Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams denounced gentrification on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, singling out people from two states — Iowa and Ohio — for what he said is the “displacement of the people who made this city.”
Considered a top contender for mayor, Adams said midwest transplants to Brooklyn are displacing Black and brown people. They are “folks who (are) not only hijacking your apartments and displacing your living arrangements, they displace your conversation and say the things that are important to you are no longer important. And they decide what’s important and what is not important,” Adams said.
Adams has raised $437,099 in political contributions in the past six months including donations from the real estate industry, New York Post reported. He spoke about gentrification at the National Action Network’s King Day Celebration, hosted by founder the Rev. Al Sharpton.
The real estate market is booming in Brooklyn. African-American neighborhoods are being gentrified — a process in which middle- and upper-income buyers buy lower-priced real estate, renovate houses and stores, and raise property values but often displace lower-income families and small businesses.
In his speech on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Adams was applauded when told a crowd of about 300 people that Black and brown people are being pushed out of the borough they made possible. He said, “You were here before Starbucks. You were here before others came and decided they wanted to be part of this city.”
An ex-cop, Adams said, “I protected this city. I have a right to put my voice in how this city is run.”
The New York Daily News described his comments as “racially charged”. NYC GOP commentator also disapproved. He said: “Given their lack of real power, the main job of a (borough president) is to be a cheerleader for all of Brooklyn, not divide it.”
A spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “The mayor doesn’t agree with how it was said, but the borough president voiced a very real frustration.”
On Twitter, Adams clarified: “Anyone can be a New Yorker, but not everyone comes to our city with the spirit of being part of our city. I have a problem with that, and I’m unapologetic in asking more of our new arrivals to communities who were once waking up to gun shots and not alarm clocks.”
A displaced Brooklyn native, Kwanza Osajyefo @kwanzer responded to Adams on Twitter” “This is written too politically. As a translate; Dear Colonizers, we know our low-income hoods are a steal to rent/buy but for us POC with longterm retail leases and rent controlled apts, it’d be nice if you acknowledge we live here too. #MLK2020”
On social media, Jeremiah Moss thanked Adams: “Thank you for saying this. Many (not all) of the newcomers are not interested in being New Yorkers. They bring their suburban values with them (surveillance, privatization, chain stores) and do their part to change New York to be more like the places they come from.”
Others, like Noah Smith, referred to Donald’s Trump’s recent xenophobic rant against four young freshmen congresswomen, aka The Squad, saying Adams was being hypocritical:
“Go back to your country” <– evil, xenophobic
“Go back to your state” <– virtuous, progressive, reasonable”
Mara Gay on the New York Times editorial board asked Adams in a tweet what he would like gentrifiers to do.
“What are you asking of them exactly? Can you tell us more?” she tweeted.
“Thanks for asking, Mara,” Adams replied. “Some of it is as simple as saying ‘hello’ to your fellow neighbors. It’s also patronizing local businesses that have been there for years. It’s adopting a local school or shelter and lending a hand. It’s breaking bread with new faces and building bonds.”
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According to data from the Furman Center’s State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods report, in 2011, 14 percent of New York City residents moved there from a different U.S. state, and that rate has been constant over the previous decade. Foreign-born residents make up about 37 percent of New York City’s population and 48 percent of city residents are natives of New York State.