Does one of the front-runners to be the next mayor of New York City live in New York City – and if so, where exactly?
Those were the questions Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams addressed on Wednesday as he spoke to reporters in front of the three-unit building he called “my primary residence.” Adams then allowed the press inside, where he offered tours of his basement apartment on Lafayette Avenue in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.
“This is my block, my neighbors,” Adams said. “I’m proud to be a resident of Bed-Stuy.”
The news conference had been called hours earlier, less than a day after Politico published a report that questioned where Adams – who often sleeps in his Brooklyn office and owns a co-op in Fort Lee, New Jersey, with his partner – actually lives. The story followed earlier accounts, in other outlets, that raised uncertainty over where Adams spends his off-hours. He has also been listed as the owner of another residence, in Brooklyn’s Prospect Heights, adding to the confusion.
Asked about the Prospect Heights home, Adams said he “signed off the property” to the woman he had initially purchased it with years ago. “I no longer own it,” he added.
Adams’ addressing of the controversy comes just days before early voting in New York City’s Democratic mayoral primary begins on Saturday, with election day on June 22. The Brooklyn Borough president is believed to be narrowly leading the pack of more than a dozen primary contenders, including: Andrew Yang, the 2020 presidential candidate; former sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia; civil rights lawyer Maya Wiley, a former counsel to term-limited Mayor Bill de Blasio; New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer; and others. The election will be the city’s first major contest decided by ranked-choice voting, which has further complicated an already volatile and increasingly tempestuous campaign.
Both Wiley and Yang responded to the Politico story by addressing questions, via press release, to Adams. Wiley’s list began and ended with “WTF?!?!” and also asked whether Adams lived in New Jersey. Yang pressed for Adams to release his E-ZPass records – which might, in theory, trace his travels if he was consistently driving between New York and New Jersey. Both campaigns also suggested that Adams had misused his official Borough Hall office as a campaign base.
Stringer heaped on later, calling for Adams to release more information and saying that details about where his rival lives seem “to vary by the day.”
Speaking to reporters, Adams denied those charges and said he had seen his partner, Tracey Collins, an educator who works in the city, only once over the last two months. Adams slept in Brooklyn Borough Hall during the darkest days of the pandemic last year and has been fiercely critical of Yang for moving upstate with his family during parts of that same period. On Wednesday, Adams said he now stays most nights in his Bed-Stuy home.
The idea that he lives elsewhere is “silly,” the candidate argued, given that something of that nature would have surely come out during the course of a heated primary.
“How foolish would someone have to be to run to be the mayor of the city of New York and live in another municipality,” Adams said. “It’s 101 that someone is going to follow me throughout this entire campaign.”
He reiterated that message to CNN’s Don Lemon on “Don Lemon Tonight” Wednesday evening, stating: “Let’s be very clear: I’m a New Yorker.”
“I live in Brooklyn, New York, and I live in a beautiful, little, small, modest building on the block,” Adams said.
During Wednesday’s news conference, he also introduced his son, Jordan, who said he’s working on his master’s at Brooklyn College and sometimes crashes at his father’s apartment, despite living in New Jersey.
Adams became emotional at the beginning of his remarks, explaining that his desire for privacy was rooted in an incident where he believed he was targeted in a shooting when Jordan was a newborn.
“Someone pulled up next to my car, called my name, I looked to the left. And I saw an automatic weapon,” Adams said, pausing as he choked up. “He let off a shot. Instead of hitting me, he shot out my back window.”
Adams has previously suggested that the incident was connected to his public advocacy for police reform. Before entering politics, Adams retired as a captain in the New York Police Department. He was a sergeant at the time of the shooting, in 1996.
“That is my secrecy,” Adams said. “My secrecy is my family. I signed up for this life. They did not sign up for this life.”
He also responded, before allowing reporters inside the apartment, to a story published in May by City Limits that included conversation with 15 people “living in or visiting buildings near Adams’” apartment – in which only one knew that the Lafayette Avenue apartment was his.
“When you ask people on this block, ‘Do you know Eric Adams?,’ first find out, were they here more than a week,” Adams said. “Find out how long they’ve been here.”
This story has been updated with additional information Wednesday.