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Morning Spew

Eric Adams Compares New Yorker Mad About Rising Rents to a Plantation Owner

A town hall got testy last night, and more news for your Thursday.

9:03 AM EDT on June 29, 2023

NYC Mayor Eric Adams in a blue baseball cap and white button-down, giving a thumbs up in front of a blue curtain.

New York City Mayor hosts “Talk with Eric: A Community Conversation. Wednesday, June 28, 2023. (Benny Polatseck / Mayoral Photography Office)

At a town hall meeting on public safety held by Mayor Eric Adams in Washington Heights on Wednesday night, the proceedings got a little testy when someone in the audience brought up the problem of rising rents. 

"You raised the rent!" a woman yelled, interrupting Adams as he was talking about Albany's failure this year to address the housing crisis. "I don't control the board, I make appointments, they make the decision, everyone knows I don't control the board," he replied, referring to the Rent Guidelines Board, which recently approved rent increases for the second year in a row for rent-stabilized tenants. (Adams was being a little dishonest here: As two researchers recently put it, the RGB members act as "extensions of the mayor's housing agenda.") 

Adams's response clearly didn't satisfy this one New Yorker, who appeared to be an older white woman and who was later identified as the long-time tenant advocate Jeanie Dubnau. "Why in New York City, where the real estate is controlling you, Mr. Mayor, why are we having these horrible rent increases last year and this year?" she asked. 

This was too much for Adams. "Okay, first, if you gonna ask a question, don't point at me and don't be disrespectful to me. I'm the mayor of this city, and treat me with the respect that I deserve to be treated," Adams replied, as people began applauding. "I'm speaking to you as an adult. Don't stand in front like you treated someone that's on the plantation that you own." (The applause abruptly stopped.)

Adams continued, "Give me the respect I deserve, and engage in the conversation. Up here in Washington Heights, treat me with the same level of respect I treat you. So don't be pointing at me, don't be disrespectful to me, speak with me as an adult, because I'm a grown man. I walked into this room as a grown man, and I'm gonna walk out of this room as a grown man. I answered your question."

Yes, that's the mayor of New York City, comparing a rightfully cranky New Yorker who was asking a valid question about housing affordability, to a slaveowner. It's part of a pattern for the increasingly thin-skinned Adams, who recently has taken to comparing himself to Kunta Kinte and Denzel Washington's character in "Glory." If this is how Adams responds to critiques from New Yorkers, maybe there's a reason he, unlike his predecessor, keeps his rare town halls tightly controlled and refuses to go on "The Brian Lehrer Show," where he would be forced to answer questions from constituents. (Ugh, why would a mayor want to do that?) 

But Adams has reason to feel a little sensitive, okay? According to a recent Siena poll conducted last week, more and more New Yorkers aren't too pleased with his performance in office—only 46 percent of New York City voters have a favorable opinion of Adams, and 39 percent have an unfavorable opinion (15 percent had no opinion at all). As the Daily News noted, his numbers are trending downwards: 

That compares to the 49% favorability rating he scored in a similar analysis conducted by Siena pollsters in mid-May. That poll put his unfavourability at 35%, meaning that unflattering metric has trended in the wrong direction for the mayor in the past month, too.

And in a bigger worrying sign for Adams, his support among Black voters statewide has cratered since this spring:

Just 29% of African-American voters surveyed gave Adams the thumbs up, while 50% said they hold an unfavorable view of him. In a sharp contrast, Black voters statewide gave the moderate Democrat mayor a 59%-16% approval-disapproval index in the mid-May survey.

Ouch. What might have changed in a month? Well, for starters, there could be how he failed to condemn the killing of Jordan Neely by the former Marine Daniel Penny in early May, instead arguing, "We cannot just blanketly say what a passenger should or should not do in a situation like that." Maybe it was his push to switch the City's retired employees to a shittier health care plan, or his plans to cut public library funding. And yes, allowing his RGB members to raise rents on two million rent-stabilized tenants probably didn't help. 

Or maybe Jordan Neely's uncle, Christopher Neely, captured some of the mood when he told the New York Post last month, "I don't know any mayor who parties and bullshits like Adams. Nobody Black that's in the neighborhood really believes in him. It's more him partying at night and coming home at 4 or 5 a.m." 

And some links with high favorability ratings for your Thursday:

  • Speaking of that library funding—much like the president pardoning Thanksgiving turkeys, Mayor Adams and the City Council have reached a deal to restore Adams's library funding cuts
  • Gothamist interviewed Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie about why Sammy's Law didn't pass this year, and he gave a very strange answer: "They'd like to see more enforcement, not only of reckless drivers, but also of the e-bikes. That got raised in the conference. Some members are saying they'd like more coordination when they make requests for speed bumps and other traffic mitigation. They just would like to be more involved and included in discussions that (the Department of Transportation) is doing in their districts."
  • Speaking of traffic, congestion pricing is happening, spring of 2024.
  • Go download AirNow, people!
  • Via the Daily News: "Jordan Williams, the Queens man charged with manslaughter for stabbing an ex-con harassing his girlfriend on the J train, will not face prosecution, his lawyer and Brooklyn prosecutors confirmed Wednesday after it was determined that he acted in self-defense."
  • "The Secret Deal for a Tribal Casino and Why It Imploded"
  • Godspeed to everyone who tries to pee in the subway bathrooms at 7:01 p.m.
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