With less than two weeks to go before Primary Day, the mayoral hopeful — who leads the large field in recent polls — is facing questions raised by reporters who have examined his financial records, his voting addresses and his late-night comings and goings.
Candidates for New York City mayor face a lot of tough questions in the final days before an election, but not usually this one: Do you actually live in New York City?
With less than two weeks to go before Primary Day, Eric Adams, who leads the large field in recent polls, is trying to prove he does — despite questions raised by reporters who have examined his financial records, his voting addresses and his late-night comings and goings.
An analysis by Politico of Adams’ various homes, offices, midnight Borough Hall visits and mysterious whereabouts has fueled speculation that the candidate really lives in Fort Lee, New Jersey, where he owns a condo occupied by his partner. Last month, City Limits talked to many of Adams’ Brooklyn neighbors — almost none of whom knew he lived there.
In response to the Politico report, Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, took members of the press Wednesday on a guided tour of the Bedford Stuyvesant brownstone where he says he lives. He showed off the four-unit building’s garden apartment and basement bedroom and said he stays there while not working, campaigning or bedding down in his office.
“I moved to Bedford Stuyvesant 20 years ago,” Adams said while standing with his son Jordan Coleman outside the townhouse at 936 Lafayette Ave. “No matter how modest it is, it’s my home.”
Coleman, 25, said he also crashes in the garden apartment when not sleeping in another unit on the fourth floor or at his main home in New Jersey.
In May, City Limits twice visited the building in order to talk with tenants and learn about Adams as a property owner. On the campaign trail, Adams has framed himself as a compassionate landlord and said that he hasn’t raised rents in 14 years. “I will never raise your rent as long as you’re here,” he said he tells his tenants when they first sign their leases.
No one answered the front door or garden apartment gate during either of those visits, on May 7 and May 13. But on both occasions, the same package was propped against the door frame while the ground-floor mailbox was stuffed with magazines, letters and flyers, including campaign literature for Adams’ rival Maya Wiley.
Several next-door neighbors told City Limits at the time that they had never heard of Adams, let alone knew he owned or lived in the building connected to theirs. Adams blamed his local anonymity on gentrification.
“If you were to do an analysis of the number of people who were new on this block, you would find that that turnover here is incredible,” he said while standing inside the living room, where African art and memorabilia from his career in policing and politics adorn the exposed brick walls. “This is one of the most gentrified areas. The people to the left of me are new, the people to the right of me are new.”
And anyway, he says, his grueling schedule means he keeps odd hours.
“I leave here at 5:30 in the morning. I return back at 1, 2 a.m. Who would know me?” he says. “There’s no time to say, ‘Hey, there goes my neighbor.’ But the people who have been here many years, they know Eric has been here during those most difficult times as this block has evolved.”
Still, Adams and his staff have provided inconsistent information about his residency, and about the tenants who rent apartments in the Bed-Stuy building.
Adams’ campaign told City Limits last month that one tenant rented a unit in the building. On Tuesday, Adams said there were two renters — one who pays $950 per month and another who, well, he couldn’t remember because “it’s direct deposit,” he said.
If Adams’ team hustled to make the apartment look lived in ahead of the press tour, they did a pretty good job.
The fireplace mantle featured family photos and tchotchkes, including a Noah Syndergaard bobblehead doll given to fans at a 2019 Brooklyn Cyclones game. Four pairs of sneakers lined a shelf next to the bed, where a few articles of clothing lay folded at the foot.
A look inside the refrigerator raised a few questions, however. The contents were spare, nothing like the fruit-packed fridge that Adams, a health enthusiast, tweeted about in 2017. There was a Brita pitcher, half-eaten take-out trays, a bag of butter garlic croutons, a plastic box of garlic cloves and half a banana. Ranch dressing, ketchup and other condiments lined the door shelves.
But two items in particular stood out: A salmon steak and a styrofoam tray of Premio sausages, both of which clash with Adams’ strict vegan diet. A campaign official was quick to point out that the meat and fish belong to Coleman.
Over the past two days, Adams’ opponents have seized on the issue of the Brooklyn beep’s home address. Wiley issued a statement that read, in part, “WTF.” Andrew Yang — who has faced residency questions of his own after fleeing to New Paltz during the pandemic — called on Adams to release his EZ Pass toll history to prove he hasn’t been traveling over the George Washington Bridge from Fort Lee.
City Limits previously submitted a Freedom of Information Law request for those records, which would be public documents if Adams traveled to and from New Jersey in one of several city-issued vehicles.
On Wednesday, Adams said his campaign would proactively release that information. He said he has nothing to hide because he has barely traveled into New Jersey over the past several months. He also said he does not conduct campaign business from inside Borough Hall, which would violate ethics laws, even while sleeping there.
“‘Well, Eric, you live in New Jersey?’” he said, mimicking the Adams-Lives-in-New-Jersey Truthers tweeting their theories about his whereabouts.
“I have not seen my significant other, Saturday was the first time I saw her in two months,” he continued, before revealing the absurd hours his staffers put in.
“My opponents who trail me can tell you where I’ve been. I’ve been entering Borough Hall at 1 in the morning, working until 3 to 4 with my staffers who come in because they believe, and they’re getting up at 6:30, 7 to get to the train station.”