The US media has been publishing several articles covering New York City Mayor Eric Adams’ controversial statements, foreign travels and fundraising activities.
Before becoming mayor on January 1, 2022, the NY Daily News published an article on February 6, 2021 with the title: “NYC mayoral candidate Eric Adams accepted foreign travel to countries with a history of corruption.” The newspaper reported that “Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams has accepted thousands of dollars in travel and other perks from China, Turkey and Azerbaijan, three countries with a well-documented history of suppressing their citizens.”
Adams acknowledged that he has traveled to Turkey eight times. In August 2015, the Turkish government paid thousands of dollars for then-Brooklyn Borough president Adams to visit Turkey for six days where he signed a sister city agreement with Istanbul’s Üsküdar district. The Turkish consulate paid up to $4,999 for his airfare, hotel stay and ground transportation, according to Adams’ disclosure with the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB). An entity called the World Tourism Foundation, which hosted Adams in Antalya, Turkey, was listed as paying up to $4,999 for travel expenses, the Daily News revealed.
In 2016, “Azerbaijan’s tourism ministry paid up to $4,999 for Adams to visit its capital Baku for four days, according to the borough president’s COIB disclosure,” the Daily News reported. “I am honored to come to our sister city in Azerbaijan,” Adams said in a statement.
The New York City News Service disclosed that according to campaign funding records, “donations from individuals affiliated with organizations in the immigrant communities he wooed with these trips later went to the Adams mayoral campaign.”
In March 2018, just after forming his mayoral campaign committee, “Adams attended a party celebrating Nowruz, the Persian New Year, at Baku Palace restaurant in Sheepshead Bay [NY],” according to the NY City News Service. Adams told the cheering crowd of Azeris: “After I retire from government, I’m going to live in Baku.” He received $7,000 in campaign contributions.
In July 2018, Adams held a fundraiser at the Ali Baba Turkish restaurant in Manhattan, raising $16,000. Turkish businessman Murat Guzel gave Adams $5,000 on July 12, 2018, and an additional $5,100 the following month. However, the Adams campaign had to return $8,100 back to Guzel as he had exceeded the $2,000 campaign donation limit. Also in July, Behram Turan, chairman of the board of directors of the Turken Foundation, donated $3,000 to Adams, NY City News Service reported.
The Turkish Anadolu Agency quoted Adams as saying: “Turkey has played a major role in shaping mankind… I am a friend of the Turkish people.”
Among Mayor Adams’ closest friends is Armenian restaurateur Zhan “Johnny” Petrosyants who has a checkered past. Politico reported that he “was charged in a money laundering case in federal court eight years ago. He and his twin brother Robert were indicted on 11 counts for taking part in a check-cashing scheme that involved medical billing companies. Johnny Petrosyants pleaded guilty to one of those counts and was sentenced to probation and community service, while his brother was sentenced to six months in federal prison. Together with another defendant, they had to forfeit nearly $700,000.” The brothers and Mayor Adams are often seen together in private clubs and restaurants.
The New York Times published on August 22, 2022, a lengthy article with the title: “Eric Adams After Dark: A Private Table and Tarnished Friends.” The newspaper reported that the mayor spent at least 14 evenings in June at the upscale Manhattan restaurant La Baia, managed by the Petrosyants brothers. Adams usually spends three to four hours a night there and leaves well after closing time. The NY Times wrote that if the Mayor did not pay for his meals, he would be violating the city’s ethics laws. Furthermore, “being granted access to private clubs without paying membership dues risks violating ethics rules, said [Richard] Briffault, the former Conflicts of Interest Board chair.”
La Baia’s liquor license is under the name of Marianna Shahmuradyan, who has several children with Robert Petrosyants, according to the NY Times. In April 2018, Shahmuradyan contributed $5,000 to Adams’ campaign, $3,000 of which was returned to her for exceeding the $2,000 donation limit.
Another one of the mayor’s Armenian connections is Ronn Torossian, who owns a PR firm in Manhattan. He is a controversial figure who did lobbying work for the government of Turkey, as I reported in 2017.
The Daily Beast published an article about Torossian under the title: “Why Is NYC Mayor Eric Adams Glued to This ‘Toxic’ PR Guru?” He was described as “an aggressive PR executive” who “is well-known for his street-brawler tactics.” He organized the mayor’s election night lavish victory party at a private members-only club where Mayor Adams has repeatedly partied as Torossian’s personal guest. The mayor and Torossian were introduced by Zhan Petrosyants, according to The Daily Beast. “Seven former staffers, who spoke with The Daily Beast anonymously out of fear of reprisals from Torossian, described him as a ‘toxic’ person from whom the incoming mayor of New York should maintain his distance.”
The NY Times wrote that “in his short time as mayor, Adams has occasionally waded into murky ethical waters. After pledging to pay his own way on a trip to Puerto Rico, he acknowledged flying on an entrepreneur’s private jet. He later said he paid for his seat but did not provide documentation.” Additionally, “the Conflicts of Interest Board ruled that Adams could not give his brother Bernard a $210,000 job as head of the mayor’s security detail. Bernard Adams was then redirected to an adviser role with a $1 salary.”
With his multiple ‘murky’ dealings, it remains to be seen if Mayor Adams will be able to complete his term in office and realize his dream of retiring in Baku.