Brooklyn: What do you know about your new borough president Eric Adams?
If you were a resident during the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s, then you might remember Adams most as the outspoken NYPD police officer who also co-founded 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care.
Or perhaps you remember him most prominently as the state senator of Brooklyn’s 20th District, who took a huge stand against Stop and Frisk and who strongly supported marriage equality.
Or perhaps, you don’t know much about Eric Adams at all…
A native of Brooklyn, Eric Adams spent the first half of his childhood growing up on Gates and Franklin avenues in Bed-Stuy. The other part of his childhood he spent in Queens. Adams is the fourth of 6 children– four boys and two girls. And although his family struggled financially, he remembers a childhood that was happy.
“We grew up struggling. But since everybody was struggling, you didn’t realize you were struggling,” said Adams. “And I had a very loving parents, so we didn’t realize it was hard times until the period of reflection.”
Adams attended Bayside High School and then NYC College of Technology with the intention of working in the field of computer technology.
“Probably one of the most important decisions I made as a child was learning how to type,” said Adams. “I bought a typing book and started practicing to type. It was a game-changer. And when I look back now at my greatest personal asset, it was the ability to type and use a computer early, which is why I was always attracted to technology.”
The tech field might have been his personal career goal, but someone else had other plans for him.
The Rev. Herbert Daughtry of House of the Lord Church, along with a group of community leaders, recruited Adams and 12 other young black professional to train as law enforcement officers, after the 1976 murder of Randolph Evans, an unarmed teen who was shot at point-blank range by a police officer in the Cypress Hills Housing Projects.
“Reverend Daughtry wanted young black men to go into the law enforcement agencies and do something productive,” said Adams. “Although we were reluctant to do so, we had a lot of respect for the reverend, Jitu Weusi, Job Mashiriki and Charles Barron… so we followed suit.”
Adams enrolled in John Jay College of Criminal Justice, graduated and then joined the New York City Police Department.
“We all wanted to do different things. But we had very clear instructions,” said Adams. “So the creation of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement and the Guardians was really part of the marching orders. We had to go in and organize law enforcement officers of color to be the voice for the community.”
As a police officer, Adams was an outspoken activist for social justice and a common figure in the media circuit.
“After awhile, people began to notice who I was and started encouraging me to get into politics, and I was extremely dismissive of it,” said Adams. “Then David Dinkins was elected, and I realized that something is just missing… I didn’t feel we were really touching the needs of people.”
So Adams decided to take a swing at political life. He earned his master’s degree in public administration from Marist College. And in 2006, he ran for the position of state senator, taking over the seat occupied by Carl Andrews.
He served as state senator for six years, from 2007 until 2013, when he decided to run for Brooklyn Borough president, a position occupied by Marty Markowitz.
Markowitz was known to most as an affable, popular and larger-than-life public official who played a big role in helping accelerate the borough’s growth by inviting film, retail and commercial development into Brooklyn.
But Marty had served for eight years in the role and had reached the end of his term limit. And whoever stepped up next could only assume they’d have some pretty big shoes to fill.
Adams stepped up to the plate. He ran unopposed for the position. And on January 1, 2014, Eric Adams became Brooklyn’s first African-American Borough President.
Between Markowitz and Adams, outwardly, there couldn’t be more differences in personality, governance and style. Even Adams admits, he and Markowtiz have two very distinct styles.
“We were very fortunate to have – not a good borough president, but— a great borough president,” said Adams. “We owe a great deal of Brooklyn’s success to Marty.
“But we are two very different electeds. I’m going to build upon what Marty has done, so we can continue to move forward. Both of us hold the same joy and love of Brooklyn in our heart and wanting to see the borough grow. That’s the common denominator and the only common denominator we need to be concerned about.”
Plus, Adams has his own set of marching orders. And this time, they come directly from his constituents.
“I don’t want to be known as the borough president that just built new buildings,” said Adams. “I want to build people. I want to connect the resources with the people who are in need. I want to connect people with jobs. When you have thousands of Brooklynites who qualify for food stamps, yet they go to bed hungry, there’s a serious disconnect.
“Brooklyn is moving at a speed that no one realizes. Soon, it’s going to be a mecca for new technology—a great tech headquarters with great new startups. We need to make sure our young people have a pipeline into employment to fuel this massive economy.
“We need to begin training young people to be ready for these jobs. It’s happening now, and in the next 3-4 years, it should be in full bloom,” said Adams, smiling— maybe not as wide as his predecessor Markowitz. But what he lacks in extra smile he makes up for in a focused sense of urgency.
“We haven’t done an effective job in connecting people with the resources that are available,” said Adams. “I want to connect those dots.”
“The beauty is, I don’t have to fill [Markowitz’s] shoes. He walked out of here with them. And now, there’s a new pair here,” Adams said.
“So those who are going through separation anxiety, you’ll be alright. The curtain will rise, and we’ll be alright in Brooklyn.
“Eric Adams is the borough president now. And I’m very capable of doing the job. “