The mayor, speaking during an interview on 1010 WINS Friday morning, justified his rhetoric by saying the woman, a tenant activist, was disrespectful when she stood up at a town hall and pointedly asked the mayor about the Rent Guidelines Board, a body entirely composed of mayoral appointees that recently voted for another rent increase for regulated apartments.
“My mom made it clear, never allow someone to be disrespectful to you. That woman disrupted a meeting where all the participants were acting respectfully and cordially to get their issues heard,” Adams said during the interview. “She disrupted that, and then she was degrading on how she communicated with me. I’m not going to allow civil service to be disrespected, and I’m not going to be disrespected as the mayor of this city.”
Well, no, she didn't disrupt it. I wouldn't accuse Adams of lying, however; he may not intentionally be telling a falsehood. He may actually believe that whenever one questions His Highness, she is being disrespectful.
The woman, Jeanie Dubnau, attended a Wednesday mayoral town hall in Washington Heights. As the mayor was answering a question about housing, she yelled that he raised the rent. Adams asked her to stand up, and the two got into an exchange that included Dubnau accusing Adams of being controlled by the real estate industry.
Dubnau, who chairs the Riverside Edgecombe Neighborhood Association, is a longtime tenant rights activist. In 2015, she also harangued former Mayor Bill de Blasio during one of his town halls — which were far less choreographed than those held by Adams and allowed more organic interactions with voters.
If the remarks from the assistant professor of microbiology and longtime tenants' advocate are to be interpreted as disruptive, they were all the more appropriate because the meeting was choreographed. Yet
Adams’ reaction went much further.
“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, and treat me with the respect I deserve to be treated,” Adams said. “I’m speaking to you as an adult, don’t stand in front like you treating someone that’s on the plantation that you own. Give me the respect I deserve and engage in the conversation.”
City Hall defended the mayor’s comments, which were criticized by a number of observers for going overboard. Dubnau was born in Belgium after her family fled Nazi-led Germany in the 1930s. She moved to New York City when she was 8.
Were the subject of the mayor's rant not of a family which fled the Third Reich, Adams nonetheless would deserve criticism. Now that Dubnau's family background has been revealed, it should be a layup for local politicians and other community leaders to condemn the mayor.
It would be too easy and probably inaccurate to dub Eric Adams as a "racist." That label is much overused and abused, and there is no indication that the mayor believes whites or refugees from a genocidal regime are inherently inferior. However, it is obvious that "don't stand in front like you treating someone that's on the plantation that you own" is a racially biased charge and product of a bigot.
A week before Adams' hostile and megalomaniacal outburst, he stated at a press conference
There's a body of people who were pleased with 30 years without having a mayor that looked like me. 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.
Quite the contrary. If nearly any other public official had with no legitimate reason made an equally repugnant statement, he or she would have faced a torrent of criticism and probably been forced to resign.
Choosing to bend over backwards, I'll speculate that the response to Adams' comments has been extraordinarily tepid because he is an intimidating figure. That's bad enough but it's likely that race plays a critical part in the extraordinarily tepid response to Adams' comments. We'll never know because aside from Donald Trump, no one makes statements on a par with accusing someone of behaving like a white slaveholder to a black man. If this is condoned, the Big Apple would be better known as the Rotten Apple.