Adrienne Adams Elected First-Ever Black Speaker of New York’s City Council

NEW YORK (New York Daily News/TNS) -

Adrienne Adams was elected the next speaker of the City Council on Wednesday, becoming the first Black woman to ever take on the powerful post after a contentious back-room race that dealt an early blow to Mayor Eric Adams’ perceived influence over the legislative body.

Adams, who represents a section of eastern Queens that includes Jamaica, was picked for the speaker job in an internal vote by the Council’s 51 members during their first meeting of the year.

In her first floor remarks as speaker, Adams said she was honored by her colleagues’ trust, but did not linger on the celebratory note.

“We must realize that we are here because New York is at the crossroads of multiple crises, each one competing for our full attention,” she said, listing off the still-raging coronavirus pandemic, gun violence and economic inequality as issues that must be addressed by the Council this term.

“The people who elected us demand our government take action. They’re exhausted as they stagger into year three of this pandemic. They want to feel safe and they want to be treated with respect and dignity.”

Adams’ historic appointment had a preordained air to it, in that speaker’s race was effectively decided last month when all other candidates dropped out and a majority of members publicly committed support for Adams.

But some fireworks still erupted in the Council chamber during the vote.

Newly sworn-in socialist Council members Charles Barron of Brooklyn and Kristin Richardson Jordan of Harlem, who were alone in voting against Adams’ speaker nomination, both suggested their colleague from Queens is too closely aligned with Mayor Adams and not sufficiently progressive on issues like policing.

“They say they prioritize police and criminal justice reform, but support the racist NYPD with more money,” said Barron, adding that he believes the new speaker is “cut from the same political cloth” as the mayor and Gov. Kathy Hochul. “With the support from this speaker and the governor, he will turn Black and brown communities into a police state.”

Richardson Jordan kept her remarks briefer. “I vote firmly no. We need more than symbolic representation,” she said.

The conclusion of the speaker’s race came after months of political jockeying among members, labor leaders and other powerbrokers — including Mayor Adams.

Behind closed doors, Adams and his team advocated aggressively for Queens Councilman Francisco Moya’s speaker bid.

But the effort failed as dozens of members took issue with Team Adams’ meddling in the race and lined up behind Adrienne Adams’ candidacy instead.

The Moya hiccup got Adams off to a shaky start with the new Council, which has many members who oppose some of his public safety policies, including his vows to resume solitary confinement on Rikers Island and reinstate a controversial plainclothes NYPD anti-crime unit.

The pro-Moya push appeared to still be on some members’ minds Wednesday as they cast their votes for Adams.

“We are emerging from an era of boys club-style backroom deals, bullying and strong-arming,” said Queens Councilmember Tiffany Cabán. “It is a joy to say goodbye to that era.”

Still, Mayor Adams, who attended the same Queens high school as the new speaker, offered his congrats to her after her election.

“We’ve come a long way since Bayside High!” he tweeted. “Congratulations to my friend and colleague Adrienne Adams on her historic election as City Council Speaker. I look forward to our partnership in delivering for all New Yorkers.”