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Already a legendary and uniquely powerful force within the Adams administration, the mayor’s most fiercely loyal deputy stares down a federal investigation into her boss’ campaign.
- Chief Advisor to Mayor Eric Adams
Much has been written about the near-limitless authority Ingrid Lewis-Martin has within the Adams administration, how she ruthlessly wields that authority in support of powerful and parochial interests, and how she does not care about what others think of her combative style. Allow us to add one more story to her legend.
On August 2, a group of elected officials—including a member of New York’s congressional delegation—gathered for a meeting scheduled by Lewis-Martin, according to a person who attended. Lewis-Martin showed up late, Zooming in from a dentist’s chair. After a few minutes of pleasantries, the aforementioned congressmember began forcefully asking for something they wanted from the City. According to the attendee, Lewis-Martin turned her camera on, cut the politician off, apologized for being at the dentist, informed them that she was going on vacation and that she’d deal with the issue when she returned, then ended the meeting.
(The Mayor’s Office has not responded to our questions about this account.)
“She does not get bullied around and that is a very useful power—when it’s on your side,” that source, who works in City government, told Hell Gate.
While the mayor has credited Lewis-Martin for striking deals with labor and securing big real estate projects, the chief adviser has mostly been in the news for her behind-the-scenes battles, including torpedoing street safety projects and planned bike lanes across New York City in line with the desires of business interests and certain well-connected New Yorkers. Lewis-Martin has wide purview and little oversight except for the mayor himself (Where the mayor needs me, I’m in it,” she told City & State.) Her “penchant for overriding other officials on even minor issues” has pissed off some of her colleagues, including First Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright, who reportedly asked Adams to not bring her into his administration, although both women deny this. (“Sheena and I have never had a cross word,” Lewis-Martin told the New York Times. “For sources to lie and focus on some made-up fighting, as opposed to quality work being done in our office, is an insult to women and, in particular, Black women.”)
A different source in City government said that Lewis-Martin, who pulls in a $251,000 annual salary at her position, “undermines the way government is supposed to work.”
“Which is not, one person who’s like, ‘tear up the street’ or ‘undo whatever,’ and then makes it happen,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous to avoid reprisals. “She is not the executive, she is not the person who should be making those decisions.”
Brooklyn Councilmember Lincoln Restler put this impression of her another way earlier this year: “The playbook has been written: If you don’t like a project…call Ingrid and she’ll kill it.”
Asked what to make of Adams giving Lewis-Martin so much power, the source replied, “I think it says that he values loyalty over everything else.” (The Mayor’s Office hasn’t responded to our questions about these remarks either.)
Adams and his chief adviser have known each other since 1984, when she was a middle school teacher and the mayor was a transit police officer who worked with Lewis-Martin’s husband. When Adams ran for a State Senate seat in 2006, Lewis-Martin was his campaign manager, and later his senior adviser and chief of staff. According to her, Adams had been talking about becoming the mayor since he ran for state office.
“I said, ‘Eric, what the hell are you talking about? You’re running for Senate. Why are you talking about: When you’re mayor?'” she told the Daily News in 2021. “He stopped it a little, but every so often, he would go right back to it.” She soon got on board, however, and began working with other Adams allies like Evan Thies to plan Adams’s political rise.
Adams and Lewis-Martin’s Albany years overlapped with a period of remarkable corruption in the state legislature. Within a few years after he took office as senator, Adams was facing questions over junkets to South Korea and his role in choosing a casino operator for the Queens racino. He also developed a friendship with Queens State Senator Hiram Monserrate, who was convicted of assaulting his girlfriend in 2008. “We called him Captain Chaos,” one state lawmaker from that time told New York Magazine, speaking of Adams.
When Adams was elected Brooklyn Borough President in 2014, Lewis-Martin stuck with him and became his deputy Brooklyn borough president. Emails from her time at the office, obtained by the Daily News, show Lewis-Martin had a productive relationship with well-connected attorney and Adams supporter Frank Carone, who peppered Borough Hall with requests to smooth over bureaucratic wrinkles on behalf of his clients. Those clients included Billy Bildstein, the owner of Avant Gardner. According to the emails, Lewis-Martin was responsive and helpful: when Avant Gardner, for example, was in trouble after a Department of Buildings inspection, Lewis-Martin said she’d make a phone call to the DOB commissioner at the time, Ira Gluckman. “I am actually on the road but will call Gluckman to see if anything can be done,” Lewis-Martin wrote to Carone. When the Daily News asked about those emails, the BP’s office said they “followed all ethics rules and guidance.”
As Adams’s chief adviser, Lewis-Martin is reportedly involved in some of the mayor’s most controversial and head-scratching stances, like his decision to go after the Biden administration for the influx of migrants that he has said will “destroy” the city (“Close the borders,” Lewis-Martin told a local news channel in October) and his decisions to hire political allies with histories of homophobia to City posts.
Lewis-Martin also teed up the infamous remarks the mayor made earlier this year, when he suggested that the U.S. Constitution may have gotten the whole “separation of church and state” thing wrong.
“We know in government, many times, it is said that one has to separate church from state, but we have an administration that doesn’t believe in that,” Lewis-Martin, a Christian chaplain, told attendees at an interfaith breakfast in February. “We have a mayor, who you will hear from shortly, who is definitely one of the chosen.”
Adams then took the stage and went even further.
“When we took prayers out of schools, guns came into schools,” Adams said. “Don’t tell me about no separation of church and state. State is the body, church is the heart. You take the heart out of the body, the body dies.” (City Hall told reporters that the reaction to these comments was overblown and that the administration respects all religious and nonreligious beliefs.)
Lewis-Martin has called herself the mayor’s “sister ordained by God,” though this bond may be tested by the federal investigation into Adams’s campaign. In early November, federal agents raided the home of Brianna Suggs, Adams’s chief fundraiser who Lewis-Martin once referred to as her “goddaughter” and “part of the family.” Neither Adams nor anyone working for his campaign has been charged with wrongdoing.
Lewis-Martin—who has been the subject of ethical concerns about her fundraising work during the 2022 election season, and who raked in an extra $40,000 moonlighting for the mayor’s campaign while also keeping her Borough Hall gig—told the Times just days after the raid that Suggs “continues to have [her] full support.” But before the end of the month, Suggs was removed from her post as fundraiser for the mayor, though she was apparently still part of the campaign effort.
Last updated: 12/18/2023
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Collectively mapped out Eric Adams's rise with
Has a working relationship stretching back years with
Worked at Borough Hall and on the campaign with her "goddaughter"
Her son DJ'd at a restaurant owned by