Good morning. It’s Thursday. We’ll look at the different visions held by two powerful local elected officials, Mayor Eric Adams and the speaker of the City Council, Adrienne Adams. We’ll also find out how the wrong photo figured in the arrest and second-degree murder conviction of the wrong man in Brooklyn, and we’ll meet the new president of Barnard College.
They have the same surname and were high school classmates in Queens in the late 1970s, but Mayor Eric Adams and the City Council speaker, Adrienne Adams, appear to have different agendas for the city. That was one takeaway from the speaker’s State of the City address this week. The mayor, who listened from the audience, gave his own State of the City speech in January. I asked Emma G. Fitzsimmons, who covers New York politics as our City Hall bureau chief, to discuss the divergent views that were reflected in the two speeches.
How did Speaker Adams’s State of the City speech differ from the mayor’s?
Adrienne Adams focused on different policies from the mayor, like 3-K for All and half-price MetroCards for poor New Yorkers, and she called forcefully for closing the Rikers Island jail complex by 2027. She said the conditions there now “are only creating harm for everyone there.” And she wasn’t just speaking for herself. She said her mother had worked as a correction officer at Rikers and had told her, “Baby, they should have closed that place a long time ago.”
Mayor Adams has raised doubts about closing Rikers on the timeline required by law and says that he wants to consider a Plan B. The speaker made clear she wasn’t going to go along with him and outlined why she views the conditions there as inhumane, saying the City Council would be “a focused change agent” to finally close Rikers.
You write that when the mayor took office last year, he and the speaker appeared to have a good relationship, even though the mayor had backed someone else for the job she won. What’s their relationship like now?
It appears to be strained. They are both relatively moderate Democrats from Queens, but they have very different personalities and policy views.
The mayor loves attention and showing that he has “swagger,” while the speaker avoids the spotlight and prefers to work behind the scenes.
They have disagreed over budget cuts to schools and the city’s response to the migrant crisis. The speaker also must consider the views of the progressive wing of the City Council, which has real concerns about the mayor’s policies, especially his law-and-order message on policing. Some Council members apologized after they voted for the budget last year and said they would take a stronger stand against budget reductions this year.
What about reducing the Police Department’s budget? What did Speaker Adams say about that, and did that put her at odds with the mayor?
Speaker Adams didn’t mention policing once in her speech. She talked about other solutions to improve safety, like supportive housing and mental health services. Mayor Adams, on the other hand, has really focused on policing as the solution to reduce crime. He brought back an anti-gun police unit and has increased police patrols on the subway.
She also came out against other budget cuts the mayor has proposed, didn’t she? How critical of the mayor was she?
She did not criticize the mayor by name, but the subtext of the speech was that she disagrees with him on major issues. That is going to come out more during their budget talks over the next few months. She wants to close Rikers, to stabilize 3-K for All, to avoid budget cuts for libraries and to address a city worker staffing crisis that has delayed basic services like providing food stamps. The speaker told me in a recent interview that the Council has a “different vision for our city.”
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For “Phantom” musicians, the gig of a lifetime: “The Phantom of the Opera,” Broadway’s longest running musical, is set to close next month. The show has been a source of stability for orchestra members, many of whom have grown up with the show.
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The wrong photo, the wrong suspect and 18 years in prison
There were two Sheldon Thomases — the one whose photo was picked out by a witness to a fatal shooting in Brooklyn in 2004, and the one the police arrested on a second-degree murder charge.
The Brooklyn district attorney’s office said that detectives, prosecutors and the judge handling the case all knew they had a different man than the one in the picture, but they proceeded anyway. The Sheldon Thomas who had been arrested was convicted and spent 18 years in prison.
Now 35, he was freed on Thursday. He told a judge in State Supreme Court in Brooklyn that he had imagined the moment — “what I would say, who would be there.” But when the moment came, all he could say was that he was “just speechless.”
The Brooklyn district attorney, Eric Gonzalez, called the conviction “fundamentally unfair.” He said in a statement that the case had been “compromised from the very start by grave errors and lack of probable cause to arrest Mr. Thomas.”
The case began when people in a car opened fire, shooting at six others in East Flatbush on Christmas Eve 2004. A 14-year-old boy was killed. A report from the district attorney’s conviction review unit said investigators obtained the photo of the man with the same name, prompted a witness to choose that picture and arrested the other Sheldon Thomas, who denied being in Brooklyn on the night of the shooting.
The report said Thomas was wrongly identified during three in-person lineups. The witness was “prompted by the detectives.” The trial judge decided that the photo of the wrong man was of no consequence and that the two men resembled each other. The district attorney’s office said they did not.
Barnard chooses a new president
Barnard College, one of the most prominent women’s colleges in the United States, named Laura Rosenbury to be its next president. She has been the dean of the University of Florida Levin College of Law since 2015 and has taught classes in feminist legal theory, employment discrimination and family law. Barnard said she had boosted the number of applicants to Levin by roughly 200 percent, hiring 39 new faculty members and raising more than $100 million in donations.
Her time in Florida coincided with tensions that accompanied political battles over abortion, L.G.B.T.Q. rights and the teaching of race. She said she had “long been committed to pluralism and fostering communities where all points of view are discussed and fostered and nurtured” and that the values that had guided her there would also guide her at Barnard.
She is not new to New York. Before entering academia, she worked as an associate at a Manhattan law firm and clerked for Judge Carol Bagley Amon of Federal District Court in Brooklyn and Judge Dennis Jacobs, a federal appeals judge in Manhattan.
I was furnishing my first apartment, circa 1982. I bought a velour sofa, a Ming-style side table and a lamp with a porcelain Chinese goddess base at Macy’s.
I decided to return the lamp. When I got to the store, there was a long line at the return counter.
As I was waiting, the man ahead of me turned around, looked at me and then looked at the lamp.
“Take it home and learn to love it,” he said and turned back around.
— Marianne Kobbe
Illustrated by Agnes Lee. Send submissions here and read more Metropolitan Diary here.
Glad we could get together here. See you on Monday. — J.B.
P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword and Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.
Melissa Guerrero and Ed Shanahan contributed to New York Today. You can reach the team at [email protected]
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