In the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona, Mayor Eric Adams traveled with a delegation of local pols to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic Sunday and Monday to assess the devastation left by the powerful storm — all while he faces mounting crises here at home.
Those crises which hizzoner is currently dealing with include housing thousands of asylum seekers inundating the city’s shelter system and a state Supreme Court judge striking down the city’s NYPD vaccine mandate last Friday.
Fiona – a category 1 storm – caused widespread devastation when it touched down in Puerto Rico over a week ago, leaving many without food, water or power. Roughly half of the island’s 1.5 million power customers are still without electricity more than a week after the storm, which echoes widespread outages that followed Hurricane Maria five years ago – when some parts of the island were left in the dark for nearly a year.
Adams arrived in the U.S. territory he’s called the city’s “sixth borough” early Sunday morning, meeting with a New York City Emergency Management team previously deployed to Puerto Rico to help with the recovery, the island’s Governor Pedro Pierluisi and San Juan Mayor Miguel Romero.
In a video posted to Twitter with his delegation and Romero Sunday, Adams said he coincidently had already been set to meet with Romero in a few days to renew the city’s emergency cooperation agreement with Puerto Rico before the storm hit.
“You know we say Puerto Rico is our sixth borough in New York, we’re tied at the hip,” Adams said. “It’s ironic we were meeting, mostly me, in a few days to re-sign our agreement to continue the cooperation during emergencies. This really shows why it’s so important.”
Meeting with my colleague Mayor @Miguel_Romero_ in San Juan. Puerto Rico has been through so much this last week and we will be with them in the days ahead.
— Mayor Eric Adams (@NYCMayor) September 25, 2022
Adams was joined by U.S. Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan, Bronx), City Council Members Marjorie Velazquez (D-Bronx) and Rafael Salamanca Jr. (D-Bronx), Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol, city Department of Transportation Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez on his trip and Queens Borough President Donovan Richards.
The mayor then traveled to the Dominican Republic Monday, first meeting with President Luis Abinader as well as several senators from the island nation, according to the mayor’s public schedule and Twitter account. He then visited the city of La Romana to assist SOMOS Community Care in handing out building materials and supplies and to meet with local leaders.
Kate Smart, a spokesperson for Adams’ office didn’t elaborate on how the administration will further aid Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic following the trip by post time and referred PoliticsNY to her and the mayor’s Twitter feeds to show what he’s learned on the trip.
Adams has come under fire for skipping town amid mounting crises at home more than once during his nearly 10-month tenure. Back in May, the mayor was heavily criticized for going on a three-day trip to Los Angeles to participate in a tech conference, paid for by his campaign, while COVID-19 cases were on the rise in the city.
But one of those critics, Basil Smikle – a political scientist who leads Hunter College’s public policy program — said there’s a clear difference between Adams’ trip to the Caribbean and his jaunt to LA last spring.
“A trip like this to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic is a way to show empathy and connect politically with major constituencies and voting blocks that are critical to the fabric of New York City,” Smikle said. “Any other type of trip that appears less connected to what’s going on in New York City will seem self-serving and voters will meet it with some skepticism.”
Adams’ office declined to respond to the notion that some could see him as missing in action for leaving the city for two days with several pressing issues on his desk.
Bill Neidhardt, a political consultant and former spokesperson for ex-Mayor Bill de Blasio, agreed that Adams’ venturing to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic following Fiona is fair game considering the city’s significant populations from both islands.
“I’m not too critical that to be honest, I think Puerto Rico got absolutely hammered and we have a massive Puerto Rican population in New York City,” Neidhardt said. “I think it’s totally fair, as a mayor of New York City, mayor of probably the largest Puerto Rican population outside of Puerto Rico, doing what you can to help them.”