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NYC Mayor Adams likens complaining constituent to plantation owner

Jun 30, 2023

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New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) faced criticism and demands for answers regarding the city’s housing crisis during a community conversation held earlier this week. Residents raised concerns about rent increases on rent-stabilized apartments.

The frustration peaked when one housing activist accused Adams of being controlled by the real estate industry, citing two years of rent hikes on rent-stabilized apartments. In response, the mayor likened the activist to a slave owner, further escalating tensions.

“If you’re going to ask a question, don’t point at me, and don’t be disrespectful to me. I’m the mayor of this city,” Adams said during the event. “Treat me with the respect that I deserve to be treated. I’m speaking with you as an adult. Don’t stand in front like you’re treating someone that’s on a plantation that you own.”

The rent increases in question, which included three percent hikes on one-year leases, will impact approximately two million people residing in rent-stabilized apartments across the city. Adams defended these increases, asserting that they were necessary due to rising upkeep costs faced by small property owners. He clarified that he does not control the Rent Guidelines Board, the body responsible for approving the rent increases, but he does appoint its members.

Following the incident, Fabien Levy, a spokesperson for the mayor issued a statement, in which he claimed that the Adams administration is actively working on “advancing comprehensive plans to build more homes, faster, and across the city.” The statement also accused “anyone who believes this mayor isn’t fighting for tenants” of not “paying attention” to his recent actions.

However, housing advocates, including Jeanie Dubnau, the individual who confronted Adams at the community meeting, have criticized the rent hikes as being unreasonably high, particularly at a time when many New Yorkers are already struggling.

“It was a complete deflection from what I was saying because he has no answer,” Dubnau said of the mayor’s response to the concerns she voiced during the town hall event. “You know, Mayor Adams is a landlord stooge and the enemy of tenants in New York City.”

Dubnau, an 84-year-old housing activist and molecular biologist whose family fled Europe during the Holocaust, described the increases as a “disaster” for seniors residing in the city. She hopes that her exchange with Adams will make New Yorkers realize that “he’s more pro-landlord than any other mayor [the city has] had recently.”

“The major issue is that he was elected by being supported by millions of dollars from real estate, and now he is going to cause the evictions of thousands and thousands of New Yorkers,” Dubnau said.

Meanwhile, this is not the first time Adams has pointed to his race as a reason for backlash he has faced. During the 2021 New York City mayoral primary, he asserted that his opponents, Andrew Yang and Kathryn Garcia, had conspired to prevent a “person of color” from winning.

“For them to come together like they are doing in the last three days, they’re saying we can’t trust a person of color to be the mayor of the City of New York when this city is overwhelmingly people of color,” Adams said.

More recently, Adams claimed that there was a “coordinated” effort to prevent him from securing a second term, driven by individuals unhappy with having a Black mayor in the city.

“There’s a body of people who were pleased with 30 years without having a mayor that looked like me,” Adams said during a press conference earlier this month. “I upset a lot of people with my appointments, with my initiatives, with my challenges — and just who I am. We can’t pretend as though, to some in the city, I don’t fit the mold of what a mayor should be.”

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