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  • The San Juan Daily Star

Who wants to hang out with Eric Adams in Puerto Rico? Everyone.


Eric Adams visiting the township of Loíza in Puerto Rico. During his visit to San Juan, he declared there was “never going to be another mayor like me.”

By Emma G. Fitzsimmons and Katie Glueck


Three days after winning the New York City mayor’s race, Eric Adams arrived in Puerto Rico, a conquering hero basking in his element.


Everyone wanted a piece of him.


He celebrated with New York Gov. Kathy Hochul and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., while defending his love for Ferragamo loafers at a hotel bar under a giant banyan tree. He joyfully played a bongo drum and danced with performers at an event with union leaders. Members of the New York City Council jockeyed for photos with him at a dizzying series of parties with open bars and trays of empanadas and crabcakes.


Adams soaked up the attention with a smile — and more than a dash of bravado.


“Keep analyzing me,” he told the crowd at one soiree. “Do what you want. But trust me when I tell you, there’s never going to be another mayor like me.”


Hundreds of New York’s elected officials, lobbyists and labor leaders descend on San Juan each year for the Somos conference, to network and negotiate deals in a spring-breaklike atmosphere. Power brokers travel in packs, drink mojitos in beachwear, and make connections at poolside bars and after-hours receptions.


And no one was in more demand than Adams, the self-declared “face of the new Democratic Party” and the man who would soon control New York City, its army of more than 310,000 municipal workers and its $99 billion budget.


Union leaders who felt blindsided by Mayor Bill de Blasio’s vaccine mandate are hoping for a better relationship with Adams. The roughly half-dozen City Council members running for speaker are eager for his stamp of approval. Allies are seeking prime spots in his administration. Lobbyists have a long list of priorities.


And for the Democrats running for governor next year or weighing bids, Adams could be a powerful ally — and whether or not he endorses, many want to attract parts of his political coalition.


“He’s the most popular guy here,” said Eric A. Ulrich, an outgoing Republican city councilor and an Adams backer. “He’s a rock star.”


One of the leaders at a union breakfast that Adams attended Saturday was Benny Boscio Jr., the head of the correctional officers union who has been at war with de Blasio over staffing issues at Rikers Island and refused to get vaccinated until recently. Adams, the outgoing Brooklyn borough president, has named improving public safety and addressing the crisis at Rikers as two of his immediate priorities.


Boscio said he had spoken to Adams at the conference but declined to discuss any details. “We’ve had good conversations here and in the past,” he said.


Both his union and Adams rely on the same group of lobbyists and lawyers led by Vito R. Pitta, who was at the outdoor bar at the Fairmont El San Juan Hotel on Saturday talking to an attendee about jobs in the Adams administration.


Henry Garrido, leader of a major public workers union who sparred with de Blasio over the vaccine mandate, said he believed the new mayor would be more collaborative because, as a former police officer, Adams had been a city worker and a union member.


“They call him a blue-collar mayor — I call him a union mayor,” Garrido said.


De Blasio was also at the conference, although the clamor surrounding the current mayor was far less pronounced, even with his interest in running for governor in 2022. He laughed when asked about the pressures of being a newly elected mayor at Somos.


“Oh, my God, I mean, he’s getting every conceivable ask,” de Blasio said of Adams. “There’s many officeseekers, many folks who want appointments. Imagine this: organizations that want funding! I think everybody and their kid brother is coming up to him with an ask, and he’s handling it very graciously and smartly.”


Many Democrats at the conference were still grappling with last Tuesday’s election results, in which a number of Democrats were wiped out on Long Island, Republicans made unexpected gains in the City Council, and Democratic candidates around the country lost or barely survived even in typically Democratic-leaning states.


“We don’t have our fingers on the pulse of everyday Democrats,” Adams said at a news conference, speaking broadly of the party. “Democrats don’t want to disband police departments. They want police officers to do their job. Democrats are not against closing Rikers Island, but they also want to close the pipeline that feeds Rikers Island.”


Still, Adams and many attendees were more often in a celebratory mood, taking stock of a City Council that will have a majority of women for the first time and embracing a sweeping infrastructure bill passed by the House late Friday. Around 9 p.m. Friday, shortly before the House vote, Schumer was at a party hosted by Dominican leaders showing off some unusual dance moves and shimmying with Carlina Rivera, one of the candidates for City Council speaker.


Earlier in the day, Adams had insisted to reporters that he was “not involved” in the speaker’s race and that it would be decided by the 51 members of the City Council, though nearly everyone at the event was debating whom he might support — and there are ways, overtly or implicitly, that he or his allies may influence the process.


“I’m just excited about the makeup of the council — young, energetic, with a lot of ideas,” Adams said, adding that “seasoned electeds” like Julie Menin, a veteran city commissioner and the city’s census director, and Gale A. Brewer, the Manhattan borough president who is joining the council, would help guide the group.


At an event with union leaders the next day in Loíza, a township founded by formerly enslaved Africans, Adams vowed to fight “systemic inequalities” and compared himself to abolitionists Harriet Tubman and Nat Turner.


“I’m coming from the lineage of those who have always pushed back against the system,” he said.


At a fundraiser for the Brooklyn Democratic Party, Adams also defended himself from criticism that he was spending time with the city’s elite at Manhattan nightclub Zero Bond.


“Yes, I like my Ferragamo, and yes, I do go to Zero Bond. But you know what? I also go to Sugar Hill on Nostrand Avenue,” he said in reference to a supper club in Brooklyn. “Yes, I do hang out with the boys at night, but I get up with the men in the morning.


“I’m an enigma to people who were born on third base,” he added.


He visited several parties and gatherings that night, dipping in and out of hotel lobbies and receptions. At one point, the city’s first vegan mayor-elect found himself at the back of a private room at Ruth’s Chris Steak House standing in front of an incongruous backdrop: a glowing image of a steak.


“It was a setup!” Adams protested.


Truer to form, Adams said he had grabbed some fruit and vegetables to keep his energy up.

“This way,” he declared, “I’m like the Energizer Bunny.”

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