By Tandy Lau
Over the past week, Mayor Eric Adams hosted his first and second “Community Conversations on Public Safety” for New Yorkers to voice their concerns to a panel of city officials.
The inaugural meeting was held last Wednesday at Boys and Girls High School in Bed-Stuy, with a second town hall following this past Monday at the Police Athletic League in Harlem. Gathered around tables were school principals, local leaders and law enforcement, who were offered the opportunity to engage amongst each other, as well as funnel questions to the city’s representatives presiding over the forum.
Brooklyn’s meeting kicked off the conversation over topics such as police budget, teacher safety and shelter oversight. Adams played retail manager, proclaiming that city officials “must know customer service” and told folks to reach out to COs, Commissioner Keechant Sewell’s office or even his own if they were treated rudely by the NYPD. He also stressed the importance of more interdepartmental collaboration, ranging from the police commissioner and the chancellor to local superintendents and Department of Sanitation officials. Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, one of the main panelists, was a fan of the event.
“Ongoing dialogue with our community partners is incredibly important to me because it’s essential to understanding the concerns and needs of the people we serve and building trust and confidence in the work of law enforcement,” he said. “I’m grateful to the mayor and his team for providing this forum, and it was a pleasure to share the effective strategies we’re using to continue the progress we’ve made over the past 18 months as shootings and murders have declined in Brooklyn.”
Monday’s Manhattan meeting saw fireworks as a group of participants from the education justice coalition New Yorkers for Racially Just Public Schools directly confronted Adams over slashing the public education budget after they felt like the roundtable discussions were going nowhere. The mayor’s security detail removed them, while a standing Adams pointed at one of the activists, Matt Gonzales and called him a “clown” as he was physically escorted out. The insult was greeted with applause by members of the town hall.
“It felt like a roomful of people that were invited because they would clap for the mayor and not a room full of actual dialogue with the public that would require people to push and challenge and debate,” said Gonzales. “The mayor wasn’t part of the roundtables, he slid in at the end to do his little speech and get claps and to get these like softball questions that were created by his staff. So again, this felt like a farce.”
Gonzales also critiqued the absence of interpreters for non-English speakers present as well as the lack of outreach to the public.
He initially flagged down Adams’ attention by chanting at the mayor, hoping to open a window for a colleague who was recently excessed during the budget cuts to ask a question. He says security was specifically physical with him, hurting his shoulder in the process.
At the meetings, Adams also backtracked on his crusade against drill rap, specifying that he only opposes a specific form of the genre where the artist kills someone and makes a track taunting the victim’s family, causing a cycle of retaliation. He’s moved onto targeting social media, which he repeatedly identified as a root cause of youth violence. Adams says sites are fueling feuds amongst young people over “millions of views.”
“Social media is irresponsible, and we need to hold them responsible,” he said at Monday’s meeting. “If they can take Donald Trump off of Twitter, then they can take [off] some of this threatening behavior that they see everyday.”
Tandy Lau is a Report for America corps member and writes about public safety for the Amsterdam News. Your donation to match our RFA grant helps keep him writing stories like this one; please consider making a tax-deductible gift today by visiting: https://tinyurl.com/fcszwj8w