Eric Adams attended nearly 80 events celebrating Turkey

“Like New York City, Turkey has always been a crossroads of many cultures and a dynamic place to do business,” Adams said during his remarks, which were left off his daily public schedule and have never been reported.

These revelations — uncovered through a POLITICO review of thousands of pages of public schedules from his time as borough president and reams of social media posts — shed light on Adams’ unusually strong relationship with Turkey, which has drawn scrutiny from federal investigators. The FBI is looking for evidence the mayor’s 2021 campaign colluded with the Turkish government and accepted illegal campaign contributions.

The investigation, which touches people in Adams’ inner circle, threatens to undermine his ability to run the city during a time of crisis and makes him more vulnerable to challengers as he gears up for reelection in 2025.

The sprawling case has gripped New York politics as the mayor scrambles to fend off a cascade of negative headlines. Federal agents recently raided or conducted interviews at a dozen locations as part of the probe, CNN reported — including the home of Adams’ political fundraiser.

Days after the Nov. 2 raid, FBI agents approached the mayor on a city street, reportedly dismissed his security detail, and seized several electronic devices from him. Officials have issued at least one grand jury subpoena to a former city official, CNN reported. And last week, a City Hall staffer who previously served as Adams’ liaison to New York’s Turkish community was reported to the feds and then suspended after administration officials said she “acted improperly” — without specifying her actions — the New York Post first reported.

The staffer — Rana Abbasova, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation granted anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter — flagged at least three meetings and events related to Turkey when Adams was borough president, the review of his schedules shows. Among them was a 2015 grand opening celebration for a Turkish restaurant in Brooklyn, which she marked as “important.”

As investigators pursue their case, more details are coming to light about the Turkish outreach of a politician who has made a habit of cultivating ties to the many ethnic communities across New York City. And some of those connections are with organizations now turning up in the probe.

On Nov. 2, for example, the home of a Turkish Airlines executive was among the locations raided by the FBI, according to CNN.

POLITICO’s analysis of Adams’ Borough Hall schedules turned up three mentions of the airline: Two planned banquets celebrating the carrier in 2019 and 2020, and a cryptic entry on Oct. 2, 2015 that simply read: “Reschedule 4 p.m. turkish airline. Rana my gifts.”

That same year, Adams took two trips to Turkey — one in August funded by multiple entities including the Turkish consulate, according to a financial disclosure obtained by POLITICO. Local news outlet THE CITY recently reported Turkish Airlines also chipped in for that trip, but that was omitted from the required annual disclosure. Four months later, the financial disclosure shows, an organization called the Association of Young Tourism Leaders funded another trip to Turkey for Adams.

The junkets were among a half-dozen trips the mayor has said he made to the country, including a 2017 sojourn with his son, Jordan.

Two years later, Adams attended a soiree at the ritzy Metropolitan Club in honor of 25 years of direct flights between Turkey and the U.S. One photo displayed in a lifestyle magazine shows Adams at the center of a throng of Turkish Airlines executives and flight attendants. Another reveals him holding hands with Mustafa Dogan, the airline’s vice president of sales for the Americas, and Öcal, the airline’s New York director.

Öcal was later named to the infrastructure committee of the mayoral transition team, which numbered around 800 people, a campaign spokesperson confirmed.

Earlier this year, a social media post shows Adams hobnobbing with a Turkish airlines executive during a reception tied to the United Nations General Assembly at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Turkish Airlines did not respond to requests for comment.

A spokesperson for the mayor had no comment and referred POLITICO to a Tuesday press briefing where Adams said that he is cooperating with the authorities but declined to provide detailed answers to most questions about the probe.

“Whatever the reviewers are looking for, we are fully cooperating with it,” Adams said. “And my role is to allow them to do their job without interference — and I have to do my job of continuing to make sure the city navigates the various issues that we are facing.”

Ibrahim Kurtulus, a prominent member of the New York Turkish community, said the mayor’s ties with Turkish organizations are no different than those of other constituent groups.

“The fact of the matter is that this is an international city. There are many people and many ethnic groups who request that their elected officials hear their concerns and get to know their identities, values and religion,” Kurtulus said in an interview. “I don’t know why the media is cherry picking and singling out the Turkish American community.”

Travel to Turkey was not limited to the mayor.

In October 2022, Frank Carone, then Adams’ chief of staff, took the stage at the real estate conference in Istanbul where Adams spoke virtually to extol the benefits of investing in New York City. He was joined by Edward Mermelstein, the city’s international affairs commissioner, who appeared on a panel and delivered a deadpan summary of the city’s housing challenges.

The trip was paid for by GYODER, a Turkish real estate umbrella group, according to public records and City Hall. While Mermelstein reported it in his annual financial disclosure on file with the city’s ethics board, Carone left it off of his. He told POLITICO that he pays his own way for foreign trips.

A City Hall spokesperson, Charles Lutvak, said the two aides attended to advance New York’s affordable housing work, develop diplomatic relations and improve the city’s global standing.

The FBI’s probe has zeroed in on whether Adams improperly pressed city government officials in 2021 to allow the opening of a $300 million high-rise that housed the Turkish consulate in midtown Manhattan.

As a planned ribbon-cutting approached, fire safety officials refused to give the structure the green light. Adams, who had won the Democratic primary but had not yet taken office at the time, intervened. At the behest of the Turkish consul general, Adams texted then-FDNY Commissioner Daniel Nigro to ask him to look into the issue, and the building was subsequently given a temporary certificate of occupancy.

Later that year, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was on site to snip the ribbon.

Nigro has received a grand jury subpoena and spoken to FBI agents, CNN reported. At a weekly press conference Tuesday, the mayor defended his actions with Nigro as typical and appropriate.

“We reached out because I had the largest Turkish population outside of Paterson, N.J., in this country,” Adams said.

Within weeks of taking office as Brooklyn borough president in 2014, Adams hosted the consul general at Borough Hall and met with his successors six more times over the years. The only country whose representatives he met with more often was China, according to his public schedules.

The New York Turkish consulate’s Instagram page, which dates back to 2019, includes 19 posts featuring Adams, making him one of the more frequent elected officials to grace the profile. In one, posted about six weeks before Adams was sworn in as mayor, Turkey Consul General Reyhan Özgür smiles and shakes hands with Adams in a crosswalk outside the Turkevi Center.

“Consul General Reyhan Özgür briefed Mr Adams on the new state of the art building and offered him a guided tour,” the caption reads. “Expressed special thanks to Mr. Adams for his constant engagement w/t Turkish American community in NYC.”

As borough president, Adams was also featured in articles in Turkish-American media outlets and once expressed his desire to buy property in Istanbul.

His schedules also show four separate events with the Turken Foundation — a group run by family members of Erdoğan, according to a report in THE CITY, which found board members donated thousands of dollars to Adams’s mayoral campaign.

These interactions were part of a yearslong bid to cultivate a relationship with Brooklyn’s ethnic communities as Adams eyed Gracie Mansion. Since becoming mayor, he has continued to show a keen interest in bonding with dignitaries from foreign nations and the associated diasporas in New York City — namely through scores of flag-raising ceremonies.

“He found communities who felt ignored and marginalized and when he saw them and worked with them, they were 10 times more appreciative than a community that expects to be prioritized by government — and so you would get an outpouring of support proportionally larger than their size,” campaign adviser Evan Thies said in an interview. “Some would say that is smart politics, but it is also who Eric is as someone who himself was marginalized and underappreciated.”

Other observers put it more bluntly.

“The man knows how to play the political field,” said Kurtulus, who is involved in the flag-raising ceremonies at Bowling Green Park in Manhattan. “He has turned Bowling Green into campaign headquarters.”

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