Mayor Eric Adams notably omitted the words “bail reform” from his wish list for Albany lawmakers during his “Tin Cup Day” plea for state funding on Wednesday — marking a dramatic retreat from the top item on his anti-crime legislative agenda.
Adams also flipped the script on the team he brought with him, replacing last year’s longtime loyalists — including ex-chief of staff Frank Carone — with top City Hall lawyer Brendan McGuire and budget director Jacques Jiha.
But his ace in the hole may have been newly hired senior adviser Diane Savino, a former nine-term state senator who enjoys good relationships throughout the Capitol and with power brokers across the state.
“What he learned from the last time was: don’t give them a reason to throw him out the door and disrespect him in public, which is what they did,” veteran Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf said Thursday, referring to the treatment Adams got from legislative leaders last year.
“He now smartly understands that the system is fixed against him and if bail reform is not discussable, he must now figure out how to bend it wisely to fix his city.”
Another Democratic consultant, Jake Dilemani, also said it was politically prudent for Adams to “tone down some of the more charged language on issues like bail reform.”
“A lot of Democrats are aligned with him on a significant amount of what he’s pushing on public safety,” Dilemani said. “They support the large agenda: retail theft is out of control and bail is still part of the ongoing public safety discussion but they are right to focus on other public safety items that can potentially get more support.”
Democratic consultant Chris Coffey noted that “talking about bail reform with the leadership in the Legislature is not a way to curry favor and get money for the city.”
“He can get more money with honey than vinegar,” Coffey added.
Last year, Adams made bail reform his No. 1 legislative priority for combating gun violence and demanded that judges be given the power to lock up defendants deemed dangerous to the community, as allowed in every other state and the federal court system.
But the mayor got nowhere with Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-The Bronx) and Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers), who rejected his bold ideas in favor of modest tweaks to the state’s 2019 bail reform law.
On Wednesday, Adams endorsed Gov. Kathy Hochul’s proposal to abolish the “least restrictive means” standard for ensuring defendants return to court, saying it “will go a long way towards solving our recidivist problem.”
Following his two-plus hours of testimony at a joint legislative budget hearing, Adams told reporters he didn’t want to “make that mistake we made last year of just focusing on one aspect” of the criminal justice system to bring safety back to the Big Apple.
Hizzoner said recent discussions with Heastie and Stewart-Cousins made clear that “they want a holistic approach that falls in alignment with what I want.”
“I heard them loudly and clearly,” he said. “It is about a criminal justice system that is broken and we want to fix that entire system and make sure that people get justice if they’re a victim of a crime, and people get justice if they’re accused of a crime.”
Law enforcement sources expressed outrage and accused Adams — a former NYPD cop — of caving on bail reform.
“If you can’t beat them, join them — that’s what Adams did with Heastie and Stewart-Cousins,” a Brooklyn cop fumed. “I am disappointed and frustrated but not surprised. Adams is a politician and they talk out of both sides of their mouths.”
A Queens cop also said Adams’ new strategy was doomed to failure.
“How does lowering the least restrictive standard solve the recidivist problem? The answer is: it doesn’t,” the source said. “Crime will not go down until criminals are held accountable for their actions.”
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