Mayor Eric Adams likes to say that he is “perfectly imperfect” and thick-skinned enough to withstand the inevitable criticism that comes with the job of leading the largest city in the country.
But all bets are apparently off when it comes to barbs from the previous administration.
In an unprompted, seven-minute tirade, Mr. Adams on Wednesday lashed out at the former mayor, Bill de Blasio, accusing him of leaving New York City in disarray, and insisting that Mr. de Blasio’s former top aides had no right to publicly criticize the way Mr. Adams is running the city.
“I am so tired of the previous administration and their antics,” Mr. Adams said at the end of what had been a routine news conference about expanding the city’s fleet of electric vehicles.
Mr. Adams, a moderate Democrat who is entering his second year in office, said he had recently called Mr. de Blasio to complain about the attacks.
“I don’t remember an administration in history that says we want a full frontal assault in the first year of an administration,” Mr. Adams said.
And then Mr. Adams returned the favor. He lit into Mr. de Blasio’s record as mayor and argued that criticism from former city officials — about Mr. Adams’s handling of the pandemic, city schools and violence at Rikers — was extremely unusual and unhelpful, especially when they had “left the house in total disarray.”
It was a stunning broadside from Mr. Adams against Mr. de Blasio and his allies and one of the most fiery scuffles between Democrats in New York since Mr. de Blasio accused Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of acting vindictively toward the city in 2015. Mr. de Blasio, who is now a visiting scholar at New York University, has rarely criticized Mr. Adams, but top officials from his administration have raised concerns about some of Mr. Adams’s policies.
Mr. Adams singled out one former aide in particular: Bill Neidhardt, a press secretary to Mr. de Blasio during his second term who has been a vocal critic of Mr. Adams. Mr. Adams called Mr. Neidhardt the “worst comms guy in the history of communication.”
Mr. Neidhardt, who now runs a political communications firm, responded on Wednesday that it was fair to criticize the mayor’s record.
“Every New Yorker has a right to speak out when Mayor Adams slashes school budgets, raises rents and echoes right-wing talking points,” Mr. Neidhardt said. “Instead of whining and attacking his constituents, the mayor should tackle the crises working people face every day in our city. Grow up.”
Mr. Adams has received plenty of criticism during his first year, including over allegations of cronyism in his hiring practices and budget cuts at schools and libraries. He faced a new round of outrage on Tuesday when he said there was “no more room at in the inn” for migrants arriving in waves from the nation’s southern border.
Mr. Adams’s scathing comment about the de Blasio administration come even though the two are political allies who rose to power in the same Brooklyn power circles. Mr. de Blasio quietly supported Mr. Adams during the competitive Democratic primary for mayor in 2021 and worked behind the scenes to help elect him.
Still, major differences have emerged. Mr. Adams decided not to expand Mr. de Blasio’s popular preschool program for 3-year-olds; he has raised doubts about closing the jail complex at Rikers Island on Mr. de Blasio’s timeline; he brought back a contentious anti-gun police unit that was disbanded under Mr. de Blasio.
Mr. de Blasio did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.
As mayor, Mr. Adams has repeatedly criticized the de Blasio administration for leaving him with major problems across city government, including reduced trash pickups and higher crime rates. Last summer, Mr. Adams told The New York Post that after reviewing city operations, he was “shocked” to learn just “how bad this place is.”
On Wednesday, Mr. Adams continued to make the argument that he inherited a mess.
“They had eight years to do their job — eight years to fix Rikers, eight years to deal with crime, eight years to deal with education, eight years to deal with early childhood education for children with disabilities, eight years to fix NYCHA,” he told reporters. “They had all that time to do their job.”
“And did they?” a reporter asked.
“No,” the mayor said, laughing.
Stu Loeser, a press secretary for former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, said that he understood why Mr. Adams was frustrated by criticism from de Blasio officials, noting that Mr. Bloomberg had a policy of not criticizing Mr. de Blasio and encouraged his staffers to resist doing so as well.
“Mike took the job incredibly seriously, and the idea of undermining someone who replaced him and who was also trying to do the right thing for the city was anathema to him,” he said.
Mr. Adams said that Mr. de Blasio had been “extremely helpful” and that his frustration was directed at others from his administration who wanted to see Mr. Adams fail. During his call with Mr. de Blasio, Mr. Adams said that he told the former mayor: “I deserve better.”
Mr. Adams, who has been involved in public life in New York City for nearly three decades as an advocate for police reform and as an elected official, claimed that he would not complain about the next mayor once he left office.
“You are not going to hear from me,” he said. “When I’m done? I’m sitting under the sun.”