Adams faces backlash over pick for legal counsel


(The Center Square) — New York City Mayor Eric Adams is facing pushback from City Council members over his pick for the administration’s new top legal counsel.

Adams has tapped Randy Mastro, an ex-Rudy Guiliani aide, to serve as corporation counsel — the top attorney for city government. If confirmed by the City Council, he would the replace city’s current corporation counsel, Sylvia Hinds-Radix, who is reportedly being forced out amid disagreements with Adams over a sexual harassment lawsuit he is facing.

Mastro is the former chief of staff and deputy mayor for Rudy Giuliani. Over the years, the former federal prosecutor has represented a range of high-profile clients, including former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie during the Bridgegate scandal when his aides were accused of colluding to create traffic jams by closing lanes at the main toll plaza for the upper level of the George Washington Bridge to Manhattan.

But a bloc of City Council members have come out in opposition to Adams’ pick and are vowing to block Mastro’s nomination if it comes up for a vote, citing his previous legal work in the city and elsewhere.

In a statement, the City Council’s Black, Asian and Latino Caucus blasted Matro’s nomination as “an affront to the principles of public service that we hold dear” and pledged to reject it.

“Given his professional track record representing dubious clients, which has included bringing numerous lawsuits against the city of New York, Mastro is unfit to serve as the city’s chief lawyer,” the caucus said in the statement, posted on social media. “We deserve better than someone who has fought for the interest of top earners, abusive corporations, and vindictive politicians.”

Opposition to Mastro’s nomination runs deeper than his prior relationship with the Christie and Giuliani administrations. He is currently representing New Jersey in its effort to block New York City’s congestion pricing plan, a controversial climate change initiative that will charge motorists from the Garden State a $15 toll to enter Manhattan.

“He has actively fought against a number of council priorities, ranging from access to homeless shelters to protections for fast food workers,” the caucus’ statement said. “His history of work — including representing predatory financial institutions and negligent oil multinationals to the detriment of our shared public interest — is deeply concerning.”

The early pushback to Mastro’s nomination signals a rocky road ahead for the Adams administration as it tries to win support from a majority of the council it needs to confirm him for the top legal job.

The City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus includes 34 members out of the 51-member City Council. Adams needs a majority of the councilors to confirm Mastro’s appointment.

At his weekly press briefing, Adams’s chief counsel Lisa Zornberg praised Matro and cited his pro bono work for major causes and good government initiatives. She described Mastro as a tough lawyer who often takes on difficult cases, and compared him to former president John Adams’ work as a lawyer defending British troops at the outset of the Revolutionary War.

“John Adams, one of the forefathers of this country in 1770, defended British officers accused of murder after the Boston Massacre,” Zornberg told reporters. “He didn’t hesitate to take on that case because he believed in upholding the rule of law.”

It’s unclear whether Adams will continue to support Mastro’s nomination given the majority council opposition or propose another candidate, to fill the city’s top legal post.

“I’m hoping anyone we put up for any nomination will have the opportunity to sell their story and let them know their real story,” Adams told reporters on Tuesday. “Not what’s printed about them.”