A career 911 dispatcher and longtime friend of Mayor Eric Adams who rented a room to Adams in her Crown Heights apartment for four years now has one of the highest-paid jobs in city government, records show.
In May, the NYPD appointed Lisa White as its deputy commissioner for employee relations, at a salary of more than $241,000 a year — a nearly fivefold boost over her prior salary there and almost as much as the police commissioner makes.
In her new role, White attends to the health, well-being and morale of the NYPD’s 35,000 uniformed members, including their corps of chaplains, along with bereavement and other support services for families.
City Hall confirmed that Adams’ connection with White extended beyond a mere professional relationship, also characterizing it as a friendship that dated back decades and that involved sharing an address for years.
Government payroll records show that White served as a 911 operator, formally known as a police communications technician, from 1995 through December 2019, when she retired with a base salary of just over $53,000. She is currently earning a pension of about $30,000 per year, on top of her current salary, according to the website SeeThroughNY.
White’s bio on the NYPD website notes that “throughout her 30-year career with the Department, she served in positions within the Communications Division, including Interim Supervisor.” It also highlights her most recent job before her appointment as deputy commissioner, as a field supervisor for the U.S. Census Bureau.
White’s ties to the mayor run back for years — part of a pattern of appointments by Adams that demonstrates a determination to hire friends, family and former colleagues for top administration posts.
City Hall spokesperson Fabien Levy said Adams played no role in White’s appointment.
He said Adams and White both had a professional relationship, and also were friends, going back to their time with the group 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care. Adams co-founded the group while he served in the NYPD.
Levy said that before becoming mayor, Adams rented a room at the Crown Heights address.
Prior to White’s deputy commissioner appointment, she served as a volunteer board member and treasurer for Adams’ Brooklyn Borough Hall-affiliated nonprofit, the One Brooklyn Fund, from 2014 to 2021, according to tax records and a conflicts of interest disclosure form she filed with the city this year.
Adams used the nonprofit not just to hold events and offer services to residents of the community, but also to tout his government work and bolster his standing politically. The fund raised money from businesses and distributed grant dollars to local groups.
The ties between White and Adams go back further still, to at least the 1990s. Media clips indicate White served as a spokesperson for 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, which Adams co-founded to draw attention to and reform the NYPD’s interactions with the Black community.
One news article published in 1999, about a protest by 911 staff over their equipment and working conditions, identifies White as a 911 dispatcher and a member of 100 Blacks. Representing that group, she did an on-air interview in 2000 with the radio show “Democracy Now” about a wave of sexual assaults in Central Park.
Public records show that for years, White claimed residence at an apartment on the 20th floor of Ebbets Field Apartments, which is in Crown Heights and named for the Dodgers baseball stadium that once stood there.
White made eight political donations from that same address between 2008 and 2019 — including two to Adams’ borough president campaign, state Board of Elections records show. The contributions to Adams, both in 2012, list her employer as “NYC Police Department” and her position as “Police Communications Tech,” according to city Campaign Finance Board records. City payroll records confirm her title was “police communications technician.”
In 2013, as Adams ran for borough president, he changed his voter registration — to declare his residence as the same McKeever Place apartment where White had also declared her residence.
City Board of Election records show Adams maintained that he lived at the McKeever Place unit between June 2013 and March 2017.
Last year, when questions arose about Adams’ real estate holdings and where he was living, his mayoral campaign spokesman also told THE CITY that Adams lived at the McKeever Place address from 2013 to 2017.
White was also paid $1,000 in November 2013 as a consultant for Adams’ initial campaign for Brooklyn borough president — sent to her at the McKeever Place address. She surfaced once more to speak as an Adams political representative in July 2020, as he faced questions about law enforcement contributions to his budding mayoral campaign while anti-police-brutality protests raged.
Just days after Adams was sworn in as mayor Jan. 1, 2022, the NYPD dismissed its deputy commissioner for employee relations, Robert Ganley — opening the post that the department named White to in May.
White didn’t respond to a message left at a phone number listed for her, and Ganley also did not respond.
An unnamed NYPD spokesperson said White’s appointment fell within department standards.
“Deputy Commissioner Lisa White filed for service retirement from the NYPD Communications Section in 2019, after a 29-year-career with the agency,” said the spokesperson. “Her hiring was in line with the NYPD’s standards for identifying those best suited for their roles within the department.”
Friends and Family
Adams has unapologetically hired a number of close pals to top city posts, including David Banks as schools chancellor and Banks’ partner, Sheena Wright, as a deputy mayor.
The mayor tapped Banks’ brother Phillip Banks — who resigned as NYPD chief of department in 2014 amid a federal bribery probe in a case that later identified him as an unindicted co-conspirator — as deputy mayor for public safety, reporting directly to Adams.
Adams also tried to give his own brother, Bernard Adams, a $242,000-gig as the NYPD’s deputy commissioner of governmental affairs, the New York Post reported in January. City conflict of interest prohibitions on nepotism forced Adams to significantly curtail his brother’s responsibilities and pay him only a nominal salary of $1 for overseeing his personal security.
Another of Adams’ longtime friends from the police department, Tim Pearson, was quietly handed a $242,000 role at the city’s Economic Development Corporation overseeing public safety and COVID-19 initiatives.
At the start of his tenure, Adams brought on the longtime counsel for the Brooklyn Democratic Party, Frank Carone, as his chief of staff, and later gave a $190,000 job to the husband of party chair Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, who had staunchly backed Adams’ mayoral candidacy. (The husband, Edu Hermelyn, also a Democratic Party official, resigned from the government post after THE CITY raised questions about rules barring mayoral office managers from simultaneously holding political positions.)
The Adams administration has also brought on at least a half-dozen former City Council members who had endorsed his mayoral run — one of whom, Department of Buildings Commissioner Eric Ulrich, recently resigned amid a probe into alleged organized crime and illegal gambling, according to The New York Times.
When questioned about these and other hires, Adams has repeatedly maintained that he picks the best people for the job. On Oct. 3, he dismissed the notion that hiring Pearson could give the appearance of a mayor using his position to benefit a friend.
“The skill set of a former executive law enforcement officer during these unprecedented times of navigating all of these pieces is important,” Adams said that day. “So it’s not using my position as the mayor to help anyone. It’s to help New Yorkers, putting together a team that’s going to help New Yorkers during these multiple crises at one time.”
Real Estate Roulette
Adams’ years living at McKeever Place in Crown Heights got little scrutiny amid the wider questions that arose last year during his campaign for mayor about his real estate holdings and where he actually lives.
At the time that he was living at McKeever Place, Adams already owned a four-unit townhouse on Lafayette Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant and co-owned a co-op in Prospect Heights that he had bought years earlier with a woman he called a “good friend.”
During the campaign, Adams repeatedly insisted that he had turned over his 50% share of the co-op to his friend, Sylvia Cowan, back in 2007 — but he acknowledged after the election and this year on city financial disclosure forms that he indeed still co-owned the unit. He has said he wasn’t aware that Cowan didn’t finalize the transfer of shares.
In 2016, Adams bought a co-op in Fort Lee, N.J., with his current partner, Tracey Collins. At a later point, Cowan also bought a unit in that same building, one floor below Adams.
Despite the mayor’s multiple addresses, reporters for PoliticoNY observed Adams spending numerous overnights during his campaign last year at none of them — but rather at Brooklyn Borough Hall.
Adams, who touts his ability to both stay up late and get up early, said he was putting in long work hours while running for office. He responded to the questions raised about his residence by giving a media tour of the ground floor unit of his Bedford-Stuyvesant townhouse, which is where he and his campaign spokesperson said he has lived since 2017.
Adams’ 2013 move into the McKeever Place unit coincided with his successful run for Brooklyn borough president and with the last year of his tenure in the state Senate. That apartment and the one on Prospect Place were within the 20th Senatorial District that he represented, while his Bedford-Stuyvesant townhouse was outside of it.