NYC’s Mayor and Schools Chancellor hire each other’s girlfriends

When I was in high school, the best book I read was Plunkett of Tammany Hall, a brilliant book from 1905 relaying an interview with George Washington Plunkett, a stalwart of New York City’s corrupt City Hall. Memorably, Plunkett repeatedly denied wrongdoing, insisting only that “I seen my opportunity and I took it.” Those words seem to have guided New York City mayor Eric Adams and School Chancellor David Banks, neither of whom broke any laws by giving each other’s girlfriends high-paying jobs in city government.

The New York Post broke the story:

Schools Chancellor David Banks quietly promoted Mayor Adams’ girlfriend to a top job at the Department of Education, just months after Adams hired Banks’ girlfriend as a deputy mayor, The Post has learned.

Banks named Tracey Collins — Adams’ longtime partner and NYC’s unofficial First Lady — the DOE’s “senior advisor to the deputy chancellor of school leadership,” Desmond Blackburn. She started the new job in July, and got a giant, 23% raise to $221,597 a year, records show.

Hizzoner named Banks’ girlfriend, Sheena Wright, and four other women deputy mayors last Dec. 21. Deputy mayors made $251,982 in FY 21.

New York City law explicitly prohibits nepotism:

3.   No public servant shall use or attempt to use his or her position as a public servant to obtain any financial gain, contract, license, privilege or other private or personal advantage, direct or indirect, for the public servant or any person or firm associated with the public servant.

Those rules haven’t prevented previous New York politicos from family members into important positions. The problem was that they couldn’t figure out how to get the city to pay for the work those family members did. For example, former New York City mayor Bill de Blasio complained that the city’s nepotism laws prevented him from paying his wife for her valuable (to him) services.

Image: Eric Adams and David Banks (edited). YouTube screen grab.

Adams and Banks figured out how to overcome that problem. The beauty of what they did is that neither gave his own girlfriend a job. So, technically speaking, neither used his position “to obtain any financial gain...for...any person...associated with the public servant.” When Adams gave Banks’ girlfriend a $251,982 job, she was not connected with him; likewise, when Banks gave Adams’s girlfriend a $221,597 job, no one could claim that the two had a relationship.

Both men walk honorably in the footsteps of their Tammany Hall forebearers, seeing their opportunities and taking them. Since I don’t live in New York City and I’m not footing the bill for this kind of thing, I can even applaud their initiative and creativity. I wonder, though, how New York City residents feel right now. 

If you experience technical problems, please write to