Early life and education
When Adams was 15 years old, he and his brother were arrested for criminal trespassing. While in police custody, they were beaten by NYPD officers until a black cop intervened. Adams suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder
after the incident but has said that the violent encounter motivated him to enter law enforcement. A local pastor added to his motivation when he suggested that by joining the police force, he could aid in reforming police culture from within.
In 1999, Adams said on race in policing: "Lying is at the root of our training. At the academy, recruits are told that they should not see black or brown people as different, but we all do. We all know that the majority of people arrested for predatory crimes are African-American. We didn't create that scenario, but we have to police in that scenario. So we need to be honest and talk about it."
Early political career
Adams registered as a Republican in 1997 before switching back to the Democratic Party in 2001, according to the Board of Elections
New York State Senate
As a freshman state senator, he joined other legislators requesting a pay raise for the New York's lawmakers, who had not received a raise since 1999. At the time, they ranked third-highest in pay among state lawmakers in the United States.
In 2009, Adams was one of the 24 state senators to vote in favor of marriage equality in New York State
He spoke in support of the freedom to marry during the debate before the vote.
When the bill failed to become law, he again voted to legalize same-sex marriage in New York in 2011. On July 24, 2011, New York's Marriage Equality Act
came into effect.
In 2010, Adams, then chair of the Senate Racing and Wagering Committee, came under investigation for his handling of choosing an operator to run the gambling operation at the Aqueduct Racetrack
in Queens. A report conducted by the state inspector general was critical of Adams' judgment and testimony to investigators. However, Adams maintained no wrongdoing.
Adams was a vocal opponent of the NYPD's "stop and frisk" policy
, which predominantly affected young black and Latino men, and which in 2000 the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights
said constituted racial profiling
In 2011, he supported calling for a federal investigation into stop-and-frisk practices.
He sought to stop the NYPD from gathering data about individuals who had been stopped but not charged.
He has since reversed his position on stop and frisk and now supports it.
In 2012, Adams served as co-chair of New York's State Legislators Against Illegal Guns.
Adams and five other mostly African-American state lawmakers wore hooded sweatshirts in the legislative chamber on March 12, 2012, in protest of the shooting of Trayvon Martin
, a Florida teen who was killed by George Zimmerman
Brooklyn Borough President
Adams in 2020
On November 5, 2013, Adams was elected Brooklyn Borough President
with 90.8 percent of the vote, more than any other candidate for borough president in New York City that year.
In 2017, he was elected with 83.0 percent of the vote.
In both of his campaigns, he was unopposed in the Democratic primaries.
Adams, in his role as Brooklyn Borough President, appoints the members of each of the 18 community boards
in Brooklyn, half of which are nominated by local members of the City Council
. Community board members represent their neighbors in matters dealing with land use
and other specific neighborhood needs.
In 2016, Adams launched a digital application that could be used as a paperless alternative to applying for a position on one of Brooklyn’s community boards. Applications increased by 10 percent.
Under the New York City Charter
, borough presidents must submit Uniform Land Use Review Procedure
(ULURP) recommendations on certain uses of land throughout their borough.
Adams has used his ULURP recommendations to propose additional permanently affordable housing units in the rezoning of East New York
; the relocation of municipal government agencies to East New York to reduce density in Downtown Brooklyn
and create jobs for community residents; and the redevelopment of 25 Kent Avenue in Williamsburg
as manufacturing space, with increased property taxes directed to the acquisition of the remaining proposed sections of Bushwick Inlet Park
and their development as a community resource.
Adams has encouraged New York City to build affordable housing on municipally-owned properties such as the Brownsville
Community Justice Center, over railyards and railways, and on space now used for parking lots.
Adams created the Faith-Based Property Development Initiative, which supports religious institutions that want to develop property for the benefit of the community, such as affordable housing and space for community activities.
In September 2017, Adams unveiled his recommendations for the future of the Bedford Union Armory
in Crown Heights. His recommendation was to disapprove the application with conditions while calling for the inclusion of a greater amount of affordable housing on-site. The Bedford Union Armory proposals would contain recreational facilities, spaces for local non-profits, and two new residential buildings, including a condominium building along President Street in place of the Armory's stables.
In July 2018, Adams announced a joint $10-million, 19-plaintiff lawsuit with the Housing Rights Initiative (HRI) filed in Kings County Supreme Court. It stemmed from a comprehensive investigation by HRI that found that New York City real estate developer Kushner Companies engaged in illegal construction practices in a 338-unit building (formerly the Austin, Nichols and Company Warehouse
), located at 184 Kent Avenue in Williamsburg. According to independent research, families, including children and babies, were exposed to highly toxic and cancer-causing substances, including, but not limited to, the lung carcinogen crystalline silica and lead.
Also in July 2018, Adams urged the developer involved in the Kensington Stables site in Windsor Terrace to help preserve the stables as part of a new proposal for the site.
In partnership with Medgar Evers College
, Adams created the Brooklyn Pipeline, which provides developmental learning and enrichment opportunities to public school students in Brooklyn, teaches parents to better support their children's education, and facilitates professional development training to teachers and school leaders.
He wrote an editorial in The New York Daily News
calling on the New York City Department of Education
(DOE) to test all pre-Kindergarten students for gifted and talented programs, including African-American and Latino children who have historically been excluded.
Adams entered Brooklyn into the "Hour of Code" challenge with Chicago Public Schools
. This challenge was designed to improve the computer skills of students. Brooklyn students were victorious, with more than 80 percent of the district schools throughout Brooklyn participating in the program.
Based on a report prepared by the Independent Budget Office of New York City (IBO) at his request, Adams urged the City University of New York
(CUNY) system to explore reinstating free tuition for two-year community colleges
, which could improve graduation rates and lead to increased earnings potential and taxpayer contribution, as well as expand access to higher education.
He has advocated for making two-year CUNY colleges free.
Adams launched the Family Friendly Brooklyn initiative by creating a lactation room in Brooklyn Borough Hall
, with open access to the public.
He introduced a bill in the New York City Council
that would require all municipal buildings providing services to the public to have lactation rooms
. The bill was passed by the City Council
on July 14, 2016.
In July 2018, Adams publicly denounced President Trump's efforts to stop Ecuador from passing a U.N. resolution stating that breastfeeding is the most beneficial way of feeding a child.
After Adams received a personal diagnosis of type two diabetes in 2016
, he became a vegan and has used the office to advocate for Brooklynites to eat healthier and adopt plant-based diets along with encouraging healthier lifestyles. The Office of the Brooklyn Borough President launched a plant-based nutrition page on its website with links to resources encouraging vegan and plant-based lifestyles, as well as printable handouts produced by the borough. 
Additionally, Adams has also prompted the City Council to pass a resolution called "Ban the Baloney," which aims for schools across the city to stop serving processed meats. He has also been an avid supporter of "Meatless Mondays" in public schools.
In 2021, Adams authorized a grant from the borough to SUNY Downstate College of Medicine
to establish a plant-based supplemental curriculum.
After a spike in rat complaints, Adams co-hosted a Rat Summit alongside Council Member Robert Cornegy
in June 2018 to address the issue of rats throughout the borough.
In September 2019, he promoted new traps that lured rats with nuts and seeds before knocking them out and drowning them. He showed a group of reporters one of the traps that had caught rats around Brooklyn Borough Hall. He presented their corpses in an effort to demonstrate the trap's effectiveness. Adams and his team said the traps were more humane
than poison because they did not cause the rats to suffer in pain for an extended period. The group "Voters for Animal Rights" wrote an open letter to the borough president questioning the usefulness of these traps to achieve their goal and their purported humaneness.
In June 2018, Adams suggested lowering the height of the Alloy Development's Downtown Brooklyn project, 80 Flatbush, from 986 to 600 feet in order to not disrupt or overwhelm the existing community surrounding the building.
In January 2020, Adams gave a speech at an event in Harlem celebrating Martin Luther King Jr. Day
. During the speech, he discussed recent New York City transplants, saying, "Go back to Iowa. You go back to Ohio! New York City belongs to the people that [were] here and made New York City what it is."
Earlier in the speech, Adams spoke highly of long-term residents, saying, "You were here before Starbucks. You were here before others came and decided they wanted to be part of this city. Folks are not only hijacking your apartments and displacing your living arrangements, they displace your conversations and say that things that are important to you are no longer important."
While the speech was met with applause by the audience, some of his comments were criticized by some for their divisiveness[by whom?]
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. We need to improve affordability in this city to ensure New Yorkers can stay in the city they love, but New York City will always be a city for everyone.”
Adams later clarified that he only took issue with new arrivals who don’t engage with longtime residents or their communities.
Adams has criticized the use of excessive force in the arrest of Eric Garner
, who died after being placed in a chokehold prohibited by NYPD regulations, and the arrest of postal carrier Glen Grays, who was determined not to have committed any crime or infraction.
Together with Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer
and civil rights attorney Norman Siegel
, Adams held a series of seven public forums
and four Google Hangouts
for community residents to share their experiences with the police. The information was used to compile a report, and it was concluded that New York City should work to involve the public in the work of the NYPD, improve training for police officers, and allow independent investigations when police misconduct has been alleged.
Adams formed a partnership with flowthings.io, a Brooklyn-based startup, and Dell
computer to access and collect real-time data
on conditions in Brooklyn Borough Hall
, with device counters to monitor occupancy in rooms that sometimes experience overcrowding, multi-sensors to determine whether equipment has been operating efficiently, sensors such as smart-strips and smart-plugs to measure energy usage around the building, and ultrasonic rangefinders to identify that ADA
-designated entrances are accessible in real-time.
He partnered with tech startup Heat Seek NYC to allow tenants to be able to report conditions in their apartments with sensor hardware and web applications.
Adams opposed efforts to limit the number of new e-hail cars such as Uber
, explaining that such technologies provide opportunities for people of color to find work and travel in their communities.
Adams has been criticized for what critics described as parking illegally and allowing his staff to do so as Brooklyn Borough President, by abusing official "parking placards" which allow for temporary or emergency lifting of parking restrictions for official government business, or, in some cases, even using imitation placards.
In August 2019, after Adams was again criticized for what critics described as parking and placard abuse in Brooklyn, he responded to Twitter account on the topic by comparing the accuser to the Ku Klux Klan
, tweeting, "Not sure of what you are talking about but the greatest level of fear is reflected in people who hide their faces while throwing insults. My life work speaks of my courage. Your hidden face is in the tradition of others who hid themselves with white hoods".
At a September 2019 town hall, Adams said that "The only individuals who are allowed to park private vehicles around the building are my women employees that I have told they have to respond late at night when they call."
His defense did not assuage critics.
They called the behavior lawless
and said that it blocked access to crosswalks and sidewalks by handicapped individuals.
As of October 2019, the behavior continued, and a spokesperson said the parking policy was being reviewed.
In 2014, Adams established One Brooklyn Fund
, a non-profit organization for community programs, grant writing, and extolling local businesses, though it has been criticized as serving as a conduit for his public profile and for allowing non-campaign pay to play
contributions from developers and lobbyists.
Adams' office have been investigated twice by the city Department of Investigation (DOI) over One Brooklyn’s fundraising. The first investigation was in 2014 over asking potential attendees if they were interested in providing “financial support” to One Brooklyn. In 2016, Adams' office was found by the DOI to wrongly license the use of Borough Hall
to the Mayor’s Office for an event.
Given the success of the brewing industry in Brooklyn, Adams, since October 2017, has called for a more lenient Blue Law
, allowing New York City businesses to start selling alcohol two hours earlier starting at 8 a.m.
2021 New York City mayoral campaign
Adams is running as a moderate Democrat and his campaign is focused on crime and public safety, and Adams has argued against the defund the police
movement and in favor of police reform.
Public health and the economy are cited as his campaign's other top priorities.
Initiatives promoted in his campaign include "an expanded local tax credit for low-income families, investment in underperforming schools, and improvements to public housing."
On November 20, 2020, shortly after formally announcing his run for mayor of New York City, Adams attended an indoor fundraiser with 18 people in an Upper West Side
restaurant during the COVID-19 pandemic
, drawing criticism.
Adams held an already scheduled fundraiser the following day in Queens
, when a 25-person limit on mass gatherings was in place. Adams’s campaign said that there were eight people at the event and that they were required to wear masks and practice social distancing.
For much of the race, Adams trailed entrepreneur Andrew Yang
in public polling. However, he saw polling boost in May and emerged as the frontrunner in the final weeks of the election.
On July 6, Adams completed the come from behind victory and was declared the winner of the Democratic primary.
In January 2021, the Daily News
reported that Adams failed to register his Bedford-Stuyvesant property with the Department of Housing Preservation and Development
, which is a requirement for a landlord of a rental property.
In April 2021, Politico
reported that no rental income was declared in Adams's tax filings, though it had been declared to New York City's Conflicts of Interest Board. Adams's spokesperson said that his accountant would amend the relevant tax filings.
In June 2021, Politico
reported an address in the Prospect Heights
neighborhood of Brooklyn had been used in official records as Adams's residence and was listed for a political donation. Adams said he hadn't lived at the residence in nearly ten years. It was also reported that Adams's voter registration was associated with a unit of his Bedford-Stuyvesant home allegedly occupied by a tenant renting from him; however, this was disputed by Adams's campaign.
The day following these reports, Adams gave reporters a tour of the property in Bedford-Stuyvesant, which did not fully convince some critics that he lived there.
Later in June 2021, Adams stated that he gave away his ownership stake in a Prospect Heights
co-op apartment in 2007 to a friend who had co-owned the apartment with him. He provided no proof that he filed the required gift tax report.
Adams's campaign claimed this was his residence until at least 2013 but not that he maintained any ownership until that time. However, The New York Times
reported that records it obtained suggested he was still listed as an owner.
Adams had not disclosed this alleged property ownership on financial disclosure forms while an elected official as a state senator or borough president and may have lived there until 2017 without reporting it.
Adams has a son, Jordan Coleman,
with former girlfriend Chrisena Coleman.
In 2016, Adams became a vegan
after his diagnosis of type 2 diabetes
. Adams researched alternatives to lifelong insulin injections and sought opinions of physicians including Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn Jr.
of the Cleveland Clinic
Adams made lifestyle changes rather than pursuing traditional treatments for diabetes. He switched to a whole food plant-based diet
, removing animal products
, processed sugar
and processed starches
. He also began exercising regularly, including using an exercise bike
in his office. Within six months, he lost 30 pounds, reversed his diabetes, and reduced his blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
He has stated that he wants to encourage others to switch to a healthier diet and that public health
spending for diabetes should go towards lifestyle changes rather than treating disease.
In October 2020, Adams published Healthy at Last: A Plant-Based Approach to Preventing and Reversing Diabetes and Other Chronic Illnesses
, a book about his health journey that advocates for healthier lifestyles.
He is also a contributor to the 2021 anthology Brotha Vegan: Black Men Speak on Food, Identity, Health, and Society
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Last edited on 27 July 2021, at 20:40
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