Where’s Eric Adams? Meeting Donors, From the Hamptons to the Vineyard.
On Martha’s Vineyard last weekend, as most residents braced for the possible arrival of Hurricane Henri, a smaller gathering focused on a more …
On Martha’s Vineyard last weekend, as most residents braced for the possible arrival of Hurricane Henri, a smaller gathering focused on a more certain visitor: Eric Adams, New York City’s likely next mayor.
Mr. Adams mingled on Friday with potential donors at a fund-raiser in Oak Bluffs, a historically Black section of the island. A day later, Mr. Adams traveled to the opposite end of the island, for a fund-raiser hosted at the waterfront retreat of Zach Iscol, a businessman who ran for mayor and then comptroller during the June 22 primary election. Caroline Kennedy attended.
The weekend before, Mr. Adams was in the Hamptons, donning a bright red blazer with polka dot elbow patches at a fund-raiser hosted by John Catsimatidis, the Republican billionaire, and attending a separate meeting with the venture capitalist Lisa Blau.
Mr. Adams, the Democratic nominee for mayor, will be an overwhelming favorite in the November general election. His Republican opponent, Curtis Sliwa, faces a steep disadvantage in party registration — Democrats outnumber Republicans by nearly seven to one in the city — and an even more pronounced gap in campaign funds.
Yet Mr. Adams — who has raised more than $11 million in public and private funds for the primary, and now has about $2 million on hand — has been working overtime on the fund-raising circuit, attending as many as five fund-raisers in one day. His campaign has said he intends by November to raise a fresh $5 million, including public matching funds; Mr. Sliwa, by contrast, has raised only $599,000 since entering the mayor’s race in March, and has about $14,000 on hand.
On Mr. Adams’s docket for next month are fund-raisers hosted by the billionaire former mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, reported by Politico, and another hosted by Michael Novogratz, a hedge fund titan-turned-cryptocurrency investor.
The fund-raising blitz will enable Mr. Adams to “spend October in full campaign mode,” said Frank Carone, his lawyer and close confidante.
Mr. Adams’s trips beyond Brooklyn, Mr. Carone added, allow him to establish a robust fund-raising infrastructure that he can tap into after the general election, to raise money for the transition.
Mr. Adams’s aides would not disclose how much he had raised since winning the primary nor how many fund-raisers he has attended; his campaign disclosure forms are set to be released by the end of the week, via the city’s Campaign Finance Board.
“Voters deserve to hear Eric’s plans for the city, and the working people he represents deserve to have a voice in this election — and that’s why Eric’s campaign is raising the resources necessary to get his message out,” said Evan Thies, Mr. Adams’s spokesman.
In his years in elected office, Mr. Adams’s fund-raising has, at times, tested the boundaries of campaign-finance and ethics laws. Mr. Adams was investigated as a state senator for his role in awarding a video lottery machine contract at Aqueduct Racetrack after, among other things, soliciting donations from people affiliated with the bidders. He has also been criticized for taking money as Brooklyn borough president from developers who were lobbying him for crucial zoning changes.
Good government groups have said they will be watching closely to make sure that Mr. Adams steers clear of conflicts of interest; his summer of fund-raising may offer opportunity for dissection.
“He will be under intense scrutiny, and I’m sure his campaign is aware of that,” said John Kaehny, executive director of Reinvent Albany.
Mr. Adams will, arguably, never be more attractive to donors than now; he is the de facto mayor-in-waiting for a city of 8.8 million who has yet to alienate powerful interests by making difficult mayoral decisions.
The Martha’s Vineyard fund-raiser in Oak Bluffs featured a largely Black “cross-section of distinguished leaders, achievers, and I won’t say elite, but certainly upper-class folks,” said one attendee, the Rev. Jacques Andre DeGraff, an associate pastor at Harlem’s Canaan Baptist Church of Christ.
Hasoni Pratts, one of the hosts of the gathering at Mr. Iscol’s house and the national director of engagement for Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign, said it was not difficult to find donors for Mr. Adams.
“They like his message and his background as a self-made person and a public servant,” she said.
In August, Mr. Adams traipsed out to the Hamptons. There was a speech at the Hamptons Synagogue, followed by a fund-raiser at the Westhampton Beach home of Jerry W. Levin, a businessman and Republican donor who has given more than $17,000 to Representative Lee Zeldin and his PAC. Mr. Levin posed for a photo with Mr. Adams at the event promoting his Waterloo Sparkling Water brand, holding a grape-flavored can.
Mr. Levin declined to say how much he had contributed to Mr. Adams.
“I’m a conservative Republican, and I remain a conservative Republican,” he said. “I think Eric is the right person for the position. Realistically, I can’t see how a Republican could win.”
Another fund-raiser in Water Mill was organized by Mr. Catsimatidis, and attended by Rudy Washington, a deputy mayor in the 1990s under Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. Ms. Blau — the venture capitalist married to Jeff T. Blau, chief executive of the real estate company that developed Hudson Yards — invited friends to her home to hear Mr. Adams speak, for what was billed as a conversation, not a fund-raiser. During the primary, Ms. Blau backed an effort to get more Republicans to register as Democrats.
One Hamptons donor, Jean Shafiroff, said she was impressed by Mr. Adams’s focus on tackling crime, as well as by his colorful ensemble.
“I thought it was cheerful looking,” she said. “He was saying it’s OK to get a little dressed up and support fashion.”
Ms. Shafiroff, the wife of a banker who is known as the “first lady of philanthropy,” donated $1,000 at the event.
A fund-raiser in July at the Queens home of the developer Carl F. Mattone was co-hosted by Eric Ulrich, a Republican councilman, along with the lobbyist Williams Driscoll and Gerry Caliendo, a Queens architect. Another event is planned for Sept. 8 at South Street Seaport by Bo Dietl, a former Republican and mayoral candidate who also hosted a fund-raiser for Mr. Adams at Smith & Wollensky earlier this year.
Mr. Adams, a former police captain, has positioned himself as a centrist, someone willing to work with Democrats and Republicans alike. After the primary, Mr. Adams was photographed dining with Mr. Dietl and Mr. Catsimatidis at Rao’s in East Harlem.
“I am pro common-sense Democrats,” Mr. Catsimatidis said in an interview. “We had a lot of common-sense Democrats that loved what Eric Adams said during the get-together, and a lot of Republicans that loved what he said.”
On Sept. 30, Mr. Novogratz, a Democrat, will host a high-dollar fund-raiser for Mr. Adams at an undisclosed location in Manhattan. Greenberg Traurig, the international law firm that lobbies city government for Fordham University, AT&T and various real estate firms, is hosting one on Sept. 9 at their Manhattan office, where designated hosts must contribute $2,000. To be listed as a “friend” will cost $1,000; regular guests will pay $400. Bolton-St. Johns, a prominent firm that lobbies city government for Airbnb and DoorDash, is also planning a fund-raiser in September.
Other fund-raiser hosts have included the prominent real estate lobbyist Suri Kasirer, who held an event for Mr. Adams at her home on Aug. 14; and several partners from the Manhattan law firm Cozen O’Connor, which represents clients with business before the city. The law partners hosted an Aug. 10 fund-raiser on the 17th-floor sky terrace at 3 World Trade Center.
Ofer Cohen, who runs a Brooklyn commercial real estate firm, is planning a fund-raiser for Mr. Adams as well. Mr. Cohen is still trying to nail down a date that works, amid the back-to-school rush and the Jewish High Holy Days. He considers his Brooklyn fund-raising crowd “the O.G.s.”
“The business community and the real estate community here always liked Eric,” Mr. Cohen said. “The difference is now, it’s all over the city. It’s all business sectors.”
Some Democrats pledged during the mayoral primary not to accept money from real estate developers, but Mr. Adams said he would take campaign contributions from all New Yorkers and that they would not influence his decisions as mayor.
During the primary, Mr. Adams also received indirect financial support from a well-funded super PAC run by Jenny Sedlis, who was on leave from a charter school advocacy group.
Mr. Sliwa, on the other hand, has struggled to raise money. He has not qualified for public matching funds yet, but his campaign believes it will soon. Republicans like Mr. Catsimatidis, who said Mr. Sliwa was “like a brother” to him, may want to hedge their bets by supporting Mr. Adams and Mr. Sliwa.
Mr. Adams’s ease in drawing interest from donors — for himself and his party — began immediately after he emerged as the Democratic primary victor. One week later, he appeared as the headliner at a waterfront fund-raiser for the Brooklyn Democratic Party, where top tickets went for $50,000. The July 14 event was the first in-person gathering for many donors since the pandemic began, and it was packed with lobbyists and elected officials: Mayor Bill de Blasio; Letitia James, the state attorney general; and several members of Congress.
At the restaurant Giando on the Water, where guests enjoyed sweeping views of the East River and the Williamsburg Bridge, Mr. Adams appeared onstage like a rock star. He declared, “I am the mayor,” and urged the audience to donate to his friends at the Brooklyn Democratic Party.
“I’m hoping the people at the door will not allow anybody in here without writing a check,” he told the crowd.