Exclusive: In Letter to Biden, Borough President Eric Adams Outlines “An Urban Agenda”

Exclusive: In Letter to Biden, Borough President Eric Adams Outlines “An Urban Agenda”
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. (Photo: Todd Maisel/Bklyner)

When it comes to the new administration in Washington, Brooklyn Borough President and mayoral candidate Eric Adams is wasting no time getting to work.

In a letter sent Thursday, Adams congratulated President Joe Biden on his election win and thanked him for his support of coronavirus relief measures, including financial support for New York’s beleaguered Metropolitan Transit Authority. Then, he outlined “an urban agenda” he said would help “combat the current public health and economic crises, as well as invest funding into policies that will rebuild America into a more equitable and just society.”

That agenda included several immediate-term responses to the COVID crisis, including a national mask mandate, funding for hazard pay or tax relief for essential workers, and real-time reporting of pandemic demographic data.

“Numerous reports have indicated that Black and Brown communities were disproportionately killed by the virus and our response must prioritize them in the recovery,” Adams wrote. “Therefore, it is imperative that this monitoring include the efficacy of reaching those groups and prioritizing the implementation of vaccination plans among them.”

The restaurant and hospitality industries, Adams wrote—which accounted for 317,800 jobs, $10.7 billion in wages, and nearly $27 billion in taxable sales before the pandemic—also need “a massive fiscal stimulus in the form of grants to help them weather the public health storm and keep their employees safe and on the payroll.”

Biden this week ordered a mask mandate on federal government property and interstate travel, and has said he will make use of demographic data in its COVID response plan. The new president’s $1.9 trillion stimulus plan includes $15 billion in grants for small businesses, but so far has not included the $120 billion “RESTAURANTS Act” grant program or an extension of the existing Paycheck Protection Program.

Adams also called for funding to state and local governments in the form of “cash infusions to bolster public safety, health, and education services,” and “a massive Green New Deal-sized investment” in transit infrastructure, public housing, a municipal wi-fi system and renewable energy, as well as “battery storage to move beyond reliance upon natural gas and dirty ‘peaker plants’ that are disproportionately cited in communities of color.”

Beyond immediate COVID relief, Adams encouraged Biden to approve the city’s long-stalled congestion pricing program, which would charge drivers to enter most of Manhattan and was expected to raise up to $1 billion in annual revenue but was delayed by the Trump administration. He also pushed for funding to “seed a regional task force” that would combat illegal gun trafficking into New York from other states, a phenomenon known as the “Iron Pipeline.

Adams also called on Biden to overturn Trump’s cap on the State and Local Tax (SALT) deductions; Adams said the cap, which was included as part of the 2017 Republican tax overhaul and disproportionately impacted blue states.

“This has made New York State and City less competitive to attract talent and drive economic innovation and development, which is beneficial to the entire country,” he wrote.

Governor Andrew Cuomo made a similar request in his State of the State address last week, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have repeatedly called for repealing the cap, though some progressives have pushed back, arguing that doing so would primarily benefit those with higher income.