On the heels of announcing an expansive policy to remove some mentally ill homeless New Yorkers from city streets against their will, Mayor Eric Adams was not waiting around to watch the immediate fallout: He was to leave Wednesday morning for a four-day trip to Greece and Qatar.
International travel is nothing new for New York City mayors, who often find reason to conduct city business abroad.
Mr. Adams has found two such reasons. In Athens, he will headline the second annual mayors’ summit of a new group called the Combat Antisemitism Movement. The trip to Qatar on Thursday has been cast as something of a fact-finding mission at the 2022 World Cup, with New York City/New Jersey one of 11 U.S. host sites for the 2026 games.
The administration has not released many details of the Doha trip, including who the mayor is meeting with, what events he will attend, and how much the trip will ultimately cost taxpayers. A spokesman said Mr. Adams would not be available for interviews during his World Cup visit, because his schedule is “packed.”
Mr. Adams said on Tuesday that he needed to be on the ground at the World Cup this year, rather than send an aide in his place, for the same reason he occasionally rides the subway and visits homeless shelters.
“I go on the ground to observe,” he said. “You have to be on the ground to see what’s going on.”
For Mr. Adams, the trip satisfies one of his peripheral passions. As Brooklyn borough president, he traveled to places like Turkey, China, and Azerbaijan; as a state senator, he drew unwelcome attention for a trip to South Korea.
As mayor-elect, he visited Ghana. A few months earlier, he vacationed in Monaco. And when he went to San Juan in 2021 for a Democratic confab, he flew on the private jet of Brock Pierce, the child actor turned cryptocurrency investor, which Politico first reported. Mr. Adams said he repaid Mr. Pierce for the flight, but declined to provide receipts.
Antisemitism in America
Antisemitism is one of the longest-standing forms of prejudice, and those who monitor it say it is now on the rise across the country.
Details about the trip to Greece and Qatar, which was finalized last week, were slow to emerge.
The conference’s hosts will pay for the commercial flights to Athens and to Doha for the mayor and Joel Eisdorfer, a senior adviser to the mayor focused on Jewish outreach, who will accompany the mayor along with a police detail, according to a City Hall spokesman.
The spokesman said the Qatar leg of the journey is being treated as a stopover on the New York-to-Athens flight itinerary, even though Qatar is roughly 2,000 miles in the opposite direction. The hosts will also pay for their hotel in Athens.
Representatives from the city’s tourism and economic development arms might also join the mayor in Qatar, the spokesman said. Their respective agencies — both technically nonprofits — will pay for the officials’ travel.
Once in Qatar, the mayor will pay for his own lodging, as will Mr. Eisdorfer, according to the spokesman. He did not say how much the police detail would cost taxpayers.
The mayor’s meetings in Qatar will not be open to the press. Nor will the mayor be available for interviews.
“His schedule is packed back to back,” his spokesman, Fabien Levy, wrote in a text message. “Won’t have time for in-person on the ground.”
Kenneth Sherrill, a professor emeritus of political science at Hunter College, said the appearance at the antisemitism event was the “kind of symbolic act that a mayor of New York would normally do.”
“Showing solidarity with Israel or with Jews is important in New York City, there’s no questioning that,” Professor Sherrill said.
Of the World Cup trip, the professor added, “There is no reason to go. But since he’s in the neighborhood, it’s nice and neighborly and an opportunity to have a good time.”
While Mr. Adams is overseas, he has designated his first deputy mayor, Lorraine Grillo, to serve as the de facto mayor. Still, by leaving the country, Mr. Adams is taking a calculated risk that nothing major will happen in New York City in his absence or as he is leaving. That risk-reward calculus has not always worked out for his predecessors.
The day after an on-duty police officer was killed in 2017, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Mr. Adams’s predecessor, flew to Germany to visit his son and to protest then-President Donald J. Trump at the G20 summit. The decision earned him ample criticism and heightened tensions with the Police Department.
Mr. Adams created his own news cycle on Tuesday, announcing that the city would launch a major effort to remove people with severe, untreated mental illness from the city’s streets and subways. Some will be hospitalized involuntarily, even if they do not pose an immediate risk of harm to others.
When Mr. Adams’s office announced his Athens travel plans, it noted that it was in mid-November that the police arrested two armed men in Pennsylvania Station who had threatened to attack a synagogue. His trip abroad also comes after the former president of the United States dined with antisemites and leading Republican officials declined to condemn him.
At the conference, at the Grand Hyatt Athens, Mr. Adams will feature prominently. He is headlining the welcome dinner on Wednesday night and will deliver opening remarks on Thursday morning.
The conference’s goal, according to its organizers, is to “offer innovative and pragmatic solutions to protect and foster Jewish life and build an inclusive and democratic global future, free of prejudice and bigotry, for all humanity.”
Mr. Adams will likely be the highest-profile United States mayor in attendance. The mayors of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, Beverly Hills, California, Englewood, New Jersey, and Richmond, Virginia, among others, will also participate.
An invitation for the event lists several co-hosts, including the City of Athens and the Jewish Federations of North America. The Combat Antisemitism Movement, which is apparently the principal host, has substantial ties to the Beren family, which controls Berexco, a Kansas-based oil and gas company, and is a major donor to the Republican Party, according to The Forward, a Jewish news organization.
Mr. Adams’s spokesman said the mayor will not be seeing his son, Jordan Coleman while he is in Greece. Mr. Coleman, a rapper who goes by the name Jayoo, has been competing in an American Idol-style contest in neighboring Albania.
In June, FIFA announced that the New York/New Jersey region will be one of 16 North American locations to host the 2026 World Cup. Mr. Adams’s office said FIFA and Qatar invited officials to this year’s World Cup.
Spokesmen for the mayors of Atlanta, Boston, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle all said they had no plans to travel to Qatar. Representatives for the mayors of Dallas and Miami did not respond to requests for comment. Phil Murphy, the New Jersey governor who will co-host some element of the 2026 World Cup with New York City, is also not flying to Qatar.
But his office did say that an administration official will participate on his behalf in the “FIFA World Cup Experience Observer Programme,” which gives future hosts a sense of the day-to-day operational demands of the tournament.
Mr. Adams may be the only U.S. mayor representing a 2026 World Cup host city who will personally attend this year’s event.
Emma G. Fitzsimmons contributed reporting.