Mayor Eric Adams, like many New Yorkers, believes that his city is the center of the universe, and he also thinks that there was a God-given reason he was chosen to lead it — and not some random Podunk town.
To make his point, Mr. Adams on Tuesday mentioned a particular place: Topeka, Kan.
“God said, ‘I’m going to take the most broken person and I’m going to elevate him to the place of being the mayor of the most powerful city on the globe,’” Mr. Adams said. “He could have made me the mayor of Topeka, Kansas. He could have made me the mayor of some small town or village somewhere.”
Topeka’s mayor was not impressed.
A day after Mr. Adams made his comments, Michael Padilla, the mayor of Topeka, a city with a population of 126,587,returned The New York Times’s request for a response, characterizing Mr. Adams’s comments as “concerning and unprofessional.”
“He could make his points without trying to diminish our great city, and I wish he would,” Mr. Padilla said on Wednesday. “As Topeka’s mayor, and as a lifelong member of this community, I am so proud of who we are, and what we stand for.”
A spokesman for Mr. Adams had no immediate reply. But as Mr. Padilla noted in his statement, this was not the first time Mr. Adams had used Kansas as a foil.
During a September news briefing about recent visits to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, Mr. Adams argued that one of New York City’s virtues was that it has a brand name, unlike Kansas.
“Kansas doesn’t have a brand,” he said at the time. “When you go there, OK, you’re from Kansas. No. Ah, well, you know what? But New York has a brand. It has a brand and that brand means diversity. That brand means we care. That brand means that we are compassionate.”
The comment made headlines in Kansas, known as the Sunflower State, where political leaders rose in their state’s defense.
Gov. Laura Kelly of Kansas — perhaps not aware that Mr. Adams professes to follow a plant-based diet — even had some of her family members personally deliver a gift basket containing Kansas steak to Gracie Mansion, the New York mayor’s official residence, she said in an October interview.
“We appreciate Governor Kelly reaching out,” Mr. Adams’s spokesman, Fabien Levy, said at the time. “Our teams are working to set up a time for a call between her and Mayor Adams and hope to schedule that soon. We also appreciate the Kansas delicacies sent to Gracie Mansion, although the steaks will obviously have to be donated.”
Mayor Padilla on Wednesday trumpeted his city’s role as the “birthplace of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case that outlawed segregation in America’s public schools,” and he offered the mayor some advice.
“One of the best lessons I’ve learned in my tenure as mayor is the value of humility,” Mr. Padilla said. “I’ve personally visited New York City on numerous occasions, and have always spoken highly of New Yorkers — never stooping to assumptions or stereotypes. I’d invite the mayor of New York to get to know our beautiful city and its people before casting judgment on a community he seems to know little about.”
Katie Glueck and Ed Shanahan contributed reporting.