This much New Yorkers know to be true: Mayor Eric Adams has never met a function he didn’t like. Unfortunately, we’re also reminded on a weekly basis that the aforementioned is probably the most sympathetic thing about him. At his worst, he’s demanded citizens concerned about an enduring, evolving pandemic to “get back to work;” touted a tough-on-crime agenda that’s prompted a range of violence against the homeless and displaced; and sanctioned slashes on the city’s public school budget, unceremoniously leaving hundreds of people without jobs. At his best, he’s bestowed upon us a vibrant social calendar to talk about and occasionally even giggle at.
There’s nothing wrong with politicians who party without reservation. In fact, I prefer them—even if they aren’t good at their jobs. But according to a New York Times story published Monday that reads like the first 45 minutes of The Batman, there are some obvious patterns in Adams’ social calendar—namely, that the establishment he frequents the most is owned and operated by men whose rap sheets rival those of a comic book villain. This is Gotham, after all.
For 30 nights, a team of Times reporters trailed the mayor as he hit the town and quickly surmised that our “nightlife mayor” has a preferred haunt: Osteria La Baia, an Italian restaurant just paces from Radio City Music Hall that Adams has repeatedly plugged in the press. Of the 22 evenings Adams spent out, 14 of them involved “holding court” and lingering hours after closing time at La Baia.
While it’s noted that the purported vegan does favor the branzino, it’s not the menu that keeps Adams coming back. Rather, it’s his friends, Robert and Zhan Petrosyants, the twin brothers who own the place. La Baia is Adam’s Cheers, only Sam the bartender is plagued by outstanding tax debts, felony convictions and as many legal woes as a certain former president hailing from the Big Apple: The Petrosyant brothers, restauranteurs and longtime friends of Adams, were accused of conspiring with a number of other men to launder money from phony insurance claims through shell companies. As reported by the Times:
According to an indictment filed by federal prosecutors in Brooklyn, Robert Petrosyants owned and managed medical billing companies that received money through false insurance claims, then wrote checks to shell companies that falsely purported to supply medical goods and services. Zhan Petrosyants, known as Johnny, cashed checks written to the shell companies at a check-cashing business in Queens in order to conceal the source and ownership of the money and avoid detection by federal authorities, the indictment said.
Both Petrosyants were charged in the scheme, with Robert receiving a six month sentence in federal prison, and Zhan serving five years of probation. According to the Times, that’s just one of the brothers’ questionable enterprises.
The twins have a storied history of helming restaurants that serve a side of controversy. Woodland, for example, a Brooklyn spot that Adams frequented as Brooklyn borough president, lost its liquor license and closed in 2016 following several excessive noise complaints. Their other culinary ventures have implicated the brothers in myriad suits from landlords, investors and others, to the tune of “hundreds of thousands of dollars.” The Times also found that the twins failed to pay state and federal taxes at times. However, the Petrosyants have reportedly dug deep enough in their couch cushions for occasional campaign donations to Adams, amounting to about $4,000 since 2013.
When at La Baia, Adams entertains a series of guests, including his predecessor, Bill de Blasio, and—naturally—former governor and alleged sexual predator Andrew Cuomo. I suppose The Penguin and Carmine Falcone were unavailable?
“Of course, there is nothing wrong with talking city business at a restaurant,” a spokesman for the mayor told the Times, noting that Adams holds both personal and professional engagements at La Baia.
Sure! There is nothing inherently egregious about talking city business over branzino—other than the fact that I’d personally rather lick the ooze coagulating in every nook and cranny of the subway’s crumbling infrastructure. What is problematic about Adams’ relationship to the restauranteurs is that no one (in Adams’ office or at La Baia) could confirm whether the mayor is actually footing his undoubtedly pricey bills. It’s worth noting that, per the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board, public officials are advised not to accept any valuable gifts that are offered to them.
Zero Bond, an ultra-exclusive members-only club frequented by celebrities and the kind of people Robert Pattinson’s emo Batman would surely beat the hell out of, is another one of Adams’ hangouts. There, he’s met guests—including Atlanta mayor Andre Dickens—who are so V.I.P. that they’ve chatted in a room only accessed via fingerprint scanner.
Like the Petrosyants, the owner of Zero Bond, Scott Sartiano—who was recently appointed to the board of the Metropolitan Museum by Adams himself—declined to show receipts confirming the mayor picks up his own tab.
“What’s going on with the New York Times? Front page of the New York Times, breaking news: Eric likes going to restaurants — c’mon!” the Mayor whined in a press conference in response to the report on Monday. “That was a silly story. You all know it was a silly, silly story.”
Personally, I could care less that Adams like to go to restaurants, or even clubs that scan your retina for entry. But the ethics surrounding his relationships—and how they’re blatantly mutually beneficial in a way that makes my stomach hurt—undoubtedly require further dissection.