Photo: People
Photo: People

Who is Eric Adams - Biography

Finally, after weeks of tabulating votes (with embarrassing Board of Elections hiccups along the way), New York City has a new projected Democratic nominee for mayor. Though the city has yet to certify the results, the Associated Press on Tuesday (6 July) declared Eric Adams to have won the Democratic primary. The most populous city in the US has had Republican mayors in the past, but given its overwhelmingly Democratic make-up and the eccentric Republican candidate, Adams will likely be the next mayor.

Eric Adams, age 60, the president of Brooklyn borough, is an interesting figure. He is a former police officer, but one who was known as a voice for police reform; as a member of the force, he co-founded 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, which pressed for changes in the criminal justice system and against police brutality. (Adams, who will be the second blackmayor of New York, has said he was beaten by police officers at age 15.)

Eric Adams: Early Life

Adams was born in Brownsville, Brooklyn. He was raised in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and South Jamaica, Queens and was the fourth of six children. His mother worked double shifts as a housecleaner and had received only a third-grade education. His father was a butcher.

Adams graduated from Bayside High School in Queens in 1978. He began attending college while working as a clerk at the Brooklyn District Attorney's office, receiving an associate degree from the New York City College of Technology, a B.A. from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, and an M.P.A. from Marist College.

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.

Eric Adams: Career

Photo: ABC7 New York
Photo: ABC7 New York

Adams served as an officer in the New York City Transit Police and in the New York City Police Department (NYPD) for 22 years. He has described his wanting to serve as a reaction to the abuse he suffered by NYPD in his youth and separately stated that he was encouraged to join to lead reform from within. He attended the New York City Police Academy and graduated second in his class in 1984.

He started in the New York City Transit Police, and continued with the NYPD when the transit police and the NYPD merged. He worked in the 6th Precinct in Greenwich Village, the 94th Precinct in Greenpoint, and the 88th Precinct covering Fort Greene and Clinton Hill. During the 1990s, Adams served as president of the Grand Council of Guardians, an African American patrolmen’s association. In 1995, he co-founded 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, an advocacy group for blackpolice officers that sought criminal justice reform and often spoke out against police brutality and racial profiling.

Political career

During the 1993 mayoral election, Adams, a supporter of the incumbent candidate for mayor, David Dinkins, made a comment about a candidate for New York State Comptroller, Herman Badillo, that was seen by some to be racially divisive. Adams said that if Badillo, who was Puerto Rican, were concerned about the Hispanic community, he would have married a Hispanic woman.

In 1994, Adams ran for Congress against incumbent Major Owens in the Democratic primary for New York's 11th congressional district but failed to receive the necessary signatures to make the ballot.

New York State Senate

In 2006, Adams ran for New York State Senate. He was elected and served four terms until 2013, when he was elected Brooklyn Borough President. He represented the 20th Senate District, which includes parts of the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Brownsville, Crown Heights, East Flatbush, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, and Sunset Park.

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.

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

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.


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.


To address the displacement of longtime residents by gentrification, Adams has held a series of town halls in Bedford–Stuyvesant and East Flatbush to investigate cases of tenant harassment, and also organized legal clinics in East New York, Prospect Lefferts Gardens, and Sunset Park to provide free legal assistance to tenants.

Public safety

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.

After the 2014 killings of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, he wrote an editorial for the New York Daily News calling on police officers and the community to work with each other to build a relationship of mutual respect.


Adams formed a partnership with, 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.

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.

2021 New York City mayoral campaign

Adams had long been mulling a run for New York mayor, and on November 17, 2020, he announced his candidacy for Mayor of New York City in the 2021 election. He was a top fund-raiser among Democrats in the race, second only to Raymond McGuire in terms of the amount raised.

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.

Personal life

Photo: Twitter
Photo: Twitter

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, salt, oil and processed starches. He also began exercising regularly, including using an exercise bike and treadmill 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 the 2021 anthology Brotha Vegan: Black Men Speak on Food, Identity, Health, and Society.

Adams frequently refers to himself in the third person.

The ranked-choice voting system wasn’t popular with everyone. For example, two candidates – former presidential candidate and early front-runner Andrew Yang and former New York City sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia – campaigned together, with Yang calling on his voters to rank Garcia second. Adams then accused them of engaging in voter suppression, an irresponsible charge given that ranked-choice is a system of voting, not of suppressing votes, and given that there actually are laws intended to make it more difficult to vote being passed across the country.

In the end, Adams was just able to edge out Garcia, who ran as a no-nonsense problem solver and performed especially well with wealthier college-educated voters in Manhattan. She was able to pick up a plurality of second-choice votes from Yang and Maya Wiley, who positioned herself as the race’s progressive – but not enough to make up the difference with Adams.

Is Adams’s victory a death knell for progressivism in New York City? Not exactly. It may serve as a reminder of the space between working-class voters of colour in the outer boroughs and the progressives aiming to put this group at the centre of their policies. But Adams wasn’t the only one to win an election in New York City. Progressive candidates for comptroller and district attorney – Brad Landler and Alvin Bragg, respectively – both appear to have won their races. And several of the more left-leaning candidates will be joining the city council. All of which means that the future of politics in New York City is neither moderate nor progressive, but to be contested between various political actors during the years of Adams’s administration.

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