Skip to Content
Streetsblog New York City home
Streetsblog New York City home
Log In
Congestion Pricing

Full Court Press by Mayor for Congestion Pricing Foe Randy Mastro

Pay no attention to that lawyer behind the curtain fighting for New Jersey, the mayor's team said on Tuesday, channeling the Wizard of Oz.

Photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office|

Mayor Adams on Tuesday discussed Randy Mastro at great length, but left his team to defend his apparent pick for corporation counsel.

Pay no attention to that lawyer behind the curtain fighting for New Jersey.

Under fire from reporters seeking to understand why Mayor Adams would consider appointing former Giuliani administration official and congestion pricing opponent Randy Mastro to a key post, the Adams administration mounted a brisk, full-throated and clearly pre-planned defense of the “top-notch, world-renowned lawyer.”

Mayor Adams was asked at least six times about Mastro at his weekly press conference, with reporters trying many tacks to get Hizzoner to address Mastro’s history of controversial clients, including the state of New Jersey as it seeks to halt congestion pricing.

The mayor deflected the questions, saying that Mastro has not yet been appointed corporation counsel. 

“Once we decide who we put forward we’re going to announce it publicly,” said the mayor.

Even so, Chief Counsel Lisa Zornberg launched, virtually unprompted, into a full briefing on Mastro’s career, defending him from those who say his list of corporate clients is shameful. 

“Randy's ... given tremendous service already in the past to New York City and to the people of New York,” said Zornberg. “Randy Mastro’s service, pro-bono work, civic engagement has been vast. He chairs the Citizens Union. … He has been the vice chair of the Legal Aid Society, he has done a ton of pro-bono work including racial justice cases.”

She even compared Mastro to second U.S. president John Adams, who, as a lawyer, once defended British officers accused of murder after the Boston Massacre. Zornberg said that Mastro, like Adams, took on the “hard cases.” 

“That is what makes the United States spectacular,” said Zornberg.

Mastro’s list of corporate clients makes him a bitter pill to swallow for progressives. If he is appointed, he will face strong opposition in the majority Democrat City Council, which must approve any nominee for corporation counsel.

The chair of the Progressive Caucus, Council Member Sandy Nurse, told the Daily News that she would not support Mastro and would encourage her fellow progressives to follow her lead. 

The Council’s 34-member Black, Latino and Asian Caucus issued a statement on X, calling the potential appointment of Mastro, “An affront to the principles of public service we all hold dear." The Caucus represents a majority of the Council, so if it votes as a bloc, Mastro won't be confirmed.

Streetsblog readers will remember Mastro as the pro-bono lawyer who helped those opposing a Prospect Park West Bike Lane, or for helping wealthy Upper West Side residents who threatened to sue the city because homeless New Yorkers were relocated to a hotel in their neighborhood to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Currently Mastro is the lead lawyer in an ongoing case where the state of New Jersey is suing New York for implementing congestion pricing.

Under questioning from Streetsblog, Adams refused to address whether Mastro’s involvement in the congestion pricing case would have any effect on the city’s plans to implement the toll given the mayor's continued concerns.

“We cannot demonize attorneys that represent their clients,” he said.

But Mastro is more than just a hired mouthpiece; Reuters reported that Mastro's law firm steeply discounted the price of his labor to argue on New Jersey's behalf in the congestion pricing case, a suggestion that Mastro is more than just a lawyer paid to represent a client.

The corporation counsel defends the city, its agencies, the Council, and the mayor. If approved by the Council, Mastro would succeed Sylvia Hinds-Radix, a former judge who has been serving in the role for over two years. Radix learned from the press that Mayor Adams planned to replace her amid tensions about how she planned to defend him amid multiple possible charges, according to the New York Post. That news prompted her to resign. 

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog New York City

MTA’s Demotes OMNY Contractor Cubic In Hopes of Speeding Up Commuter Rail Fare Integration

Officials are giving up on Cubic's delayed plans to bring Metro-North and the LIRR into the OMNY-verse.

May 20, 2024

Microtranist Is Taxpayer Funded Uber, Advocates Warn — And It’s a Threat to Real Transit

American cities are falling for the "false promise" of microtransit, a top transportation union argues — and we're all going to be the ones who pay for it.

May 20, 2024

Monday’s Headlines: Road Safety is No Accident Edition

There were two big stories over the weekend — and both were about street safety. Plus other news.

May 20, 2024

Garbage Company Involved in Fatal Crash Will Ply Streets of Eastern Queens, Too

The private garbage company whose truck driver struck and killed a Manhattan pedestrian on Thursday according to police has won the right to pick up trash in a wide swath of Southeast Queens, raising concern for safety there.

May 17, 2024

Friday’s Headlines: Fleet Week Edition

Some good news about the city fleet. Plus other news from a busy day.

May 17, 2024
See all posts