Mayor Eric Adams announced Thursday that he has appointed a “gun violence czar” to tackle a scourge of Big Apple shootings that is only expected to worsen as the summer heat approaches.
Adams tapped Andre T. Mitchell—the founder of Brooklyn anti-violence group Man Up! which city investigators previously concluded had misused funds—for the role.
“Today I am announcing a new task force … that will be co-chaired by AT Mitchell,” Adams, a former cop and state senator, said during a gun violence awareness month rally outside City Hall, touting his 20 years of experience in anti -gun violence efforts.
The task force — formed via Executive Order 19 signed Thursday — will be co-chaired by Deputy Mayor for Strategic Initiatives Sheena Wright, and all of his deputy mayors will be on the panel, Adams said.
“This is an all-hands-on-deck moment,” the mayor told the crowd, noting the involvement in the new initiative of every city agency via a liaison.
According to the executive order, the Task Force will meet every week to:
- “Learn from communities most impacted by gun violence
- Inventory existing programming and services and identify the need for any additional programming and services
- Identify and recommend opportunities to expand successful programs into new neighborhoods and communities
- Coordinate actions and responses among City agencies
- Facilitate community-driven solutions and direct new investments
- Ensure collaboration between City government and impacted communities
Mitchell vaguely labeled his strategies to combat gun violence as “a community-driven approach” that would “bring resources into the neighborhoods.”
“Thank you to Mayor Adams for naming me to be the gun violence prevention czar,” he told the crowd to applause. “It’s a new title, it’s the first ever, and it should be.
“We should want some things that are different,” he added. “We’ve been dealing with this issue for far too long, and we’ve been using the same tactics over and over again and getting the same results. So no one should have a problem with us trying something different.”
The New York Times on Wednesday first reported that Mitchell will serve in the position, which is sometimes named “gun violence prevention chair” in city documents. Mitchell will not be paid in that role, according to a City Hall spokesman and Mitchell.
In 2019, the city Department of Investigation found that Mitchell’s mentoring and community outreach group — which has received $26.6 million in city funding since 2010 — had significant financial irregularities.
The Brownsville-raised Mitchell, 55, who was convicted of first-degree manslaughter in 1988 for killing that he says he did not commit, formed Man Up! more than a decade after being spoken in 1992.
The organization he started in 2004 after the murder of an 8-year-old boy in Brooklyn employs the “Cure Violence” model, seeking to intervene in disputes before they potentially turn deadly.
Man Up! also conducts job assistance, after-school programs in East New York and nearby neighborhoods, according to reports and its website.
As nonprofit news outlet The City reported at the time, investigators discovered that Mitchell allegedly used money from the group for personal use and gave jobs to family members. During the previous two years, over $15,000 from credit card and delivery sales raised by an East New York coffee shop run by the group ended up in Mitchell’s personal bank account, they reported.
According to the June 2019 DOI memo, Man Up!’s payroll included Mitchell’s daughter as a $65,000-a-year “director of administration” and his son as a $30,000-a-year “program instructor.”
The city DOI Inspector General at the time recommended that the Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice require Man Up! to create a “corrective action plan” to make sure that it is able to spend public money in an above-board fashion, and fix previous errors in its tax documents, according to The City.
Currently, Man Up! holds at least four city contracts, records show.
Adams on Wednesday afternoon brushed aside Mitchell’s checkered past.
“People say, ‘Well, what about his background?’ Well what about my background?” said the mayor, who was arrested for breaking into the home of a sex worker when he was 15 and brutally beaten by officers in a Queens NYPD precinct.
“We’re not looking for a nun,” he went on. “We’re looking for the right person for the job.”
“There’s a lot of noise out there. Everybody’s going to critique us,” he later added. “Everybody’s going to say, ‘Why did you pick that one, why did you pick that?’ Because I’m the mayor,” Adams said, using what’s become a catchphrase of his tenure thus far.
Asked by The Post about Mitchell’s history, Adams touted his “30-year relationship” with him and insisted he was the “right person for the job.”
“I don’t want people to send me their resume and tell me what they did that other people know about. I only had to vet one person: AT Mitchel,” Adams insisted of his new czar. “He was the right person for the job because of my relationship [with him] being on the ground.
“I don’t have to find people; I have relationships with people,” Adams added.
The mayor added of the city probe, “The DOI did their investigation, they came up with recommendations. I think the best recommendation is the recommendation I gave my team, which is that AT Mitchel is the right person to do this job.”
Following the rally, Mitchell bristled at reporters’ questions on the investigation, insisting they were overlooking his work attempting to reduce gun violence.
“After 14 years of doing that — which none of you are talking about – the success of the organization which we have in place in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods for the last 18 years, after 14 years, we had an inquiry,” he said.
“Understanding. I mean, it came about, we complied, we listened to whatever their recommendations were. We kept it moving, just continue to do the work,” Mitchell added. “There was no crime, there was no illegality. There was none of those things discovered. I don’t understand why that’s still an issue, when in fact we’ve actually grown since 2019?”
“We didn’t know everything, so we learned from our mistakes and we kept moving and that’s what we’ve been doing.”
The announcement comes after a bloody Memorial Day weekend in which 23 people were shot across the city, authorities said.
During the warmer summer months, gun violence has historically increased. And during a recent TV interview, Adams said he was “concerned” about an increase in crime over the summer. during the typically bloody warmer months.
“The summer months are difficult months, and we are concerned about them, because you want to win January, February, [and] March,” he told “PIX on Politics” in April.
In 2020, shootings nearly doubled from April to May — 56 to 100 — before more than doubling from May to June, 100 to 205, The Post previously reported.
It also comes after Adams in March rolled out a revamped version of the plainclothes anti-crime units disbanded in 2020 named Neighborhood Safety Teams — a hybrid plainclothes police squad to combat gun violence in the Big Apple and a key part of Adams’ crime-fighting plan released in January.
Additional reporting by Nolan Hicks