Legal X-Ray of Mayor Eric Adams’s Campaign Proposals

New York City Mayor Eric Adams at the podium
The New York City Bar Association looks forward to engaging with the administration of Mayor Eric Adams to help advance legal reforms that will benefit all New Yorkers. To that end, the New York City Affairs Committee conducted an exhaustive review of Mayor Eric Adams’s campaign proposals, largely as cataloged in the campaign policy book 100+ Steps Forward for NYC and on the campaign’s website. For every proposal, the committee made a determination as to whether implementation could be lawfully carried out under mayoral authority alone, or whether it required action from others. The result is a “legal X-Ray” of almost 30 pages mapping out the possible route to making every campaign proposal a reality, providing a tool of accountability to the Adams administration, government actors, and the public. It is the sincere hope of the City Bar that this tool will promote consultation and collaboration, even in those cases where the Mayor is empowered to act by his own authority. This, as the committee states in the document, is “the path to successful reform.”
The New York City Affairs Committee describes its process as follows:

First, we cataloged the Adams campaign’s major published proposals, including a set of proposals on climate resilience that the campaign published in the fall of 2021 after Hurricane Ida. Section headings I through VI in our chart are drawn from the 100+ Steps book. Section VII reflects the post-Ida proposals.

Second, we set out to neutrally analyze whether each campaign proposal can lawfully be implemented under mayoral authority alone, or requires action by others—e.g., revision of the City Charter or action by the City Council, the State Legislature, or Congress. In the accompanying chart, we use a picture of the Mayor-Elect to indicate campaign promises that we believe can lawfully be implemented—in whole or in substantial part—on mayoral authority alone:

A few words are in order about what this project is, and what it is not:

screenshots of a report
  • Discussion here of an Adams campaign proposal does not indicate City Bar endorsement of that proposal on the merits. Rather, the goal is to help the new administration, other government actors, and the public understand who has the authority to do what.
  • Just because the Mayor-Elect can, under the law, act more or less unilaterally does not mean he should. Rather, the path to successful reform will generally be paved by significant consultation and collaboration. Key stakeholders will include the City Council, city agencies, other elected officials, the state and federal governments, and labor unions. Likewise, there are significant roles for the city’s business community and for its non-profit, community- and faith-based organizations and their leaders. In particular, criminal justice reform will benefit from engagement with the district attorneys, the courts, the police and corrections unions, community-based organizations focusing on justice and equity, and public defenders and other defense lawyers. We believe such consultation and collaboration generally should be pursued across the board. In the chart that follows, we have tried here and there to note where that approach seems particularly advisable.
  • The policy proposals released by the Adams campaign span a range, from the highly detailed to the more general and aspirational. We have taken the proposals “as is”—meaning that where a proposal tends to the aspirational, our analysis may be less detailed. This document is not legal advice, and is subject to review and revision as more specific proposals are produced by the Adams Administration and others.
  • A great deal of excellent work product on legal and policy reform for New York City has been issued by others. We note here a few examples that have come to our attention: (i) the NYC 2025 Policy Proposals issued by the Wagner Graduate School of Public Service; (ii) the Preliminary Report of the NYC Advisory Commission on Tax Reform; (iii) the Vital City report, “What To Do About Closing Rikers”; and (iv) the report of the Urban Tech Hub of the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell Tech, “Rebooting NYC: An Urban Tech Agenda for the Next Administration.” By pointing to these sources, the City Bar is not endorsing their contents. Rather, we are noting that each provides a thoughtful perspective on key issues that the Mayor-Elect has identified as priorities. Review of these materials by the incoming administration may help expedite reforms in these areas.
  • Over the years, the City Bar has stated its own positions on a wide range of municipal issues. We have collected in the appendix to this document selected recent positions of the City Bar that relate, in whole or in part, to some of the Adams Administration’s proposed reforms. The City Bar urges the Adams Administration and other elected leaders to consider these positions where they are applicable or may be helpful. We look forward to continuing our engagement on New York City affairs—both on the issues listed in the appendix, and on those we will tackle in the future.

Read THE Full Report >