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Eric Adams' Ship of Fools
GUEST COLUMN: M. Thomas Nast at Migrant Protests on Staten Island
By M. Thomas Nast
I am a politico and longtime Republican. I am using a pseudonym. The publisher knows who I am.
I went to the migrant/ sanctuary city / illegal immigration protests and counter-protests this past weekend on Staten Island. The entire situation is a mess. But the matter seems to be self-created - by political “insider” leadership that, when given a choice, will consistently make the wrong one.
They choose petty politics over sound policy, hurting their constituents. And they do this consistently.
NYC Mayor Eric Adams and the Homeless Migrant Crisis
On the issue of the migrants, New York City Mayor Eric Adams recently went “off-script” and spoke candidly.
“Never in my life have I had a problem that I did not see an ending to. I don’t see an ending to this. I don’t see an ending to this. This issue will destroy New York City. We’re getting 10,000 migrants a month,” Adams said.
But just last August, Politician Adams was singing a different tune.
“New York is a city that has always represented the democratic values and the values of our city, showing our compassion. I’m proud that this is a Right To Shelter state, and we are going to continue to do that.”
Now, even Mayor Adams recognizes his previous political decision to engage in virtue-signaling to a narrow portion of the Democrat Party base, as opposed to searching for viable and sustainable policy solutions, was a mistake. And he’s playing “catch-up.”
Bloomberg.com reports: “To make room for migrants, the city has opened 157 additional emergency shelters in city-owned buildings and locations like hotels, former jails, and a now-closed temporary facility at Randalls Island. The city estimates it will have spent more than $4 billion on shelter and services for asylum seekers by next July.”
Mayor Adams, along with NYC Council Speaker Adrienne Adams, are co-signers to the current plan to redistribute the brunt of last’s summer virtue-signaling folly to NYC’s outer boroughs. Particularly the enclaves that came out “red,” supporting 2021 NYC Republican Mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa and others down-ballot who are not part of their political plans.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that the Mayor’s and NYC Council Speaker’s “resettlement plan” aims to create more Democrat votes in solidly red areas.
The situation is untenable. It’s a sinking ship. And it has a real chance to sink both Adams Administrations.
A Bi-Partisan Problem
After I visited the protests and counter-protests at St. John Villa Academy a few days ago, a shelter site near the Verrazano Bridge, and speaking with political people on both sides of the issue, I have come to an inescapable conclusion: the entire situation is one created by pure political incompetence, naiveté, and foolishness.
And it’s not limited to a single political party.
Mayor Adams is the poster child for the problem. He has crossed the line to both sides of the political spectrum. A stalwart supporter of Mayor David Dinkins in the early 90s, Adams claims his NYPD follows the “David Dinkins Community Policing Model.”
Is this more virtue signaling, or does Mayor Adams long back yearningly on the Crown Heights Riots?
But it begs the question: For Adams, what does “successful” Democratic Leadership look like?
Eric Adams wanted to be not just any elected official from his first day in politics. He wanted to be the NYC Mayor. His career can best be described as a string of transactional events culminating in his current office.
I spoke with the rank and file at the protest barricades about their feelings on Hizzoner. And it wasn’t good from either side. I promised to use only first names (or variations thereof) to avoid retaliation from both sides of the aisle.
“He’s a bum. I thought it couldn’t get much worse after DeBlasio. Boy, was that a failure of my imagination. Maybe if he paid more attention to his job rather than his kid’s rap career, things would be different,” said Dennis, a life-long Republican from Rossville and NYC employee.
Another woman on that side was even more animated, “The sign says it all. Mayor Adams is a Bully. He has no real skills, so he has to resort to threatening to ruin people’s lives. It’s not his daughter that’s going to get raped,” said Angela from Rosebank.
When walking to the counter-protest side, the responses about Adams were just as cold. “The mayor has been a real disappointment to liberals. We had high hopes at election time when he touted his progressive credentials. Now, they all seem to have vanished,” said Rosie from Tompkinsville.
It’s a good thing that there are no Forest Avenue parades coming up because Chuck Schumer seems to be more popular than Eric Adams on Staten Island, and Schumer notoriously equips his staff with umbrellas to stop the projectiles when he walks on St. Paddy’s Day.
My on-the-ground research confirmed something I already knew: both Staten Island parties are fractured almost beyond repair.
Sound policy has taken a back seat to petty political squabbles. The “party-machine” public officials have allowed politics to stifle their ability to work for their constituents’ benefit.
Democrats in Disarray
On the SI Democrat side, we have the ongoing war between Party Leader Laura Sword and North Shore Councilwoman Kamillah Hanks, draining Democrat Elected Officials’ ability to lead effectively.
There has been bad blood ever since Hanks vetoed the county committee’s overwhelming choice of Debi Rose as the Board of Election Commissioner.
In this political “cold war,” messages in both directions are being routed through State Senator Jessica Scarcella Spanton, Former Party Chair Mike Cusick, and former State Senator Diane Savino, now a Special Assistant to Mayor Adams.
It seems it’s falling three to one in favor of Laura Sword.
When asked for his opinion, David said, “I can’t believe that it’s come out that Kamillah Hanks blocked someone as good as Debi Rose from the Board of Elections when she was behind that disgusting Facebook page. I will never use my county committee vote for her nomination, and I will never carry another petition with her name on it.”
Another insider said that Senator Spanton is highly uncomfortable being the go-between in the inter-party struggle. “Jessica is being a good Democrat and trying to mediate issues. She likes to build bridges, but many people have been telling her that this one may not be able to be mended. It becomes difficult to defend the indefensible,” said Matthew, a well-known Democrat.
Even a former State Committeeman put in his two cents. “Kamillah can’t get out of her own way. If she swallowed her pride for ten seconds, she could have put one of her biggest political rivals’ on ice’ at the Board [of Elections]. Now, she’s managed to piss off the entire county committee and has made Debi Rose’s endorsement in the 2025 City Council primary paramount. And to add insult to injury, [Hanks] got the appointment she wanted and put in a lovely lady married to a man who left the NYPD under the most questionable of circumstances,” said Michael, referring to former Detective James Grant.
I found a Kamillah supporter. She said Hanks was doing a fantastic job.
“We live in challenging political times, and Kamillah dares to stay the course. I really admire her for it,” said Goldie.
Whatever that means. It sounds like the supporters of Kamillah Hanks and Kamala Harris have the same appetite for “word salad.”
The Gumada Compact
By far, the most interesting conversation I had was with someone connected to Assemblyman Charles Fall’s camp. Evidently, a “gumada compact” is in play on Staten Island’s North Shore.
The source, who did not want to be named, said that Kamillah Hanks’ ubiquitous boyfriend, Kevin Barry Love, and Assemblyman Charles Fall hammered out a deal late last year to avoid a primary election to Hanks’ NYC Council seat.
The deal was that Hanks would not be primaried, and she would publicly support Bianca Rajpersaud, Fall’s girlfriend, in a 2024 primary for the NYS Senate Seat now held by Jessica Scarcella Spanton.
The operative said Fall was concerned that Hanks wouldn’t live up to the deal. “I told [Charles Fall] that Kevin Barry talks a big game and writes checks with his mouth he never has any intention of cashing,” the source said.
If the gumada deal is true, the most significant question mark now becomes State Senator Spanton. She only won her seat by less than 800 votes, and the “real” Republican leader was up in Albany running interference against Joe Tirone’s campaign the whole time in 2022, according to an N.Y.S. Senate staff source.
“We tried to raise money for Joe [Tirone], but Senator Lanza put the kibosh on it every time we did, telling everyone he had no shot. He even called people in to make his point,” said the source, confirming sentiments about Lanza raged from dumbfoundedness to chagrin after the seat came back as winnable on Election Night.
The source already said the establishment is looking for a primary opponent for Sam Pirozzolo’s Assembly seat, and there is a potential deal in the works to run Michael Arvanites on the Democrat line.
“In many ways, [the establishment] likes Arvanites better than any Republican. He worked for McMahon in the Council and Savino in the Senate. He knows how things work and won’t make waves,” the source said.
But knowing Michael, his most significant problems are self-created. He would lose a debate with himself over “Less Filling” verses “Tastes Great.”
If Jessica Spanton is already vulnerable in the general election, the gumada deal and a party primary might mean her death knell.
It would also mean a bloody knife in the back from the Hanks camp, where NYC Campaign Finance Board records show she was a highly-paid political consultant in 2021.
It begs the question: who is she listening to for political advice?
The Saint John Villa maelstrom is smack dab in the center of her district. The silence from her office is deafening.
If the State Senator is taking the advice of the former State Senator, she’s being led around by the nose. Diane Savino is Eric Adams’ woman on the inside. Her sole job is to make life less complicated for the Mayor. If the Democratic State Senator from Saviono’s former district came out as even slightly critical of Adams, there would be a veritable “shit-storm.”
The other problem is Kevin Barry. The guy cannot be trusted. I would not be surprised if he made the gumada deal.
But the worst part isn’t that Kamillah may or may not welch on a deal with Charles Fall now that the political winds have changed.
The biggest problem is we can’t say with certainty that Kamillah Hanks knew anything about the deal. Or that Diane Savino, Kevin Barry’s longtime confidant, was consulted or read in. He has a penchant for going “off the reservation.” Just ask anyone who remembers his days at the Staten Island Downtown Council.
Kevin Barry is not an elected official. But his “political drunk driving” can potentially destroy political careers and render elected officials ineffective in the face of adversity. What we are seeing at Saint John Villa is a perfect example.
Staten Islanders cannot afford or tolerate unelected maniacs steering the wheels of public policy.
There was a time when Nicole Malliotakis and the NYS Senator from the 23rd District were political allies. Maybe it’s time for that relationship to rejuvenate for the benefit of Senator Spanton, her constituents, and her political career.
Republicans Also to Blame
Saint John Villa closed in early 2018. But the Republican NYC electeds “came to the rescue.”
Former Borough President Jimmy Oddo advocated that the site become an educational facility.
The City of New York purchased the property for $20 million later that year to little fanfare. The quiet deal wasn’t even reported in the local press.
So, what did Jimmy, a self-proclaimed fiscal conservative, get Staten Islanders for their money?
In 2020, Saint John Villa was designated as a COVID testing site and later as a COVID vaccination site.
Now, the property is the epicenter of Staten Island’s migrant crisis.
Congratulations, Staten Island! You bought it, they broke it!
Talk to Oddo now, and he’ll stand by his decision. He has to. Mayor Adams is his boss as the Commissioner of the Department of Buildings.
It looks like Jimmy made out okay for himself. Much better than NYC property owners whose values have plummeted.
Leadership From the Outside
What the NYC Migrant Crisis is showing is the governance vacuum with many elected officials. But the crisis has also allowed leaders to emerge. And these leaders are coming from the outside.
I mentioned Curtis Sliwa. He is high-profile, a former Mayoral Candidate and state political party chairman, with a daily media platform. He has used his position to bring awareness to the issues.
And more importantly, he has been on the front lines and rallying peaceful opposition, having been arrested in protest of the Adams Administration’s actions.
I take umbrage with some of Curtis’ personal decisions. But you have to admit, he is effective at raising awareness on critical issues.
Another visible leader is John Tobacco, the former NYC Comptroller candidate and Newsmax personality. He had some interesting things to say about the crickets from the Democrat electeds.
“It’s sad and disappointing that the silence is deafening from any Democratic elected official in Staten Island. These Democrats supported Biden and Adams, and now they can’t stand up for their constituents because they are married to a sinking ship.”
Harsh words? Not harsher than the reality that Tobacco and thousands of other parents of girls and women face daily when unknown, solitary men are bused into their communities and sheltered there. The NYPD admits they are “handcuffed.”
But no one has raised the sirens higher and louder than Staten Island patriotic artist Scott LoBaido.
“They slammed this illegal immigration shelter smack dab in the middle of a middle-class, working-class neighborhood right across the street,” he said. “You have this facility with 90% of them dropped off young men. I’m tired also of the media saying there’s women and children. There are no children in this facility,” Lo Baido claimed a few weeks ago.
“This is ground zero, and the crowds are growing and growing.”
And LoBaido is right. More and more NYC residents are fed up with Mayor Adams and the migrant crisis. Staten Islanders of all political bents are upset with their elected officials.
Now is the time for elected officials to stand on policy and principle. Now is the time for them to have the courage to defend their constituents and prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that they are above the political frey.
A leader does what is right, irrespective of the personal political consequences. A leader dares to speak up for the people they represent. A politician plots their personal, transactional course.
Suppose there is any result from the migrant crisis. In that case, it will clearly be shown which of our public officials have the temerity to step outside of the “establishment narrative,” which is characterized by the playing of violins - after you’ve already hit the iceberg.
Who will show backbone? And who will remain on Hizzoner Eric Adams’ Ship of Fools?
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