He’s got no public schedule to speak of. He’s rarely seen in public with Eric Adams, but has the mayor’s ear across a variety of subjects. He works for a quasi-city agency, the Economic Development Corporation, but runs point for City Hall on security in migrant shelters and makes top-level decisions about the New York Police Department he once served in.
Timothy Pearson, an influential advisor to Adams who typically keeps a low profile, is facing a Department of Investigation probe into his conduct at a migrant shelter in Midtown last week, the New York Times reported.
In an incident first reported on by THE CITY, Pearson attempted to barge in without showing his credentials, and then attacked a female shelter guard who tried to stop him, according to testimony from 12 eyewitnesses. After that guard and another one were arrested at the scene, Pearson described a different scenario, according to prosecutors, where “his shield [was] displayed on his belt” and he was nonetheless shoved by the guard, injuring his back. City Hall said that was a “badge,” not a shield, that identifies Pearson as a city employee.
Hours before the altercation at the Midtown shelter, Pearson had arrived at a 2,000 person shelter on Randall’s Island with more than 100 police officers, a helicopter and two drones, demanding to be let in without a warrant and threatening the job of a site manager who asked for one, as required by city policy.
On Tuesday, after dodging questions on Pearson for days, Mayor Adams said both incidents were “under review” while defending his longtime friend.
“I’ve known Tim Pearson for over 30-something years and I’ve never witnessed him displaying violent action,” Adams said. “He’s a professional and the review will determine if we have to do something different in how the procedure is done.”
The mayor said that Pearson’s role is to be a “quality assurance” person at shelters, conducting unannounced visits to make sure they are following rules, while also identifying large pieces of land across New York City that could be used as sites for new shelters.
“His role is to go into any and all of these sites, he reports on what he finds at these sites,” Adams said. The mayor also added that he visited the site last week at 1 a.m., and found illegal activity, but did not clarify which day he went.
While Adams is standing by Pearson, calls for accountability have mounted over the week since THE CITY’s initial report on the incident.
The Working Families Party called for Pearson to step down “if the allegations prove true.” At a City council oversight hearing Monday, Councilmember Diana Ayala did the same.
“If in fact Mr. Pearson is guilty of the things he has been accused of, he needs to step down immediately,” she said.
It is not yet clear if video footage of the altercation between Pearson and the female security guard exists. On Tuesday, Adams said he hadn’t viewed any. “If there are videos, I’m sure we’ll go through the normal procedures of releasing information,” he said.
Keeping Shelter Costs Down
Pearson, a retired NYPD inspector, technically works for the New York City Economic Development Corporation, a nonprofit that functions like a quasi-government agency. He was hired in 2022 to work as a senior advisor for public safety and COVID recovery, Politico reported earlier this year. His current title is senior advisor for public safety, according to the NYCEDC.
He collects a salary of $242,600, an NYCEDC spokesperson confirmed, on top of his NYPD pension reportedly amounting to $124,000.
By working for the NYCEDC, Pearson is able to continue collecting his city pension, an unusual, though not entirely unique, arrangement. Ten other employees on the EDC payroll work in other arms of the Adams administration, according to reporting from the New York Times, though it was unclear how many were hired under Adams. Jeff Holmes, a spokesperson for NYCEDC declined to confirm that figure. Mayor Bill de Blasio had previously employed former NYPD Chief of Department Terrance Monahan in a similar fashion.
While he began working for the EDC, Pearson drew criticism because he continued to draw a six-figure salary as the director of security at Resorts World New York City Casino, though he stepped down from that position following reporting from the New York Times.
When he was first hired by the EDC in mid-2022, Pearson’s portfolio for the Adams administration reportedly included not just public safety but also the plan to keep schools open and interfacing with the business community. More recently his role has begun to encompass security issues related to the migrant crisis, as well as oversight of different shelter sites and migrant contracts, according to a City Hall spokesperson – and he is known to be a tough enforcer who is ruthless about keeping costs down at shelters, according to people familiar with his work.
Pearson has also traveled significantly since taking on the role, including to Israel last year with other core Adams allies, including former chief of staff Frank Carone, to lure businesses to the city. Pearson also went with the mayor on a fact-finding mission to the border in January, and on his recent visit to Mexico, Ecuador and Colombia.
Adams said Pearson, like other aides who joined him, paid for his own trip.
A reporter for THE CITY filed a Freedom of Information request for Pearson’s schedule with EDC. A FOIL officer said they determined no such document existed.
A Security Volunteer?
Adams and Pearson have known each other for more than 30 years, the mayor said Tuesday. Pearson, a former NYPD inspector, reportedly served as Adams’ supervisor when they were both members of the department. They were both members of the Guardians Association, a fraternity of Black police officers, which named Pearson its person of the year in 2010.
The state legislature followed suit, and approved a resolution commemorating Pearson for his public service, citing his time in the NYPD and his service as a first responder on 9/11. Adams, by then a state senator, co-sponsored the measure.
Pearson’s close relationship with Adams was highlighted in a 2015 exchange between Brooklyn Borough Hall and the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB) about Pearson’s participation in a five-day trip Adams was seeking to take to Turkey.
The trip, which was described as focusing on “cultural, educational, tourism & economic matters,” was largely funded by the Turkish government to the tune of nearly $5,000 per person, according to records obtained through public disclosure law.
In the request for approval sent to COIB, Adams’ special counsel then and now, Ama Dwimoh, described Pearson as a retired NYPD inspector and director of security at Resort World Casino in Queens, and said his purpose on the trip would be “security & tourism.”
The conflicts board’s attorney, Amber Gonzalez, expressed confusion about Pearson’s participation in the trip given that he didn’t work for Adams and wasn’t being paid by him.
“I just want to be clear on the relationship between the Borough President and Mr. Pearson,” Gonzalez wrote on Aug. 6, 2015, according to emails obtained through the disclosure request.
“Is Mr. Pearson a volunteer to the BP? A personal friend of Mr. Adams? Or is Mr. Adams paying Mr. Pearson out of his personal funds?” Gonzalez continued. “I ask because we have never heard of a volunteer security person before and we just want to be clear on the association.”
Dwimoh, who also traveled on the trip, later said that Pearson was not a volunteer and would not be acting as security for Adams, but rather would be joining “to assist in identifying & addressing security matters regarding tourism & ways to promote & maintain safety.” The conflicts board ultimately approved the travel.
Pearson also accompanied Borough President Adams on a government-related trip to Israel in early 2016, records show. That trip was funded by the Jewish Community Relations Council.
‘His Fingers in Every Corner’
Adams tapped Pearson to be on his transition team once he was elected as mayor in 2021. In that role, Pearson led panels that reinterviewed top-level staffers in the Corrections Department, according to Sarena Townsend, the department’s acclaimed former head of investigations who was fired days after Adams’ election. Pearson was also one of a core group of advisors who helped select Adams’ first police commissioner, Keechant Sewell, alongside Phil Banks, who was later tapped as the Deputy Mayor for Public Safety.
Pearson continued to work for the administration in a volunteer capacity throughout the transition and before his official hiring, advising the mayor on security issues and COVID procedures, according to a spokesperson for City Hall.
His power over the NYPD at times has been said to rival that of Deputy Mayor Banks and former Commissioner Sewell.
When City Hall removed Sewell’s ability to determine promotions in the weeks before her resignation — after she had attempted to discipline a top-ranking NYPD official despite the objections of the mayor — it was Pearson who approved or rejected Sewell’s proposed promotions, a former NYPD official said. Typically, NYPD commissioners have had near total discretion over such moves.
“It’s no secret that Pearson has his fingers in every corner of the department,” the source told THE CITY.
Politico quoted an administration official describing Pearson as “another friend of the mayor with ill-defined responsibilities and outsized influence.” But Adams last October dismissed the idea that he was using his position to hire a close 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. “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.”