Eric Adams’ health food crusade

Eric Adams will soon be New York’s most powerful vegan. But his views on nutrition go far beyond a personal dietary preference, and he’s about to get a big bully pulpit to evangelize for a plant-based lifestyle.

Our Sally Goldenberg and Amanda Eisenberg delve into Adams’ complex relationship with food, and what it could mean for the health of New Yorkers writ large. The former NYPD captain embraced veganism after being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes five years ago. He reversed vision loss and nerve damage, lost 35 pounds, and isn’t shy about it: “I don’t have a six-pack, I have a case,” he once boasted.

Now Adams is primed to become New York’s next public health mayor — a bit like Mike Bloomberg, except with less popcorn and more kale smoothies. “We can save more lives with plant-based diet if people would only realize they are enslaved to fats, oil, sugar and things that are killing their body,” Adams said in a 2018 film.

Still, Adams’ food views are not without controversy. He has argued, for instance, that a healthy diet can prevent schizophrenia and bipolar disorder and has compared fried food to cocaine and heroin. At times, experts say he has overstepped the facts. He argued that meat, eggs and dairy increase the risk of asthma in kids, which an NYU doctor tells us is not supported by evidence. (And we may never know if he got the fish at Rao’s or why he has sausage in his fridge.)

Where Bloomberg had his smoking ban in bars and an unsuccessful ban on big sodas, Adams has tossed out several wellness initiatives he would pursue as mayor: He wants every city hospital to open a “lifestyle medicine clinic” to encourage plant-based diets, especially for people with diabetes. Public schools, he says, should use vertical farming to grow tomatoes year-round. And he is promising to cut out processed foods from school lunches and junk from the meals served in public hospitals, shelters and city jails. “You should not be in a homeless shelter where I am feeding you on taxpayers’ dime and I am feeding you food like chicken nuggets,” he said.

IT’S THURSDAY. Got tips, suggestions or thoughts? Let us know … By email: [email protected] and [email protected], or on Twitter: @erinmdurkin and @annagronewold

WHERE’S KATHY? Holding a virtual cabinet meeting.

WHERE’S BILL? In New York City with no public events scheduled.

WHERE’S ERIC? Making an announcement at Brooklyn Borough Hall.

QUOTE OF THE DAY — “I don’t use it for the HOV. I use it for the company.” — MTA manager Giulio Divirgilio to the New York Post after he was spotted with an inflatable doll in his car, allegedly to skirt high-occupancy vehicle lane rules

PROGRAMMING NOTE: New York Playbook won’t publish from Monday, Dec. 20-Friday, Dec. 31. We’ll be back on our normal schedule on Monday, Jan. 3.

Eric Adams straddles the line on Rikers closure plan, by POLITICO’s Erin Durkin: Mayor-elect Eric Adams will inherit a crisis on Rikers Island. But he’ll also inherit a plan to shut down the troubled jail complex by 2027. The question is whether he will accept the second part of his inheritance in full. Under the plan, the city would build and open four new, smaller jails to replace Rikers, one in each borough except Staten Island. But Adams has sent mixed signals on how he will handle the plan, which the City Council had approved. He has consistently supported closing Rikers, but his comments on the plan for smaller jails have been less clear. He has at times expressed reservations or outright opposition to particular jail sites, even as he maintains he would proceed on the current timeline and not restart the process. The ambiguity has left some advocates on both sides of the debate puzzled about the incoming mayor’s stance.

— A man died at Rikers Island, the 16th death in city jails so far this year.

Plan to Bring More Housing to SoHo Is Approved,” by The New York Times’ Mihir Zaveri: “With its cast-iron buildings, art galleries and boutique shops, SoHo is well known as an international emblem of trendy, upscale New York. But as the city confronts a severe housing crisis, it has also emerged as a focal point in a fraught push to spur development and add more affordable living options in New York’s wealthiest enclaves. On Wednesday, the City Council approved a contentious plan that would make way for more commercial and residential development, including potentially hundreds of affordable homes.”

The largest city in the U.S. bans natural gas in new buildings,” by NPR’s Deepa Shivaram: “In a vote Wednesday, New York’s city council approved a ban on natural gas in newly constructed buildings, joining cities like San Jose and San Francisco that have made similar commitments to reduce emissions. Moving away from natural gas means that stoves and heat pumps will be powered by electricity instead, cutting down on carbon emissions. Nearly 40% of carbon emissions in the country — and more than half of New York City’s emissions — come from buildings. The new ban, with 40 votes in the affirmative and seven votes against the measure, applies to buildings that are seven stories or shorter by the end of 2023; buildings that are taller have an additional four years to comply. There are some exceptions in the bill, including hospitals, laundromats and crematoriums.”

NYC’s Adams to Name City Hall Veterans as Finance, Budget Chiefs,” by Bloomberg’s Laura Nahmias and Donna Borak: “New York City Mayor-elect Eric Adams is expected to name a pair of government veterans to lead the budget and finance departments, moves that could foster a sense of continuity for business leaders. Preston Niblack, deputy city comptroller for budget, will be named commissioner of the city’s Department of Finance; while budget commissioner Jacques Jiha will lead the Office of Management and Budget, according to two people familiar with the decisions.”

New NYPD chief pledges accountability as Adams looks to revive hot-button programs, by POLITICO’s Amanda Eisenberg: Incoming NYPD Commissioner Keechant Sewell committed to taking on violent crime and getting guns off the streets in her first public remarks Wednesday as Mayor-elect Eric Adams’ official pick to lead the department. Sewell, a 23-year veteran of the Nassau County Police Department, will be the first Black woman to helm the force of about 35,000 officers and her tenure is poised to start amid a rise in crime and a public rallying cry to make the police force more transparent and less violent. “We are at a pivotal moment in New York, as our city faces the twin challenges of public safety and police accountability. They are not mutually exclusive,” she said at Queensbridge Houses in Long Island City, where she grew up. “We’ll be laser-focused on violent crimes, with an emphasis on guns.”

— Another leading candidate, former Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, was passed over for the job after voicing concerns about not reporting directly to Adams, who is considering Phil Banks as a deputy mayor for public safety.

NYC details employer vaccine mandate rules, by POLITICO’s Erin Durkin: Inspectors from city agencies will begin enforcing a vaccine mandate for all private employers on Dec. 27 and violators may face a $1,000 fine, officials announced Wednesday. Mayor Bill de Blasio released more detailed guidelines after issuing a first-in-the-nation order that all private employers require their workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19. De Blasio said the city will only resort to fines after warning businesses and letting them get their records in order. “We want a cooperative, positive approach,” he said. “The goal is not to penalize. The goal is simply to make this work,” he said. According to the rules released Wednesday, unvaccinated employees cannot be allowed into a physical workplace — such as an office or retail store — beginning Dec. 27. Those who refuse to get the shot may be fired, but employers also have the option to let them work from home.

— The Metropolitan Opera will require audiences and staff to show proof they’ve received a booster shot on top of full vaccination.

— NYU canceled non-essential events and strongly encouraged professors to move final exams online due to a coronavirus spike.

— The number of city school classrooms closed due to outbreaks has tripled since a month ago.

— Several Broadway performances have been canceled due to breakthrough cases among cast and crew.

Hochul celebrates groundbreaking of $1.5B JFK Terminal 4 upgrade,” New York Post’s Bernadette Hogan and Sam Raskin: “Gov. Kathy Hochul and a group of local officials broke ground Wednesday on a $1.5 billion makeover that will add 10 domestic gates to John F. Kennedy Airport’s Terminal 4, after the chief executive announced renovation plans for a separate part of the airport earlier in the week. The renovation was downsized in April from a $3.8 billion plan for 16 gates amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The upgrade is slated to expand Terminal 4 by 150,000 square feet, creating 1,500 jobs, including 1,000 union construction jobs, officials said.”

Hochul administration going slow on farm worker overtime threshold issue,” by Buffalo News’ Tom Precious: “The Hochul administration said Wednesday it is slowing down the push to lower mandatory overtime thresholds provided to farm workers after a furious lobbying campaign by agricultural interests claimed family farms in upstate faced closure if the current overtime law was changed. A recommendation by a state wage board was expected to come this month, but State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon on Wednesday said the wage panel will instead hold three virtual hearings on the matter in January. The hearings’ announcement is a signal that Gov. Kathy Hochul is in no rush to decide the controversial matter.”

TLDR? Don’t bet on it. “Is it finally, finally the year for the New York Health Act?” by City & State’s Rebecca C. Lewis: “Even among supporters, the prospect of passing the bill in 2022 seems like more of a pipe dream. ‘It will only move after there’s a strong enough consensus amongst our members, and currently we are far from unanimous on this crucial legislation,’ Assembly Member Jeffrey Dinowitz said in a text. A co-sponsor and supporter of the legislation, he chairs the Codes Committee where the New York Health Act currently sits. He suggested it may go back to the Health Committee. ‘I think there’s strong support, but I think there’s some more work to be done,’ he added. Gottfried brushed aside such concerns, citing the decades of work that have already gone into making the bill what it is today. And unlike any past year, he said the governor is actually on board to discuss the details, if not offer an endorsement.”

BORDER NEWS: The US-Canada border remains open for now, but Canadian citizens were urged to avoid all nonessential international travel.

FIRST IN PLAYBOOK — TurboVax founder Huge Ma raised over $27,000 in donations in his first 48 hours after launching an Assembly bid from Queens, according to his campaign. Ma, who created the bot that helped many New Yorkers get Covid-19 vaccine appointments when they were difficult to come by, is challenging incumbent Cathy Nolan in a district spanning Long Island City, Astoria and Sunnyside. The first-time candidate brought in 335 donations in an average amount of $81.

#UpstateAmerica: The Utica Comets have made Comet, a yellow Labrador puppy, the team dog as part of an Upstate New York working guide dog program.

Trump accuses N.Y. Attorney General James of ‘weaponizing’ her office to persecute him,” by New York Daily News’ Dave Goldiner: “Former President Trump trashed New York Attorney General James for using her office as a platform to persecute him and claimed she quit the governor’s race because she was behind in the polls. With James vowing to pursue her civil probe into the Trump Organization, the ex-president lashed out at her for ‘unfairly and viciously’ pursuing him. ‘Letitia James wants to politically weaponize her position as Attorney General instead of exemplifying impartiality and protecting the interests of all New Yorkers,’ Trump said in an email message. ‘It’s called Prosecutorial Misconduct.’”

— A group of influential unions threw their support behind Adrienne Adams in the New York City Council speaker’s race. The National Organization for Women is also backing her. Meanwhile, the Hispanic Federation released an open letter calling for a Latino or Latina speaker.

— Here’s what an array of business leaders and elected officials — including Council Member Adrienne Adams — had to say about downstate casino development.

— A judge ordered the city to delay controversial changes to retirees’ health insurance until at least April 1.

— The Saratoga County chair is catching flak for an “incendiary” refusal of a mask mandate.

— State Police interviewed Rensselaer Mayor Michael E. Stammel and took his cell phone as part of a probe into alleged absentee ballot fraud.

— The Cannabis Control Board today will consider additional regulations for New York’s Cannabinoid Hemp Program.

— Gov. Kathy Hochul nominated Daniel Tietz as commissioner of the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance.

— The city penalized a Subway location in Brooklyn for firing two workers without good reason, the first penalties under the new “just cause” termination law for fast food chains.

— Two high-ranking NYPD officers have been busted for allegedly submitting fake Covid-19 vaccination cards.

— The Cheesecake Factory said the vaccine mandate protests that occurred in its Queens Center Mall location were “unfortunate.”

HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Peter Orszag … CNN’s Phil Mattingly, Liz Turrell and Jason SeherLesley Stahl is 8-0 … David CrookTom Joannou … Bloomberg’s Rebecca Rainey, a POLITICO alum … Heather KingJoan LowyJudith GiulianiJenni LeCompte of Finsbury Glover Hering … Kendall Breitman

FOR YOUR RADAR — “Kathryn Murdoch has a plan (and $100m) to fix American politics,” by FT’s Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson: “Her family profited from partisanship. Now she’s using the gains to try to rehabilitate the centre.”

WEDDING — Doug Michelman, the former chief communications officer for Sprint and president of the 1 Million Project and an alum of Visa and Fleishman-Hillard, recently married Nina Dobbs. The couple, who met randomly at a Galactic concert at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester, N.Y., eloped in the British Virgin Islands. Pic

Amazon, FedEx and UPS Deliver New NYC Warehouses, Bringing a Package of Environmental Challenges,” by The City’s Samantha Maldonado: “Online retail may make holiday shopping easy, but the local impact is anything but virtual. To meet a growing demand for speedy shipping, companies are increasingly putting warehouses and so-called last-mile facilities throughout the city — largely unregulated and without the public’s ability to weigh in on threats to health, safety and the climate. ‘This is straight-up environmental racism,’ said Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of UPROSE, a Sunset Park-based environmental justice group.”

Alicia Glen on Where Her New Firm Is Investing and What Eric Adams Should Do,” by Commercial Observer’s Rebecca Baird-Remba: “After five years shaping New York City’s real estate policy as deputy mayor for housing and economic development, Alicia Glen is back in the private sector and developing affordable housing under her own banner at MSquared. The former head of Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group launched her firm in the summer of 2020 and has since invested in affordable projects in Newark, N.J., and Austin, Texas, and in Inwood in upper Manhattan. In October, the 54-year-old lifelong Upper West Sider’s company announced it had closed a $108 million round from institutional investors — including Citigroup and her former employer, Goldman Sachs — for a private equity fund that will invest in affordable housing around the country. Now she is in the midst of raising $200 million from smaller investors and family offices for a second affordable housing fund.”