NYC comptroller strips Mayor Eric Adams’ emergency migrant contracting powers

NEW YORK — City Comptroller Brad Lander’s office has revoked Mayor Eric Adams’ emergency powers to make deals with contractors for migrant services without prior approval, according to a letter from the comptroller’s office to the mayor’s office dated last Thursday.

“The comptroller’s office citywide prior approval,” Lander’s office said in its letter, “is hereby revoked.”

Adams’ office said that the loss of the prior approval would slow down its response to the asylum seeker crisis, potentially inhibiting migrants’ access to food and shelter. The move comes nearly three months after Lander’s office retroactively rejected the city’s $432 million, no-bid contract with DocGo, a for-profit medical services firm that was said to have mistreated migrants.

In the summer of 2022, the city requested the power to reach deals with migrant service contractors without preapproval from the comptroller’s office. The Adams administration was granted the power 13 months ago; final approval powers were still vested in the comptroller’s office over the last year.

A spokesman for Adams, Charles Lutvak, issued a statement Monday evening saying that “the comptroller tying our hands behind our back is unfair to both new arrivals and longtime New Yorkers and will unquestionably slow down every step in the process.”

The Thursday letter, signed by the deputy comptroller, Charlette Hamamgian, did not elaborate on the decision. But the comptroller’s office said in a report last week that it had identified “significant delays in agencies submitting required outlines and contracts” under the emergency powers.

In a Monday evening statement, Lander’s spokeswoman Chloe Chik said the review had found “extensive failures to report subcontractors despite problems that surfaced with many of them.”

“In response, we concluded that the most prudent course for the city’s fiscal health and integrity would be to require City Hall to seek prior approval before using emergency procurement on a case-by-case basis,” Chik added. “We will continue to conduct fast and thorough reviews of emergency contracts.”

The decision Thursday opened up another divide between Lander, a progressive Democrat, and Adams, a moderate Democrat. The two have increasingly been at odds over the mayor’s leadership in recent months.

The mayor’s office said the city has opened more than 210 emergency sites for migrants and is working to close a $7 billion budget gap. “We will continue to hold our contractors to the highest standards,” Lutvak said in the statement.

In 2021, Comptroller Scott Stringer sued Mayor Bill de Blasio to end emergency powers the former mayor invoked during the pandemic — and won. It was not clear if the Adams administration would consider suing Lander’s office.

Lutvak said the mayor had no immediate plans to challenge the comptroller’s decision in court.