Eric Adams in Albany: ‘We don’t have an endless flow of cash’

The mayor shared specific complaints about the proposed budget but insisted his relationship with the governor remained strong.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams

New York City Mayor Eric Adams Picture by Jeff Coltin

New York City Mayor Eric Adams held out a tin cup with one hand, and kept his other hand firmly on his wallet.

“While the executive budget contains many shared priorities, the cuts and cost shifts significantly outweigh the assistance the state has provided to address the asylum-seeker crisis,” Adams said Wednesday.

He was in Albany to deliver budget testimony before a joint legislative hearing on local government.

Adams highlighted three major areas where he thought the city was being expected to contribute too much in Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposed budget: “Our schools, public transit and Medicaid,” Adams said. “If unaddressed, these cuts will force us to make difficult choices in regard to the city budget and the services that we provide.”

On schools, Adams was treading carefully around Hochul’s support of allowing more charter schools to open in New York City. He neither fully endorsed, nor criticized, the controversial plan, and instead focused on the fiscal impact, saying the city can’t afford the $1.2 billion cost of more than 100 new schools. Charter school advocates said that schools won’t be opening in the next year, and they would phase in slowly – meaning Adams was complaining about costs he won’t have to worry about for a decade. As he’s done before, Adams also complained about the cost of implementing a new law to shrink school class sizes.

The mayor also put up a fight about funding for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, where Hochul wants the city to put in an extra $500 million per year as part of a larger plan to help the system’s struggling finances. “We’re doing our share. We know how important the MTA is,” Adams said, emphasizing the city already contributes “​​$2.4 billion in direct and in-kind contributions, (but) we don’t have an endless flow of cash.”

And, like local leaders across the state, Adams pushed back on the governor’s proposal to redirect federal Medicaid funding away from the city. He said it would cost the city $343 million annually, and that number could grow.

Adams had previously said Hochul’s proposal to split the funding for housing asylum-seekers in New York City was based on levels of federal funding that would probably never come. He asked for more – and state Senate Finance Committee Chair Liz Krueger seemed eager to provide it. She noted that the state had not been providing its usual 29% share of funding for traditional homeless shelters, let alone the emergency shelters for recent migrants.

Overall, Adams had a pretty smooth morning in the state Capitol. He sat in the hearing for less than 2 1/2 hours – about an hour shorter than expected. Many state senators in particular skipped it, likely to deal with the surprise vote on Hochul’s nomination of Hector LaSalle for chief judge.

Without facing too many tough questions, Adams was able to plead his case to reporters that his Albany operation wasn’t nearly as bad as people said. While it’s true that Adams has some staunch allies in the state Legislature, and that he had some wins in Albany last year, he also faced some disappointing losses on his agenda. Journalists weren’t hard-pressed to find lawmakers who felt that Adams’ political strategy was poor, and he suffered for it.

This year, Adams has made a point of emphasizing his closeness with Hochul. But he insisted that his public complaints about her spending plan Wednesday didn’t change that relationship.

“When you look at what she has placed in the budget, many of them are my proposals, and things that I asked for,” he said at a press conference after the hearing. “We disagree on the fiscal aspects of it. It does not take away our friendship and my respect for her and my ability to work with her.”