In the lead-up to and aftermath of the New York City mayoral primary, Eric Adams and his team sought guidance from current and past city leaders — first, to help craft his successful bid for the Democratic nomination, and then to prepare for a likely transition to the mayoralty.
But Mr. Adams has recently come to lean on one person in particular: Michael R. Bloomberg.
In mid-September, Mr. Bloomberg released a video endorsement of Mr. Adams for mayor. The next day, at a business conference featuring various of Mr. Bloomberg’s fellow billionaires, Mr. Adams declared, “New York will no longer be anti-business.”
Two days later, Mr. Bloomberg hosted a fund-raiser for Mr. Adams on the roof of the East 78th Street headquarters of Bloomberg Philanthropies, featuring dozens of guests, several of them financial sector executives.
Last Wednesday, one of Mr. Bloomberg’s closest advisers, Howard Wolfson, met with David C. Banks, who is thought be among Mr. Adams’s top choices for schools chancellor.
The meeting between Mr. Wolfson, Mr. Bloomberg’s former deputy mayor, and Mr. Banks, the founder of a network of all-boys public schools, was not happenstance. It was a product of a burgeoning relationship between the once and likely future mayors and has played out in proclamations of mutual regard.
“The best New York City mayor in my lifetime is a combination of Mayor David Dinkins and Michael Bloomberg,” Mr. Adams said during the primary, hailing Mr. Bloomberg’s “practical approach.”
Mr. Adams’s overtures to Mr. Bloomberg reinforce the notion that Mr. Adams has himself perpetuated on the campaign trail: that he is a pragmatic, centrist Democrat eager to make New York safe, prosperous and functional.
Tying himself to Mr. Bloomberg may yield other benefits for Mr. Adams, too. It gives him access to a particularly well-heeled corner of New York’s donor class and the opportunity to wrap himself in the aura of Mr. Bloomberg’s reputed managerial skill, especially as questions arise about Mr. Adams’s ability to manage his own affairs.
In recent days, Mr. Adams has been battered by headlines about his tax returns, which he has promised to revise, for the second time, after reporters found irregularities in them. Mr. Adams blames those errors on his accountant, whom Mr. Adams said he kept in his employ, even though the tax preparer was homeless. The news outlet The City reported that the tax preparer’s neighbors had accused him of embezzling money and had evicted him.
Mr. Adams and his campaign have spoken to a number of former officials in the Bloomberg administration and former and current officials in the de Blasio administration, said Evan Thies, a spokesman for Mr. Adams.
“It’s not like he’s embracing one mayor over the other mayor,” Mr. Thies said. “That’s just what you do, check in with people who have been there.”
Mr. Adams plans to have a group of deputy mayors with whom he can consult, including current and former officials from past administrations. In some ways, he has approached the mayoralty like a research project — seeking out the advice of deputy mayors going as far back as the Giuliani administration.
“He was trying to pick my brain and think out of the box,” said Phil Thompson, the deputy mayor for strategic policy initiatives for Mr. de Blasio and a former staffer in the Dinkins administration. “He is trying to figure out how a mayor can do something for low-income communities of color to make a difference.”
Mr. Bloomberg, who has extended an open-door policy to Mr. Adams and his team, may also derive some benefit from the relationship with Mr. Adams. It allows him to involve himself again in New York City municipal matters — following eight years of disengagement while his successor, Bill de Blasio, held office — and to burnish his reputation here.
One former Bloomberg aide, who requested anonymity to speak freely, noted that while the former mayor had little standing in the de Blasio administration, he is far more likely to act as a respected source of advice for Mr. Adams.
Mr. de Blasio ran for mayor by decrying Mr. Bloomberg’s legacy, arguing that New York had become a “tale of two cities,” one for the rich, the other for the poor. At Mr. de Blasio’s inauguration in 2014, Mr. Bloomberg was forced to sit poker-faced as speakers derided his tenure, with one comparing the city under his rule to a “plantation.”
Mr. Adams, in contrast, campaigned on a platform of restoring public safety and prosperity, the frequently voiced concerns of the business class. He has recently decried the city’s state of “disorder,” and has cited a laundry list of ills such as graffiti, ATVs, homelessness and shootings.
Like Mr. Bloomberg, Mr. Adams is a former Republican. And during Mr. Bloomberg’s ill-fated presidential campaign, Mr. Adams served as a surrogate, saying publicly that he believed the former mayor was remorseful for his Police Department’s abusive use of stop-and-frisk, after the two men met for 45 minutes at Mr. Adams’s table at Brooklyn’s Park Plaza Restaurant.
Dennis M. Walcott, the former city schools chancellor and deputy mayor under Mr. Bloomberg, said Mr. Bloomberg and Mr. Adams have similar styles.
“Adams’s style is such that he works with people from both sides of the aisle,” Mr. Walcott said. “One of the interesting things about Mayor Bloomberg is he recruited people who didn’t necessarily support him and then surrounded himself with solid talent.”
In mid-September, Mr. Adams appeared on two Bloomberg Media programs, one on the radio, the other on TV, during which he promised to crack down on disorder and open New York City to business, including by offering incentives. Job No. 1, he said, was public safety.
Mr. Wolfson, Mr. Bloomberg’s longtime adviser, is spearheading the Bloomberg-Adams engagement effort, by several accounts. He spoke regularly with Sheena Wright, the United Way of New York City chief executive who is running Mr. Adams’s transition, in the run-up to the fund-raiser.
Representatives of Mr. Adams have also connected with Robert Steel, another former deputy mayor under Mr. Bloomberg. And Daniel Doctoroff, Mr. Bloomberg’s former deputy mayor for economic development and the former head of Bloomberg L.P., has independently spoken with Mr. Adams.
Mr. Bloomberg has also met personally with Mr. Adams, according to one person familiar with the meeting, and has spoken with him privately throughout the course of the campaign, according to Mr. Adams’s aide. And Mr. Bloomberg hosted last Wednesday’s fund-raiser, during which Mr. Adams is said to have extolled Mr. Bloomberg’s expertise, and Mr. Bloomberg is said to have expressed confidence in Mr. Adams.
Several dozen Bloomberg associates attended the 8 a.m. fund-raiser, where the price of admittance was $2,000 a head.
The guests included at least five former Bloomberg deputy mayors: Mr. Steel and Robert C. Lieber, both bankers; Edward Skyler, an executive vice president at Citi; Kevin Sheekey, a close adviser to Mr. Bloomberg; and Patricia E. Harris, the head of Bloomberg Philanthropies, according to fellow attendees.
Mr. Adams said at the fund-raiser that he wants the city to work on behalf of both the person in the front of the limousine and the person in the back, according to two attendees. And he said that New York City squandered the last eight years by failing to learn any lessons from the Bloomberg administration.
Ken Lipper, a friend of Mr. Bloomberg’s from their days at Salomon Brothers, was also there, and he said he was impressed with Mr. Adams’s practical approach to governance, with its emphasis on making the actual levers of government work.
There was something “old-fashioned” about him, according to Mr. Lipper, an investment banker and former deputy mayor under Ed Koch.
He said he also appreciated Mr. Adams’s understanding of the tax structure.
“Sixty-five thousand people in the entire city pay 51 percent of the taxes,” Mr. Lipper said, referring to the wealthiest personal income tax filers. “Those people don’t use the hospital system, generally, they don’t use the subways in many cases, they’re not using the public schools. So their focus is on having a safe city. You’ve got to give them those minimal services, even though it might seem disproportionate to other areas, and I think Adams kind of gets that.”
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