After Adams Criticizes the Left, New York Democrats Try to Clear the Air

When Eric Adams arrived on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, he received a warm welcome from members of the state’s congressional delegation — but also a pointed reminder about the importance of unity.

At a closed-door meeting of New York Democratic elected officials, Representative Nydia M. Velázquez advised Mr. Adams, the Democratic nominee for mayor of New York City, to avoid any appearance of criticizing members of the delegation, according to seven people familiar with the exchange.

“I said I wanted to remind him that in the age of social media and communications, that we needed to be careful as to what we say and that it is important that we treated everyone with respect,” said Ms. Velázquez, an emerging leader of the party’s progressive wing in the state, confirming the account.

Her remarks came a day after The New York Post reported that Mr. Adams cast the Democratic Socialists of America as an archenemy at a recent fund-raiser. He did not mention Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez by name, the report said. But some nevertheless saw his remarks as implicit criticism of the congresswoman, who is closely associated with the democratic socialist group, particularly given Mr. Adams’s rebuke of her policing positions during the primary.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, who attended the meeting on Wednesday, declined through a spokeswoman to comment.

“It was important to clear the air,” Ms. Velázquez said. “I said, ‘Look, we have disagreements, and we have different approaches, and we have different philosophies, but that doesn’t entitle anyone to be disrespectful to anyone.’ And I want for him to know that I am prepared to call people out when those things happen.”

The gathering illustrated both opportunities and perils for Mr. Adams, the brash Brooklyn borough president who is almost certain to become mayor of New York City, where registered Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans. He has a penchant for hyperbole and can veer into strikingly sharp criticism of opponents, as he sometimes did during the mayoral primary campaign. Ms. Velázquez’s admonition was a reminder that in her view, he risked doing a disservice to New York if he were to antagonize members of its delegation.

But for now, delegation members and other national Democrats appear eager to embrace Mr. Adams, and several attendees said he reciprocated with strong interest in engaging with Washington and in resetting relationships after a bruising primary.

“After Election Day, we’re no longer campaigning,” Mr. Adams said. “We’re governing.”

Mr. Adams stressed to reporters after the meeting that he had not singled out Ms. Ocasio-Cortez by name as a political foe.

The delegation meeting marked a significant day for Mr. Adams, who met some of the highest-ranking Democrats in the nation, including Representative James E. Clyburn of South Carolina, the No. 3 House Democrat; Representative Hakeem Jeffries, New York’s top House Democrat; and the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer.

“Eric is going to be a mayor for all New Yorkers, regardless of party or ideology,” said Evan Thies, Mr. Adams’s campaign spokesman. He did not dispute the attendees’ accounts of Mr. Adams’s exchange with Ms. Velázquez.

Several lawmakers said that Mr. Adams approached the meeting hoping to engage Democratic lawmakers across the ideological spectrum, including those who opposed him in the primary.

It was a chance, they said, to build strong working relationships as New York City navigates staggering challenges concerning public health, safety, education and the economy.

Representative Ritchie Torres, an early backer of Andrew Yang’s mayoral campaign, said Mr. Adams “recognizes that the partnership between the New York City congressional delegation and the mayor is indispensable.”

“He essentially said that he cannot succeed without the delegation,” said Mr. Torres outside the event. “The delegation is united in enabling him to govern New York as effectively as possible. Everything else is secondary.”

Mr. Torres and others in attendance said Mr. Adams demonstrated humility and a clear eagerness to collaborate.

Representative Jamaal Bowman, a left-wing lawmaker, dismissed primary season disagreements as “water under the bridge.” He said he and Mr. Adams found common ground around issues of education and ensuring students receive sufficient support. “We’ve got to work together to meet the needs of the city.”

Ms. Velázquez emphasized that they had also discussed issues including affordable housing, and she pledged to work with Mr. Adams “because it’s about the city of New York.”

Mr. Adams, who also attended a meeting of the Congressional Black Caucus, was invited to the delegation gathering by Representative Jerrold Nadler, the dean of the congressional delegation, both men said.

After the meeting, Mr. Adams said in a statement that attendees discussed issues including combating gun violence, doubling federal investment in the New York City Housing Authority, improving education and child care and battling climate change.

He took several questions from the news media, flanked by Mr. Jeffries; Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, the chairman of the House Democratic campaign arm; and Representatives Adriano Espaillat and Thomas Suozzi, two significant endorsers.

Mr. Adams, a former police captain who sought to combat police misconduct from within the system, ran for office promising to battle both violent crime and racial injustice.

In the primary, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Maya Wiley, a former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio who called for a narrower role for the police in public safety. After Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s endorsement, Mr. Adams claimed that she and Ms. Wiley “would endanger the lives of New Yorkers” with their policies.

After several of Ms. Wiley’s most progressive rivals for the nomination faltered, many left-wing New Yorkers coalesced behind her. Some of those Democrats looked askance at Mr. Adams’s policy positions, including his embrace of the business and real estate sectors and his support for charter schools.

A former senior adviser to Justice Democrats, an organization that played a key role in elevating Ms. Ocasio-Cortez to Congress, led a small super PAC that campaigned for Ms. Wiley, and against Mr. Adams.

As Mr. Adams’s meeting with the delegation wrapped up, there was one more show of unity between Ms. Velázquez and Ms. Ocasio-Cortez: Ms. Ocasio-Cortez put her arm around Ms. Velázquez, and they walked off in an extended embrace.

Chris Cameron contributed reporting from Washington.


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