Adams says press inquires first alerted him to Manhattan DA probe into Eric Ulrich

Mayor Eric Adams (right) and city Department of Buildings Commissioner Eric Ulrich.
Photos courtesy of Caroline Willis/Mayoral Photo Office and Emil Cohen/NYC Council

Mayor Eric Adams said Wednesday that he wasn’t aware that city Department of Buildings (DOB) Commissioner Eric Ulrich was involved in an ongoing criminal investigation by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office focussed on an illegal gambling ring until his office started getting inquiries from reporters about it Tuesday.

“When you guys started calling around with tips, we had no idea. We got notified like you did,” Adams said while taking questions from reporters following an unrelated news conference. 

“I think reporters were calling the team, that’s when I became aware of it yesterday,” he added.

Citing a packed schedule, hizzoner said he hasn’t spoken to Ulrich since investigators executed a search warrant at his Rockaway Park home Tuesday and seized his cell phone, as first reported by The New York Times. But, he said, City Hall Chief Counsel Brendan McGuire has been communicating with the buildings commissioner since news of the Manhattan DA probe broke.

“My chief counsel has communicated with him,” Adams said. “And I don’t know if you guys look at my schedule but [from] sunup to sundown, I’m all over the place. I haven’t had a chance.”

Adams also said no one from the Manhattan DA’s office has spoken to him about why Ulrich is under investigation, but made it clear that he should be fully cooperating with the probe.

Ulrich took the reins at the city’s buildings department in May, after joining the administration as a senior advisor at the beginning of the year. Before joining the new mayor’s team, Ulrich served as a Republican City Council member representing the Rockaways and southeast Queens from 2009 to 2021.

When pressed by a reporter about whether Ulrich should remain in charge of the Buildings Department amid the probe, Adams responded that it’s too early in the process to make any determination about Ulrich’s future leading the agency.

“Number one, Eric is still the commissioner there,” Adams said. “Number two, I really think that this is really so early for us to be saying ‘should we, shouldn’t we, should we, shouldn’t we, should we?’ The DA’s office is going to do their review and that review will determine how to move forward.”

It still isn’t clear what gambling activity Ulrich is being investigated for or if it’s part of a larger probe, but the Times reported that the activity in question predates his tenure in the Adams administration. Ulrich hasn’t been charged with a crime.

According to a report from PoliticsNY sister publication amNewYork Metro, Ulrich’s public financial disclosures from his decade plus as a City Council member reveal he had raked in between $5,000 and $49,999 annually from gambling on the New York Lottery.

A spokesperson for the Manhattan DA’s office declined to comment on the state of the investigation.