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Adams Defends NYPD's Response in Pro-Palestinian Protest in Bay Ridge

The mayor also came under scrutiny for his conversation with pro-Israeli business leaders during his weekly press briefing.
New York City Mayor Eric Adams at his weekly media press conference on May 21, 2024, with Fabien Levy (L), Deputy Mayor of Communications, and Ingrid Lewis-Martin (R), Chief Advisor.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams defended the city's police department response to recent pro-Palestine protests in Bay Ridge and addressed his involvement in a pro-Israel WhatsApp groupchat with wealthy business leaders during his weekly press briefing on Tuesday. 

The mayor stood by what many in the community are complaining was an overly aggressive response by police to demonstrators in Bay Ridge on May 18, during a protest of the Israeli-Hamas War. The Bay Ridge protest was part of an annual demonstration that highlights the Nakba of 1948, where there was mass displacement and dispossession of Palestinians during the Arab-Israeli war.

One video from the protest shows an NYPD officer punching a protestor on the ground multiple times. A different angle of the same incident displaying what happened moments before shows officers wrangling the protestors who were peacefully walking on the street holding a banner and punching one of them. 

“I saw those videos. Now, if officers use more force than necessary, we're going to do an investigation. But the countless number of police officers who were there acted accordingly,” said Adams. “We need to see what happened before what happened after. That's what the investigation is about.”

These incidents prompted the Legal Aid Society to issue a statement lambasting the NYPD’s Strategic Response Group’s actions at the protest and claiming the “NYPD continues to violate the spirit” of the Payne settlement. The settlement implemented a four-tiered response system to dictate how NYPD responds to protests and required de-escalation methods to be used before increasing response.   

“When you spit in the face of a police officer, there is no tier. When you decide you're going to endanger the lives of people by riding on the top of a bus, there is no tier to tell you to get down,” said Adams.

Additionally, the Adams faced questions around a story published in the Washington Post regarding the mayor's involvement in a pro-Israel WhatsApp groupchat with affluent business titans.

Joseph Sitt, founder of retail chain Ashley Stewart and real estate company Thor Equities, was quoted in the article saying, “He’s open to any ideas we have,” referring to the mayor. According to the newspaper, Sitt also said, “He’s OK if we hire private investigators to then have his police force intel team work with them,” in response to the campus protests erupting throughout the city at the time. 

The mayor had a 45-minute Zoom call on April 26 with members of the group, where they discussed using the group members’ "leverage” to help persuade Columbia University to let NYPD back on campus, paying for “investigative efforts” to assist the city and donating to Adams, according to chat records supplied to the newspaper. 

When asked if the topic of donations to his campaign came up in the call, the mayor denied it, contradicting what was said in a summary of the meeting given by Sitt.

“Not one time on that call with me was any comment made about donations,” said Adams. “If there's anything that I have a reputation about is my willingness and ability to sit down with various groups of all different natures.” 

The donation link to Adams’ campaign was sent multiple times in the chat, including the evening after the mayor’s Zoom call with the members, according to the story. The mayor also denied allegations that private investigators were hired to help the NYPD deal with pro-Palestine protests.

In other city news, the mayor talked about the city opening up the waitlist for the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program for apartments in New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) complexes. 

The program allows families to pay no more than 40% of their adjusted monthly income towards rent, with NYCHA covering the rest of the cost on behalf of the family. Households must have a gross income of 50% or below the area median income level to qualify for the program.

The window to apply begins on Monday, June 3, at 12:00am and ends on Sunday, June 9, at 11:59pm. The waitlist has been closed to general applications since 2009.