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Adams Bemoans Recidivism Rates, Says Top Aide Accused of Sexual Harassment Needs 'Due Process'

The mayor addressed the topics of recidivism, mental illness, his ties to Turkey, debit cards for asylum seekers, and more during this weekly press conference.
Mayor Eric Adams and First Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright at the weekly media press conference on March 26, 2024.

The mayor stressed the importance of reducing recidivism rates in the city and said a top aide who was accused of sexual harassment should be allowed his due process, during a weekly media press conference at City Hall on Tuesday. 

When police officer Jonthan Diller, 31, was shot and killed in the line of duty during a traffic stop in Queens on Monday, Adams described the act as a “senseless act of violence.”

“We have a real recidivist problem," Adams said. "One of the men had been arrested on a gun charge in April 2023, the driver, has more than 20 priors. The other has an equal amount of priors. Recidivism is a real issue.”

He also tied in the current mental health crisis to the many random acts of violence, and warned the looming shortage of public safety and criminal justice workers needed to currently deal with the issues would only exacerbate the problem.  

“We’re losing correction officers…We’re losing police officers. We’re losing district attorneys… We're losing probation officers. We’re losing parole officers. The foundation of the public safety apparatus is dissolving right in front of our eyes. If we don't get in front of it, we are going to be dealing with a severe public safety crisis that other cities are experiencing,” said Adams.

When asked about Tim Pearson, a current senior advisor of public safety who was accused by a former NYPD Sergeant for repeatedly sexually harassing her in a lawsuit last week, said his long-time friend, who is also a former police officer, should be allowed his "due process."

Adams also faced questions regarding his ties to Turkey and possible illegal campaign contributions in relation to the FBI corruption investigation currently being conducted on his 2021 mayoral campaign. Last May, Ezra Friedlander, a political consultant with ties to Turkey and Azerbaijan, held a meeting with Azerbaijan’s deputy foreign minister and top officials in the mayor’s administration and failed to report it in federal filings. In the meeting, restoring direct flights from the city to Baku was discussed, according to Friedlander. 

This comes after three Adams administration officials: Brianna Suggs, former Turkish Airlines executive Cenk Öcal and Rana Abbasova who was also present at the meeting with Friedlander, all had their homes raided by the FBI for allegedly conspiring with Turkey to funnel illegal donations to Adams’ mayoral campaign in November 2023.  

“If you look at the meetings we have, we probably have more international leaders than any other administration in its history,” said Adams in response to the inquiry. “They talked about Baku and increasing flights. If there's a way we can add a letter, we want flights to come here. We want as many flights as possible to come to JFK.“

Adams, Abbasova, Öcal and Suggs have not been found of any wrongdoing thus far.

The mayor also defended the pilot program that will issue prepaid debit cards to asylum seekers for food and baby supplies, where 500 individuals are expected to participate in the program over the coming weeks. He claimed the program would save the city $600,000 a month with the added benefit of putting money back into the local economy and lowering food waste.      

When grilled on what kind of message the city would be sending to people at the border by supplying migrants and their children with food and supplies, Adams said he found this as one of many steps the city needed to take. 

“Anytime you deal with what is a humanitarian crisis with over 180,000 people, you have to take necessary steps,” said Adams. “So we have to find the right combination, delivery of services with the same level of dignity and do it in a way that's cost effective.”

“We’ll all be very clear. There's no free money. These are not ATM cards you can't take cash out. If anyone has that idea they are wrong. This is for food and baby supplies only,” stated Deputy Mayor for Communications Fabian Levy.

Families in the program can only use the debit cards at grocery stores, convenience stores and delis. They are required to sign an affidavit affirming their use of the cards will only be for intended purposes. Data will be collected by the city in the initial weeks of the program to figure out next steps to improve it. 

Shenal Tissera

About the Author: Shenal Tissera

Shenal Tissera is a Staten Island-born freelance writer.
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