Borough President Eric Adams went on a bizarre rant at the opening of the city’s first affordable housing development for LGBTQ seniors on Dec. 17, when he invoked slavery, and predicted that incoming residents would clash with locals at a nearby public housing complex.
“I think about Frederick Douglass and the conversation about fighting for the independence of America,” Adams said. “He said ‘the arrogance of that those want me to fight for independence when I’m still a slave.’ I can’t celebrate a building that is not inclusive.”
The beep’s tirade — which was heard via an audio recording obtained by this paper’s sister publication, Gay City News — came during a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Stonewall House, a newly-erected residential building at 112 St. Edwards Street on land that also contains NYCHA’s 75-year-old Ingersoll Houses.
Stonewall House is now home to seniors 62 years and older, 77 percent of whom are people of color. All residents have incomes below 50 percent of the city’s area median income, 25 percent of the apartments were set aside for formerly homeless seniors, and 54 of the 145 units were reserved for residents of NYCHA or those on the waiting list for city public housing.
At the opening, Adams griped that he is “concerned about the diversity” of the new development and said nearby residents have complained that Stonewall House is a “pretty building on NYCHA property.”
“I don’t want to see beautiful floors like this and lead paint over there,” he said. “I don’t want to see rodents over there and comfort here.”
He did not mention that many incoming residents are arriving from NYCHA apartments.
According to Advocacy & Services for LGBT Elders (SAGE), which offers social services from the ground floor of the new developments, less than 60 percent of the residents of Stonewall House identify as LGBTQ, although management did not — and could not legally — screen potential residents based on sexual orientation and gender identity, or ask for such information on applications.
Adams also suggested that the influx of new residents into the neighborhood would fuel problems with NYCHA residents, saying, “If you have a body of people over there that feels as though this place here is not for them, we are going to have incidents in this community that will be disruptive.”
He added, “Somehow, we got to figure this out. Somehow.”
The Beep’s tirade belies the housing development’s very high standard for inclusivity, which has drawn support from local tenant leaders, including Ingersoll Houses Tenant Association president Darold Burgess, who spoke enthusiastically about the social services offered by SAGE. Furthermore, hundreds of NYCHA residents were consulted regarding the project throughout its multi-year stages of development.
The borough president’s comments didn’t end there.
Adams, a former cop, continued his us-versus-them narrative, saying that he “didn’t put on a vest for 22 years to protect the children and families of this city to watch us be divided.”
Several ceremony attendees voiced concerns about the potentially unsettling effect the borough president’s warnings about “disruptive” “incidents” and division might have had on Stonewall House residents who were on hand for the ribbon-cutting.
SAGE CEO Michael Adams, when reached for comment, reiterated the innovative nature of the new building and stressed that it “represents the very best of what New York City should be providing in terms of inclusive housing and providing services for low-income New Yorkers.”
He added, “ Stonewall House wants to be a good neighbor in working with the Ingersoll tenants in trying to address the issues that deserve attention.”
Stonewall House is one of the city’s two LGBTQ-friendly senior housing developments spearheaded by SAGE. The other building, Crotona Senior Residences in the East Tremont section of the Bronx, is anticipated to open early in 2020.
Adams and Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo, who represents the Fort Greene district where Stonewall House is located, allocated capital funds for the SAGE Center at Stonewall House. Cumbo attended the ribbon-cutting but did not deliver remarks.
Neither she nor Adams returned calls seeking comment.