Mayor Eric Adams is looking for an on-call team “street team” of boosters available in-person 24/7 to do crowd work supporting him and pushing his policy goals at events around the city, an email sent this week to some city employees reveals.
The mayor’s Public Engagement Unit this week asked for 15 volunteers to launch the traveling troupe next month, according to the email viewed by THE CITY. The PEU’s staff of around 150 people usually are focused on door-to-door outreach to help New Yorkers sign up for benefits, or connecting them with other city services.
“The new ‘Street Team’ will be a rapid response squad dedicated to engaging New Yorkers around community and city events, especially when the mayor is in attendance,” the email sent Tuesday to PEU staffers reads.
“However, to meet the needs of the mayor’s packed schedule, we have been asked to have a roster of folks ready and available to support him at all times.” (Emphasis theirs.)
The staffers would be moved from their day-to-day gig to join the new team, although “many of the details are still being worked out with City Hall,” the email said.
“All we know for sure is that the mayor himself asked PEU for this support immediately, so we have been working on this with a very tight timeline!,” it continued.
Adrienne Lever, the PEU director, said the change is a more targeted approach to reaching New Yorkers who may need help.
“From the very beginning Mayor Adams has been an on-the-ground mayor,” she told THE CITY in an interview.
“He’s out in the community very frequently, and we’ve seen there’s an opportunity to leverage that.”
The full details of the change are still being worked out, she said, but their staff – who speak 20 languages – are always assessing where the greatest need is.
“We want to make sure we are really covering events across the city,” she said.
Helping the Neediest
The Public Engagement Unit was launched in 2015 by former Mayor Bill de Blasio to help connect New Yorkers to services like tenant support or assistance in signing up for free or low-cost healthcare.
Before the unit even went public, staffers spent months figuring out how many city students were in tenuous living situations, like being doubled-up with friends or relatives. Another major effort was connecting New Yorkers in need, including veterans, to permanent housing resources.
The PEU now includes a Tenant Support Unit, a Home Support Unit, and GetCoveredNYC, which helps enroll people in health care. There is also a “special projects team” that has worked on helping people sign up for vaccine appointments and get COVID recovery meals.
Adams, the self-described “blue collar mayor,” has prioritized in-person events like flag-raisings and parades a bit more than his predecessor. In a radio interview Thursday, he told host Sid Rosenberg how often New Yorkers approach him with issues.
“People walk down the streets … and my staff gets infuriated that I give people my personal cell number,” he said on WABC radio. “I say call me so I can actually find out what your issue is.”
“People go where the mayor is,” said one former PEU staffer who requested anonymity but didn’t see a problem with the street-team request. “It’s good to be with the mayor because people ask him to solve specific problems for them while he’s out and about.”