budgets — originally forecasted to total $215 million but now appear to be deeper as the city anticipates further enrollment drops — have already led to lost programs, and teachers and school staff.

Another protestor who was escorted out, Shoshana Brown, told The Post she was a social worker at Essex Street Academy on the Lower East Side until she was let go by her school on the first day of summer break because of fewer funds.

"I didn't even get a chance to say goodbye to my students because it came after summer already started," Brown said.

"I'm sad because I have students that I've worked really, really hard for," she said. "Not only am I not going to be able to see them graduate — I'm scared that they're not going to graduate because they're not gonna have that support, and I was the only person in the school that they were really connected to."

At several city forums, including last month's Panel for Educational Policy and a City Council budget oversight hearing, parents, teachers and advocates have flooded public comment to decry the cuts. Council members, too, later pushed back against the reductions after hearing from their constituents.

Adams, who acknowledged that the "overwhelming number of questions" at the forum were related to youth and schools, continued to attribute the shrunken budgets to drastic enrollment declines within the Department of Education.

"People have hijacked the conversation," Adams said.


For immediate release: July 18, 2022

Contact: Leonie Haimson: 917-435-9329;;
Laura D. Barbieri 914-819-3387;

NYC Parents And Teachers File Lawsuit Today Against Mayor Adams' Savage Cuts To School Budgets

 Four NYC parents and teachers filed a lawsuit today in NY Supreme Court, asking for a temporary restraining order to halt the severe budget cuts to their public schools planned for next year, which will otherwise cause class sizes to increase and students to lose valuable programs and services.

As the lawsuit points out, New York State Education Law clearly specifies a mandated process by which the NYC Board of Education (also known as the Panel for Educational Policy) must vote to approve the education budget prior to the City Council vote; but in this case, the City Council voted to adopt the budget on June 13, ten days before the Board voted on June 23, 2022. The lawsuit asks for a revote of the City Council in order to ensure the legally-required process occurs, and that the Council has the opportunity to reconsider its vote based on the testimony of nearly 70 parents and teachers who spoke out at the Board of Education meeting, detailing the profoundly damaging impact of these cuts on their schools.

Instead of following the legally mandated procedure outlined in state law, the Chancellor instead issued an "Emergency Declaration" on May 31 to adopt the budget without any Board vote, though no real emergency existed, using boilerplate language. At the Board meeting on June 23, the Chancellor erroneously declared their vote meaningless because the Council had already adopted the budget. Yet in fact, in twelve out of the last thirteen years, different NYC Schools Chancellors have invoked such "emergencies" when typically none existed, in order to adopt a budget prior to a vote of the Board of Education, thereby disempowering the Board and eradicating its essential authority under state law to approve education budgets.

In addition, State law also requires that the Board vote on a budget in which the expenses of the Community School District Councils are delineated separately from the expenses of the City Board, which did not occur either.

The plaintiffs include Melanie Kottler, a parent with a rising 2nd grader at PS 169 in Sunset Park, a school with a large number of students with special needs and English Language Learners, which as of July 14, will have its Galaxy budget reduced by millions of dollars compared to this year. Melanie deplored the fact that the school will be forced to lose classroom teachers and thus increase class size as a result: "The 2021-22 school year was incredibly challenging for teachers at our school. Not only were they working tirelessly to try to catch students up from learning loss the year before, but some teachers also faced students who had never even stepped foot in a school building. COVID is not over, and nor are these challenges. I'm afraid that larger class sizes will only make things more difficult for PS 169 students and teachers."

Another plaintiff is Sarah Brooks, a special education/ICT teacher at PS 169, who reported that the school will lose paraprofessionals, afterschool programming, school trips, and possibly their school counselor as well, damaging the quality of education for all students, but particularly those with special needs: "The budget cuts will cause all the students at PS 169 to suffer. They will lose out on specialized instruction, mental and academic supports, and the vital opportunity to learn outside of the confines of their own neighborhoods. The Special Education program will be markedly and significantly impaired. Our students deserve more from their schools."

Plaintiff Tamara Tucker is a parent of two children at PS 125 in Harlem, a high-poverty school which is facing the loss of its arts programs and an increase in class sizes due to cuts of hundreds of thousands of dollars. She said, "Everyone at PS 125 has already been stretched so thin, and this will only become worse in light of the budget cuts for this upcoming year. The students are going to be the ones who will bear the brunt of this poor decision. The formula that is used to calculate school budgets is fundamentally broken and does not account for the actual needs of schools. It is not fair and is not benefiting students in any way. Every child should have art, music, and enrichment classes. These subjects are part of a well-rounded education and bring joy and diverse perspectives to children of all ages."

Plaintiff Paul Trust is a music teacher who has worked at his school since 2005, PS 39 in Brooklyn, but now has been excessed. His school is losing its entire music program because of more than a half million dollars in cuts. He said, "My students thrive and are empowered through music. Many continue to pursue their passion in middle school and beyond. I have students who have gone on to the finest conservatories and those who have formed the loudest of rock bands. All this will go away with these budget cuts. Neither the Mayor nor the Chancellor seem to be concerned with the irreparable harm these draconian cuts may cause our students. I can only hope that this will not be the last year I am able to continue to serve the school community I love."

According to Leonie Haimson, Executive Director of Class Size Matters, "We have interviewed parents, teachers, and principals who told us that the smaller classes in their schools this past school year have been essential in allowing them to reconnect with their students and help them begin to recover from the disrupted learning and disengagement from the school closures and remote learning that occurred during the height of the pandemic. These children will have the rug pulled from under them if these cuts are enacted, and much of the progress they have gained will be lost, in the anonymity of excessive class sizes where their teachers will be unable to give them the academic and social-emotional support they so desperately need."

Laura D. Barbieri, Special Counsel for Advocates for Justice, stated: "The explicit language of State law requires that these egregious budget cuts be halted and reconsidered by the Mayor and the Council, because the law was not followed. The State Legislature enacted an explicit budget review and voting process by the Board of Education that was eviscerated by the Chancellor's abuse of authority. No emergency justified the Chancellor's ignoring the proper procedure."

Budget cut lawsuit papers 7.18.22

Here are the legal papers associated with the lawsuit filed on July 18, 2022 to request a restraining order against the budget cuts to schools and for the City Council to have an opportunity to revote on the education budget. More on this lawsuit here.

Verified Petition.

Order to show cause.

Sarah Brooks affidavit.

Paul Trust affidavit.

Melanie Kotler affidavit.

Tamara Tucker affidavit.

Thomas Sheppard affidavit.

Leonie Haimson affidavit.

Memo of Law (to come).

Friday, July 15, 2022

Mayor Eric Adams Plays a Joke on New York

 re-posted from NYC Public Voice:

Mayor Eric Adams and Phil Banks, his deputy mayor for public safety, nestled their offices within 375 Pearl St., commonly known as the Verizon Building (center). | Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Are New Yorkers getting the joke made by Eric Adams when he plays "Mayor"? I guess some do because we see it every day on TV, social media, and in the newspapers. Eric Adams is not serious about his position as the chief politician of the City of New York and certainly does not belong as the CEO of the NYC Department of Education (NYC has Mayoral control of the NYC DOE).

See my Who Are You Kidding Award.

He says he is fixing or will fix the rising deadly crime rate in New York City. Good. But what is he waiting for? How many innocent victims have to die for him to take action? We do not know.

He implements a so-called "safety" protocol where he fires thousands of city workers (policemen and women, fire professionals, educators) because they are not vaccinated and will not allow any exemptions (don't be fooled by a scam hearing where an arbitrator decides the outcome/denial before the hearing starts).

And he allows his friend and colleague Chancellor David Banks to take 55 DOE employees to a nice hotel in Orlando Florida for some fun - oops, I mean work - learning STEM techniques. Because we don't have any programs like that in NYC.

Recall of elected officials is not permitted in New York, but I'd vote for any legislation that would bring a recall option to NYC.

Get Adams a spot on SNL, or give him a comedy show to star in. Anything but a position in political office, where he has access to public funds and may represent people who are serious about helping NYC be a better place to live and work.

I'm sure that New Yorkers will be holding Eric Adams and his willing partners - Chancellor Banks is one - accountable for their actions. This calls for an Award from my Foundation:

We do that.

 Betsy Combier

by Susan Edelman and Cayla Bamberger, NY POST, July 16, 2022

The Department of Education sent 55 staffers, including Chancellor David Banks, to a four-day conference on STEM education at a swanky hotel near Universal Studios in Orlando last week — even as its schools are facing devastating budget cuts.

The Department of Education says some of the costs of its Florida trip will be covered by a grant.
Twitter / STEM Leadership Alliance

The DOE said it expects to pay about $50,000 to cover “travel and other expenses,” but the final price tag to taxpayers won’t be clear until the staffers file for reimbursement.

Conference organizers said New York City and other school districts purchased $2,750 memberships in the Global STEM Leadership Alliance. That covered participation in the summit Sunday to Thursday, an “extremely discounted” rate of $259-a-night at the 4-star Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, breakfast and lunch, as well as webinars and professional development year-round.

That cost would total a maximum $151,250 for all 55 city attendees. Some expenses were covered by a grant, according to the DOE, which would not specify how much.

“So while the plebes subsist on bread and water, our DOE colleagues enjoy the best the Loews has to offer,” a school administrator in New York griped.

Kelli List Wells, executive director of the STEM Leadership Alliance, said Orlando has been the site of the conference, which attracts educators in other states and around the world, since 2004. “It’s the most cost-efficient place to do it,” she said.

The 55 DOE employees, most from schools in the Bronx and Upper Manhattan, were among 175 attendees at the summit, List Wells said.

Banks, four district superintendents, and more than a dozen administrators and teachers spoke at the event, which focused on teaching science, technology, engineering and math.

The Loews Portofino Bay resort, a 15-minute stroll to the Universal Studios theme park, boasts a spa for massages, body treatments, and facials; three outdoor swimming pools, including a poolside bar and water slide; a sauna; and four restaurants and two lounges.

On Sunday night, Banks headlined a pre-conference “Member Only Reception” hosted by DOE vendor Sussman Education, a group of New York publishers and EdTech providers, with a musical performance by Joya Bravo, the agenda shows.

District 4 Superintendent Dr. Kristy De La Cruz (far right) posts a selfie with fellow DOE staffers.
Twitter / STEM Leadership Alliance

“It sounds like it was a party for them — more of a social thing than a professional thing,” said a Brooklyn principal who did not attend.

List Wells said the educators spent long days and evenings collaborating on ways to integrate science in all grade levels and subjects. The conference, which featured speakers from NASA, focused on teaching about the construction of habitat on the moon, among other topics, she said.

The jaunt came as turmoil over hundreds of millions of dollars slashed from school budgets reached a fever pitch. Advocates heckled Mayor Eric Adams at a public safety event on Monday, leaving him without his chancellor to answer for the cuts that the City Council adopted, then denounced. Adams blamed a city funding formula on Albany.

The $259-a-night hotel rate exceeds the $129-per-day limit that the city places on lodging on trips, following federal guidelines for Orlando. DOE officials had no comment on the discrepancy.

“We will not apologize for educators attending professional development sessions their principals, and school leaders deem valuable,” said DOE spokeswoman Jenna Lyle.

“We want our teachers to develop a tool belt of best practices from innovative educators across the country and bring those skills back to our schools,” she said.

Other DOE staffers felt differently.

“Stay at a Motel 6 or something,” said a Manhattan middle school teacher who last month was “excessed,” or let go from the former school due to fewer students enrolled.

“At a time where we’re cutting resources for students to get STEM education, to do science experiments and take field trips, this money is going toward adults,” she added. “Money should always be going toward student experiences in the classroom and outside of the classroom — not toward adults off on vacation.”

The DOE said that principals, who control how they spend their own school budgets, can send their staffers to training conferences. Officials would not say if staffers were on salary for the conference.

Free airfare to Orlando was provided by Southwest Airlines, officials said.

Some costs were covered by a grant from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for schools in Upper Manhattan’s District 6, which has a multi-year partnership with the NAACP focused on STEM education, the DOE added, without specifying the sum. NAACP President Hazel Dukes attended the event.

“New York City public schools are national leaders in innovative STEM education, and we are proud that Chancellor Banks had the opportunity to share our successes with educators from across the country,” said Lyle.


The yet-unreported workspace is the latest example of the fledgling mayor fiercely guarding his privacy as he acclimates to one of the most public political jobs in America.

NEW YORK — Mayor Eric Adams and a top deputy have outfitted offices in a highly secure tower near the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge, availing themselves of a private hideout with sweeping skyline views that’s both minutes and worlds away from the bustle of City Hall.

The yet-unreported workspace is the latest example of the fledgling mayor fiercely guarding his privacy as he acclimates to one of the most public political jobs in America.

Adams and Phil Banks, his deputy mayor for public safety, nestled their offices within 375 Pearl St., a 32-story structure commonly known as the Verizon Building that declares itself “the most secure and resilient building in Manhattan,” according to interviews with 15 people who work in and around city government and are aware of the arrangement. The setup offers them what City Hall cannot: A covert space away from the prying eyes of City Council members, reporters and employees who work in the building and can spot much of the activity within.

The mayor already has a private office in City Hall, as do deputy mayors and a few top staffers. Most other employees either work in the “bullpen,” an open space that Mike Bloomberg instituted after becoming mayor 20 years ago, or offices in the basement.

And while City Hall is open to the public, visitors must enter through a metal detector at an exterior gate and are often asked by the NYPD to provide a rationale for their attendance.

Banks and Adams decided shortly after taking office in January to set up shop in the private building, where the NYPD, Human Resources Administration and finance and sanitation agencies lease space. The mayor occasionally occupies an executive office and conference room previously allotted to the city Department of Finance on the 30th floor of the 300,000-square-foot building.

The tower boasts panoramic views of Manhattan, the New York Harbor and the city’s East River bridges that put landlocked City Hall’s vista to shame.

“I love the water,” Adams said in January about the East River-adjacent mayoral home Gracie Mansion. “You take the water views away, I wouldn’t be in there.”

A spokesperson said he has only been to the site “less than a handful of times” and emphasized its proximity to 1 Police Plaza, given Adams’ focus on reducing crime. The aide did not answer questions about whether the space was renovated once Adams took office and which other staffers have shown up there, but said no one outside city government works from the building.

Those familiar with the arrangement, all of whom would only speak on the condition of anonymity, said the Pearl Street address is Banks’ primary workspace, while Adams occasionally seeks respite there — though his trips to the clandestine office have never appeared on his public schedule.

The secret sanctum also gives Adams and Banks closer access to the NYPD.

The building, which is owned by Sabey Data Center Properties, also has a parking garage, and its website boasts of “controlled street and loading dock access.” The arrangement allows the mayor to slip in unnoticed and head directly to his office, which has floor-to-ceiling windows providing expansive city views.

“It’s hidden away; cars can’t roll through here,” said one person who works in City Hall. Others remarked on his penchant for privacy, which became a flashpoint in the mayoral campaign last year as POLITICO and other outlets dug up details on his unconventional living situation.

Political activity, such as fundraising, is not allowed to take place in government offices, so it’s not uncommon for mayors to seek space away from City Hall to conduct that type of work. In his early days as mayor, Bill de Blasio occasionally carried out political affairs in the offices of his former consulting firm, BerlinRosen.

De Blasio was also known to call donors from his favorite haunt, Brooklyn’s Bar Toto, and often ordered staff to Gracie Mansion, the official residence offered to city mayors, for planning meetings. Ed Koch and Rudy Giuliani at times conducted private government talks in a basement office of City Hall, according to one former administration official. And Bloomberg, a multibillionaire who maintained his own residence as mayor, had ample options for working elsewhere.

But mayors do not typically carve out off-site offices for official business, and Adams already has a stable of venues for politicking, including high-end bars and restaurants where he regularly meets with friends, donors and people who have business interests before his administration.

The Pearl Street edifice, which bears a red and black Verizon logo on its exterior, was built for the New York Telephone Company in 1975. It underwent a renovation in 2016, and its website now describes it as a posh, modern space with premium security.

“Flexible floor plate with endless potential. Unparalleled light and views in all directions. Power for any task,” the site reads. It ends the description inviting potential tenants to “step into the machine. Take control.”

Ironically, when asked on Sunday what he would change about working in City Hall, Adams suggested even closer quarters with the dedicated press corps that operates out of the public building’s “Room 9.” He reasoned that more visibility into his administration might yield better coverage of his achievements on crime-fighting, summer jobs for teens and screening students for dyslexia.

“So I think that if there’s one thing I would change, I would move Room 9 closer to my office,” he said, “so they can see how we’re doing some good stuff.”

On Wednesday, Adams said he had the “brilliant smart idea” of outfitting the office with cubicles for city staffers. He told reporters he’d been there no more than four times and bristled at reporting on his use of the highly secure, private building.

“How can a city location be an undisclosed location?” he said. “That’s just not making any sense.”

Georgia Rosenberg and Julian Shen-Berro contributed to this report.

From tweaked tax returns to ethics advice given to top officials, the current mayor is breaking from predecessors’ practice of releasing records — and from his own promises to be open with New Yorkers.

APR 20, 2022, 7:56PM EDT

Mayor Eric Adams has declared “there is nothing more important” to him than transparency, but when it comes to thorny issues like his personal taxes or potential conflicts of interest within his administration, his record to date is cloudy.

Last year THE CITY noted that tax forms he’d filed with the IRS in prior years raised questions about whether he’d improperly written off repairs to his personal apartment. In response, he promised to file amended forms and make them public to clear the air.

To date he’s provided no evidence that he did that.

Then THE CITY discovered he’d failed to file the required gift tax form over a co-op he claimed he’d “gifted” years ago to a friend. Again he vowed all the required paperwork would be mailed out to the IRS pronto and disclosed to New Yorkers.

Again he’s released no proof that he did what he promised to do.

On Tuesday, after initially saying he would not make his tax returns public — even though mayors have done so for decades — Adams promised to release “tax information.” He gave no date for doing so and declined to describe what “information” he planned to release.

Then there’s Adams’ refusal to make public advice the city Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) has given his top appointees on potential conflicts they face as city employees.

Incoming staff often request advice so they can avoid ethical pitfalls involving prior employers or other relationships. Adams’ predecessor, Bill de Blasio, for the most part publicly disclosed conflict-of-interest advice letters sent to his top staff.

Adams, in contrast, refuses to do that, insisting that advice about potential conflicts among top staff is private.

De Blasio also routinely updated a published weekly schedule of his meetings with lobbyists, a protocol he implemented after criticism grew regarding his interactions with lobbyists who represented donors to a controversial nonprofit he once controlled, the Campaign for One New York.

As reported last month by PoliticoNY, Adams has said he has no intention of posting any such list. To date he has not explained why.

John Kaehny, director of the non-partisan government ethics group Reinvent Albany, said Tuesday Adams should release his tax forms and disclose any Conflicts of Interest Board letters of advice sent to his top appointees to assure the public that their interests are being properly represented by City Hall.

“I’ve never heard that a person running for mayor or governor doesn’t say they’ll be the most transparent ever,” he said. “Overall the top elected officials have to be way more transparent about their finances than the average person does because they have so much power. That’s part of the trade-off: you get a lot of power, you have to have a lot of disclosure.”

‘Free Speech and Transparency’ Order

Before he arrived at City Hall, Adams spelled out his promised commitment to public disclosure repeatedly. When he announced the appointment of Brendan McGuire in December as his counsel, for example, he tweeted, “There is nothing more important to me than accountability, transparency and effective governance.”

A month into his tenure, Adams signed Executive Order 6 entitled “Protecting and Facilitating Free Speech and Transparency.” Among other things, the order enshrined the concept of full public disclosure and stated, “A free society is best maintained when the public is aware of and has access to government actions and documents, and the more open a government is with its people, the greater the understanding and participation of the public in government.”

Disclosure of personal tax forms is not required, but mayors dating back at least to Ed Koch have made them public, albeit to differing degrees. Mike Bloomberg, for instance, who was mayor but also a billionaire, heavily redacted the forms he released to the press. The point was to allow the public to get a clear picture of their mayor and his or her personal financial interests and pressures.

In Adams’ case, past history indicates he has filed forms that raise more questions than answers.

Adams’ tax-related questions center on the income he receives and the expenses he makes as the owner of two Brooklyn properties. He owns a townhouse on Lafayette Avenue and, in years past, co-owned a unit in a co-op on Prospect Place.

Last year, Adams promised to amend his filings over questions of whether he improperly wrote off repairs for his own residence he claimed in the Lafayette Avenue townhouse.

As THE CITY reported at the time, on forms he filed with the IRS from 2017 through 2019, Adams claimed he lived zero days at the address. To the public, he claimed he’d been living there the whole time.

The filings appear to show that he wrote off repairs to the entire building — including improperly writing off fix-ups of the apartment where he told the public he was living. He blamed his accountant, and promised to update the IRS. As of Wednesday, Adams had yet to produce documentation of such a filing.

THE CITY also raised questions about his co-ownership of a Brooklyn co-op that he wasn’t documenting on the annual financial disclosure forms he was required to file as a state senator and then as Brooklyn Borough President.

Confronted about this, he claimed he’d actually given away his shares of the co-op to the woman with whom he owned it. He provided a one-page letter dated Feb. 9, 2007, as documentation of this, but THE CITY found records indicating he was still listed as a co-owner well into 2021.

If he in fact gifted the property to his friend, he would be required to file a gift tax form — but he admitted that he did not. After THE CITY identified the omission, he promised to amend his prior forms, but as of Wednesday he had yet to produce documentation that he had done so.

On Friday, Adams said “no” when asked if he’d commit to releasing his most recent tax forms for 2021. On Tuesday he reversed course somewhat, saying he now planned to release unspecified “tax information” at a non-specific time in the future. He would not say if that would include his actual tax forms.

Mayoral spokesperson Fabian Levy did not respond to THE CITY’s request to see documentation of Adams’ promised amendment clarifying the apartment repair write-offs in prior years and a gift tax filing regarding the co-op. Levy told the New York Times that the mayor requested an extension on his 2021 filing last week as he was quarantining with COVID. That gives him months to release whatever “tax information” he plans to release.

Norman Siegel, a veteran civil rights attorney and longtime advisor to Adams, said the mayor should provide the requested documentation on prior year filings, stating, “If any elected official says they’re going to provide an amended complaint or form, you need to hold them accountable for that.”

Siegel was at Adams’ side when the mayor announced his free speech executive order.

He added that he was optimistic regarding the mayor’s promise to release “tax information” about his latest filing. “I’m in favor of transparency,” Siegel stated. “I’m hoping that Mayor Adams provides the tax information consistent with prior mayors. It does now appear that he’s moving in that direction. That’s positive.”
Refusal to Release Records

Another key issue is Adams’ refusal to disclose the advice letters the Conflict of Interest Board (COIB) has provided to members of his cabinet to guide them on how to avoid conflicts — a refusal that reverses the policy of his predecessor, de Blasio.

When de Blasio first arrived at City Hall in January 2014, he made public a COIB letter advising his newly appointed deputy mayor for housing, Alicia Glen, who had left a job at Goldman Sachs where she’d made investments in affordable housing projects. He also released a COIB letter for his new Housing Commissioner Vicki Been, who had previously run a real estate think tank at New York University called the Furman Center.

And de Blasio selectively released advice letters he himself received from COIB over two issues: His solicitation of money from entities doing business with City Hall for his non-profit, Campaign for One New York, and whether he had to reimburse the taxpayers for his use of an NYPD police detail during his brief and unsuccessful run for president.

When THE CITY requested the same kind of COIB advice letters for Adams’ top level appointees, the mayor refused to turn them over. The City Hall legal team argued that they were protected from disclosure under the lawyer-client privilege, and were exempt from release under the Freedom of Information Law as inter-agency communications.

Last week, THE CITY appealed that rejection and awaits City Hall’s response.

Recipients of these letters are free to release them if they choose. One of Adams’ top appointees, Department of Investigation Commissioner Jocelyn Strauber, provided THE CITY with a copy of her own without hesitation.

The letter advised that her membership on the board of a nonprofit called Publicolor, which has pending contracts with the city Department of Education, could present potential conflicts.

During a February City Council hearing on her confirmation, Strauber said she planned to resign from that position, stating, “I want to be very clear in my views on this. I have resigned from or committed to resign from the Publicolor...board in light of initial indications from the Conflicts of Interest Board that that’s a complicated situation to manage given the many touchpoints with the city.”

The COIB letter also made clear to her that she did not have to resign from the board of a private school, but in the interests of eliminating all appearance of potential conflict, she decided to step down from the position, too.