The fanfare started building minutes before Mayor Eric Adams made his arrival on Monday. Dozens of supporters, most on Mr. Adams’s payroll, lined the City Hall rotunda staircase, behind the lectern where the mayor was about to appear.
After a brief lull, the familiar chorus of the mayor’s designated walkout song — “Empire State of Mind,” by Jay-Z and Alicia Keys — filled the room, a sound that seemed to startle the state attorney general, Letitia James, who mouthed, “Oh, God,” before laughing.
With everything in place, Mr. Adams strode in to make his announcement. He was elevating his press secretary, Fabien Levy, to become his administration’s seventh deputy mayor.
In doing so, Mr. Adams was underscoring the importance he places on messaging: Mr. Levy, according to the mayor, will be the first person in New York City to hold the title of deputy mayor for communications.
“The antiquated method of communicating with your constituency, of just through the daily tabloids, is just not acceptable anymore,” Mr. Adams said on Monday. “We have to communicate directly to our consumers.”
Mr. Adams’s promotion of Mr. Levy is part of his all-out focus on controlling his messaging through political stagecraft and calculated choices about whom the mayor talks to and when.
He is doing a podcast, a newsletter and a new “Hear From the Mayor” interview show on WBLS, an R&B radio station where he greets his interviewer, Imhotep Gary Byrd, as “Brother Gary.”
Mr. Adams has argued that traditional media outlets do not cover what he regards as his key accomplishments, including a drop in crime and dyslexia screenings for children, though both have in fact received attention.
“If y’all want to acknowledge it or not, I’m doing a damn good job,” he said at a news conference last month.
Mr. Levy, 39, has worked as press secretary for Mr. Adams in his first 19 months in office, serving as his primary spokesman and as an attack dog in response to news coverage that the mayor dislikes. His salary will be the same as other deputy mayors at $251,900, up from roughly $211,000, city officials said.
While former Mayor Bill de Blasio did weekly appearances with well-regarded local journalists, like Errol Louis on NY1 and Brian Lehrer on WNYC, Mr. Adams often prefers to receive questions from friendly hosts. Mr. Adams regularly visits Caribbean Power Jam Radio, where the host praises the mayor and told him last month on air, “We have nothing but love and respect for you.”
One podcast interview for his “Get Stuff Done-Cast” featured Darryl McDaniels, who is better known as DMC from Run-DMC, and an email newsletter recently had the subject “16 FREE activities you can’t miss this week.”
At the mayor’s news conferences, a city official often introduces him with overflowing praise. When Mr. Adams launched the latest effort to reduce sidewalk sheds, his deputy mayor for operations, Meera Joshi, said he was the “one person, far more than anyone else,” who “is driven to every day ensure all that is beautiful about New York City is actually seen by all New Yorkers.”
The pageantry can exude an “Eric Adams Show” vibe. There is often music. Sometimes there is dancing. There is also generally a show of force, with the mayor’s senior staff arrayed behind him, projecting positive affirmation and energy. At a July 31 event about gun violence, among the many senior officials standing behind him was the executive director of the Mayor’s Office of Food Policy.
Mr. Adams, who has often sought to highlight the diversity of his administration, drew attention to Mr. Levy’s biography as the son of Jewish immigrants from Iran and Iraq. Mr. Levy, who becomes Mr. Adams’s first Jewish deputy mayor, previously served as Ms. James’s press secretary and as a communications director for Gov. Kathy Hochul when she was a congresswoman.
Mr. Adams praised Mr. Levy’s work ethic on Monday and referred to his confrontational style, which has included testy exchanges with City Hall reporters.
“The folks in the press, they all know Fabien because I’m sure he called you and yelled at you one time or another,” the mayor said, laughing.
Mr. Levy is not the first deputy mayor to be responsible for communications. Under former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Howard Wolfson served as deputy mayor for government affairs and communications. Mayor David N. Dinkins had a deputy mayor for public and community affairs.
Mr. Adams is not the first mayor to have such a large population of deputy mayors. Edward I. Koch also had seven. But after a year and half in office, “he was pulling what remaining hair he had out of the back of his head,” said Bill Cunningham, a communications director for Mr. Bloomberg. Mr. Koch ended up eliminating four of those deputy mayor positions.
It was known as the “Thursday night massacre.”
Emma G. Fitzsimmons is the City Hall bureau chief, covering politics in New York City. She previously covered the transit beat and breaking news. More about Emma G. Fitzsimmons
Dana Rubinstein is a reporter on the Metro desk covering New York City politics. Before joining The Times in 2020, she spent nine years at the publication now known as Politico New York. More about Dana Rubinstein
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