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The nonprofit professional (with a somewhat checkered past) is quickly rising through the ranks at City Hall.
- Associate, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz
- Associate, Reboul, MacMurray, Hewitt, Maynard & Kristol
- Executive director and CEO, Abyssinian Development Corporation
- President and CEO, United Way of New York City
- Deputy Mayor of Strategic Initiatives, New York City
- First Deputy Mayor, New York City
When Eric Adams holds his now-weekly off-topic press appearances, he likes to trot out an unfathomably large group of his deputy mayors and City Hall officials, who tend to just sit there stoically as he answers questions. Often to his right is his highest-ranking deputy mayor, Sheena Wright, who brings years of experience leading nonprofits to City Hall, and who had spearheaded Adams’s transition planning. (Wright also earns more than the mayor.)
In announcing her promotion to first deputy mayor after a year as deputy mayor of strategic initiatives, City Hall noted that Wright co-managed a project that helped nonprofits actually get paid on time by the City. A Columbia graduate and lawyer who has landed on lists of top nonprofit leaders in the city, Wright seems perfectly qualified for the position of helping to oversee a sprawling City government that relies on thousands of contractors to deliver services to residents, and to manage all of Adams’s many other deputy mayors.
Well, that’s if you forget about the alleged nonprofit mismanagement and that one assault arrest that may have been voided with the help of her now-fiancé’s brother (who also happens to be the deputy mayor for public safety; the current schools chancellor is her fiancé).
Where to begin? Back in 2013, Wright was one of the subjects of a sprawling Village Voice investigation that looked into possible financial mismanagement at the Abyssinian Development Corporation (ADC), an ostensibly nonprofit community development organization connected to the powerful Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem, where Wright worked from 2002 to 2012. In 2013, Wright was subpoenaed by federal prosecutors over whether ADC had bought a Harlem brownstone from the federal government on the cheap, one that came with income restrictions on who ADC could then sell it to. But ADC sold the brownstone to the wealthy son of former NBA players’ union head Billy Hunter, turning a healthy profit on the property. (No charges were brought against Wright related to the subpoena).
At the same time, ADC’s leaders, including Wright, were taking lavish trips on the company dime. “The vacations would be very elaborate with maids and butlers and cars,” a former ADC employee told the Village Voice, describing work retreats to Martha’s Vineyard. “They would go under the guise of business conferences, and then just swim and go diving or parasail.”
The Village Voice reported that, according to former employees, as CEO, Wright “hired unqualified cronies for senior jobs, including a high school classmate and her former hairdresser, whom she employed as a special assistant” (hmm, who does that sound like) and that Wright “was behind the expensive junkets.”
Wright said in a statement to the Voice that investors at ADC “knew their dollars were being used wisely, efficiently, and effectively.”
Wright left ADC in 2012 to run the United Way NYC, a position that ADC “insiders” told the Village Voice that Abyssinian’s Rev. Calvin O. Butts III secured for her. It was during her time at the United Way that Wright had a run-in with the law. During the morning of January 6, 2013, Wright was arrested for fighting with her estranged then-husband in their Harlem home, which they were sharing post-separation. Wright was then arrested a second time later that day, after she allegedly drilled through the lock on her husband’s 68-year-old mother’s door and attacked her.
But charges against Wright were voided when Philip Banks, then the chief of community affairs at the NYPD and the brother of her then-good friend (and love interest) David Banks, intervened. Philip reached out to the commander of the precinct where Wright was arrested, and the arrest was soon deemed invalid.
City Hall did not respond to a request for comment about Wright.
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But in an earlier statement to The CITY, Wright said, “In granting an order of protection against my ex-husband and demanding that he be removed from my home, it is clear that he was the aggressor and needed to be forcefully removed.”
While Wright has allies in the Banks brothers in City Hall, she reportedly has at least one powerful antagonist—Adams’s chief adviser, Ingrid Lewis-Martin. The New York Times reported that Lewis-Martin is “bitter rivals” with Wright, and that Wright pushed Adams not to hire Lewis-Martin during his transition to City Hall. When Adams tried to get them to reconcile, the Times reported, Lewis-Martin apparently told Wright to stay out of her way. Both denied there was any beef there, with Wright telling the Times that “Ingrid and I really do work well together, and I appreciate her leadership and partnership.” Lewis-Martin, however, notably skipped the press conference introducing Wright as first deputy mayor.
Last year, David Banks and Wright got engaged. They went on vacation together to Martha’s Vineyard this summer as the City struggled to find shelter for thousands of arriving migrants, a trip slammed by the New York Post editorial board. This first deputy mayor will simply not stop taking shit for taking some hard-earned vacations!
Last updated: 12/18/2023
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