An armed New York mayor? Democratic ex-cop plans to ride an anti-crime message to City Hall.

NEW YORK — After 11 people were fatally shot inside a Pittsburgh synagogue three years ago, a politician nearly 400 miles away demanded an immediate shift in protocol.

“From now on, I will bring my handgun every time I enter a church or synagogue,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a retired police captain who is now a leading candidate for New York City mayor, said the following day, encouraging trained cops to do the same.

The responses were swift: Emails poured into his office from New Yorkers horrified by the suggestion. They invoked red-state Republicans and the National Rifle Association, and one person expressed gratitude to live on the other side of the East River. The anger was offset by a few people who agreed with the proposition — including one who requested a reference letter to obtain his own permit to carry a concealed weapon, according to previously unreported emails POLITICO obtained through a freedom of information request.

Now Adams is among the top-tier Democratic candidates running to be the next mayor of New York, ranking second in most public polls and sitting on a $7.8 million war chest. As he competes in an eight-person field, he is carving a path formed by his biography: A Black man who openly discusses being a teenager assaulted by police officers, only to become one himself at a time when the city was mired in crime. He quickly challenged orthodoxies within the NYPD, protesting the cop shooting of a mentally-ill Black woman when he was in the Police Academy.

Despite four years as a registered Republican, he considers himself a progressive before it became popular.

But as a proud former police officer running for mayor with crime on the rise, Adams is often castigated for being out of step with the activist wing of a party whose vote he is seeking on June 22.

He wants to reinstate a plainclothes unit disbanded by the NYPD last year to focus on gun safety. He readily denounces the “defund NYPD” slogan that surged after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year. He has defended the controversial practice of stop-and-frisk if used correctly. He wants spot checks for guns entering the city at Port Authority bus terminals.

And he once said he would arm himself if elected mayor — a position he modified in an interview with POLITICO.

Where some candidates focus on criminal justice reform, Adams has zeroed in on the uptick in shootings — a 64-percent increase this year, according to recent data. “The prerequisite to prosperity is public safety,” he often says.

As a four-term state senator, Adams focused on gun safety, demonstrating the ease with which firearms could be brought into the city following a mass shooting at a movie theater in Colorado in 2012. He also pushed for legislation to close loopholes in the state’s assault weapons ban.

The borough president said in an interview with POLITICO this week that he’s sticking by his stance.

“My life as a law enforcement officer for 22 years is rooted in not so much idealism, but realism,” Adams said. “I understand how people may have responded, but when people prey on individuals while they’re praying, that’s an alarm for me.”

Adams — who would be the first police officer as mayor since William O’Dwyer in the late 1940s — must now persuade segments of Democratic voters that his history as a cop does not detract from his plans for police reform, which include publicizing a list of officers being monitored for complaints. At the same time, he is banking on support from voters who are reporting violence as a leading concern, according to a new poll.

Despite those fears, New York is an overwhelmingly Democratic city where legal firearms are usually restricted to law enforcement officers. Like many former cops, Adams still owns three guns, 15 years after he retired from the force.

Gun control backlash

Adams’ comments after the Pittsburgh shooting prompted a flurry of angry emails from constituents.

“Please let me know where you will be so that I am not there,” one resident, Wendy Bellus, wrote to Adams in 2018, after his remarks on the Pittsburgh shooting. “With your call to action, I can imagine — a person with bad intent shooting at innocent people; people with licensed guns whipping them out and shooting back. What can go wrong?”

“You have bought into the NRA narrative, which is violence to combat violence,” she added.

Another Brooklynite who said she had previously voted for Adams echoed those concerns.

“I don’t really care that you are a retired police officer. I firmly believe that more guns in circulation is NOT the right answer,” Moira Flavin wrote. “I know you want to run for mayor in the next election and I think you need to give some real thought to your stance on guns.

“This does not make me feel better; it scares me,” she added.

Prospect Heights resident Lori Azim said her cousin, a Republican cop in Kansas, was more liberal than Adams on gun laws. Alice Henkin lamented the Democratic borough being turned into “the eastern branch of Texas!”

The remarks even cost him governmental support.

Venture capitalist Charlie O’Donnell canceled his involvement in a technology event planned with Brooklyn Borough Hall.

“I was really looking forward to collaborating on an event with the BP’s office, but I’m afraid I can no longer lend my support. The borough president’s call for guns to be brought to houses of worship is absolutely the wrong response to the problem of violence and hate,” O’Donnell wrote one day after Adams’ Pittsburgh comments. “The ‘good guy with a gun approach’ is a fantasy – as we saw *four* police officers wounded at the Pittsburgh shooting.”

Adams’ staff, faced with the fallout, grew concerned.

“He has direct connections to many tech companies as well as much respect within the tech community that helps him draw large crowds to anything he organizes,” Borough Hall employee Joshua Levine wrote to Adams about O’Donnell.

Lew Fidler, a late City Council member working for Adams at the time, forwarded a news article titled “Adams calls for guns in places of worship” to other staffers and advised that “the narrative should be changed quickly.”

The borough president sought to make clear his statement was limited to retired and off-duty police officers who are already legally allowed to carry their weapons.

In the interview with POLITICO, he noted that armed officers often accompany high-ranking politicians into houses of worship, and at other times are stationed outside. In one instance, an off-duty armed officer prevented a shooting at a church in Queens, he said.

“If you’re saying to me, ‘Eric, I wouldn’t want that person to be armed when that person’s coming down the aisle,’ then we really have a different perspective,” he said.

Some residents agreed with him.

A.R. Bernard, a well-known pastor in Brooklyn, co-authored an op-ed with Adams in the Daily News titled, “Guns have a place in houses of worship: We shouldn’t be afraid of highly trained off-duty cops carrying firearms.”

A peace officer asked him to support a policy change allowing that workforce to carry their weapons. Another resident requested he provide a reference letter to help him obtain a permit, which Adams said he did not do.

Retired officer Gary Gorman wrote a note of appreciation: “As a retiree with an unrestricted, I carry to my church but all active officers I feel should carry and licensed retirees should carry also.”

That same day someone named Kenneth Bromberg emailed Brooklyn Borough Hall in agreement. “I can’t think of who is better trained to use their weapons and who is better screened and observed for mental illness,” Bromberg wrote.

On the trail

Adams has been running in second place in most polls, behind former presidential candidate Andrew Yang in a race unlike others in recent memory: It is taking place as the city is crawling out of a pandemic-induced shutdown, voters will head to the polls in June instead of September and their ballots will debut ranked-choice voting. While Yang has been leading every poll, most candidates have yet to begin airing TV ads. And if the last competitive primary is any indication, the outcome is far from decided — at this time in 2013, Bill de Blasio was polling in third or fourth place.

As the campaign heats up, Adams has been the most vocal of the contenders in honing in on the rise in gun violence across the city. A Spectrum News NY1/Ipsos poll released last week found 39 percent of likely Democratic voters think crime and violence are the main problems facing the city, second only to Covid-19, at 51 percent. Asked which candidate would best protect public safety, Adams and Yang were tied at 17 percent.

Recognizing the public concern over rising crime, Adams recently held a press conference on the steps of a Bronx courthouse to lay out his safety plan alongside longtime activist Jackie Rowe Adams, who lost two sons to gun violence.

He also made a point of avoiding protests after the guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial on Tuesday. Instead, he told POLITICO he spent time with his 24-year-old son, discussing police attacks on Black New Yorkers over the years.

“I wanted that to be a moment not of protesting, but a moment for him to see that he needs to pick up the mantle and pick up this fight,” Adams said. “And throwing a molotov cocktail is not a plan.”

This week he accused his opponents of a “deafening silence … on the rising temperature of gun violence, senseless bloodshed that overwhelmingly destroys Black and brown lives.”

“Many people are afraid to be honest around this conversation because it’s not a popular kind of conversation to people who are covering this race,” he said in the interview. “A parent does not receive consolation if someone knocks on their door and says a person in a blue uniform killed their child unjustly, or a gangbanger in blue jeans.”

An armed mayor?

Adams previously said he would arm himself and get rid of the police officers that traditionally accompany mayors if elected to lead City Hall.

“So, as mayor, would you carry a firearm on you, even with a security detail?” Fordham University political science professor Christina Greer, who hosts the FAQNYC podcast, asked him in January of 2020.

“Yes I will, number one, and number two, I won’t have a security detail. If the city is safe the mayor shouldn’t have a security detail with him; he should be walking the street by himself,” Adams responded.

On Wednesday, he softened his stance, saying he made those remarks during a “lighthearted” interview and was “surprised” by the sustained attention it received.

He would only arm himself, he said, if he was in immediate danger.

“If the intelligence informs me that, ‘Eric, there’s a serious, imminent threat to you,’ then I would carry my firearm,” he said. “I would definitely decrease my detail population, my police detail. I believe officers should be protecting the public and I don’t think you need a large police detail as you move around the city.”

Adams has said his inspiration for joining the NYPD came from loved ones and mentors who steered him onto that track after he was arrested for trespassing as a 15-year-old in Southeast Queens and beaten by officers in the precinct.

“Can you imagine being 15, laying on the floor of the 103 precinct? I was a baby,” he said on Wednesday. “Those cops, kicking me in the groin over and over and over again, and looking at their faces and seeing almost pleasure in them doing it. You are marked and traumatized for the rest of your life. Wounds go away but scars remain.”

Years later, as a member of the state Senate, he tapped a staffer to tape him showing viewers how to search their homes for contraband — a video that resurfaced recently and inspired a retort by mayoral candidate Paperboy Love Prince titled, “Eric Adams Please Get Out of My Room.”

Greer, in a recent interview, posited that Adams’ focus on crime is a smart political strategy.

“Black mayors are oftentimes accused of being soft on crime,” she said.

“My question for him then and it still is now — is your strategy still, we all strap up and go to Shabbat dinner, and go to the mosque, and go to church on Sunday?” she added. “Because that’s what he said after the Pittsburgh shooting. And if it’s not then that’s fine; you’ve evolved. But I don’t see how that strategy works for a city of 9 million people.”

,

NEW YORK — After 11 people were fatally shot inside a Pittsburgh synagogue three years ago, a politician nearly 400 miles away demanded an immediate shift in protocol.

“From now on, I will bring my handgun every time I enter a church or synagogue,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a retired police captain who is now a leading candidate for New York City mayor, said the following day, encouraging trained cops to do the same.

The responses were swift: Emails poured into his office from New Yorkers horrified by the suggestion. They invoked red-state Republicans and the National Rifle Association, and one person expressed gratitude to live on the other side of the East River. The anger was offset by a few people who agreed with the proposition — including one who requested a reference letter to obtain his own permit to carry a concealed weapon, according to previously unreported emails POLITICO obtained through a freedom of information request.

Now Adams is among the top-tier Democratic candidates running to be the next mayor of New York, ranking second in most public polls and sitting on a $7.8 million war chest. As he competes in an eight-person field, he is carving a path formed by his biography: A Black man who openly discusses being a teenager assaulted by police officers, only to become one himself at a time when the city was mired in crime. He quickly challenged orthodoxies within the NYPD, protesting the cop shooting of a mentally-ill Black woman when he was in the Police Academy.

Despite four years as a registered Republican, he considers himself a progressive before it became popular.

But as a proud former police officer running for mayor with crime on the rise, Adams is often castigated for being out of step with the activist wing of a party whose vote he is seeking on June 22.

He wants to reinstate a plainclothes unit disbanded by the NYPD last year to focus on gun safety. He readily denounces the “defund NYPD” slogan that surged after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year. He has defended the controversial practice of stop-and-frisk if used correctly. He wants spot checks for guns entering the city at Port Authority bus terminals.

And he once said he would arm himself if elected mayor — a position he modified in an interview with POLITICO.

Where some candidates focus on criminal justice reform, Adams has zeroed in on the uptick in shootings — a 64-percent increase this year, according to recent data. “The prerequisite to prosperity is public safety,” he often says.

As a four-term state senator, Adams focused on gun safety, demonstrating the ease with which firearms could be brought into the city following a mass shooting at a movie theater in Colorado in 2012. He also pushed for legislation to close loopholes in the state’s assault weapons ban.

The borough president said in an interview with POLITICO this week that he’s sticking by his stance.

“My life as a law enforcement officer for 22 years is rooted in not so much idealism, but realism,” Adams said. “I understand how people may have responded, but when people prey on individuals while they’re praying, that’s an alarm for me.”

Adams — who would be the first police officer as mayor since William O’Dwyer in the late 1940s — must now persuade segments of Democratic voters that his history as a cop does not detract from his plans for police reform, which include publicizing a list of officers being monitored for complaints. At the same time, he is banking on support from voters who are reporting violence as a leading concern, according to a new poll.

Despite those fears, New York is an overwhelmingly Democratic city where legal firearms are usually restricted to law enforcement officers. Like many former cops, Adams still owns three guns, 15 years after he retired from the force.

Gun control backlash

Adams’ comments after the Pittsburgh shooting prompted a flurry of angry emails from constituents.

“Please let me know where you will be so that I am not there,” one resident, Wendy Bellus, wrote to Adams in 2018, after his remarks on the Pittsburgh shooting. “With your call to action, I can imagine — a person with bad intent shooting at innocent people; people with licensed guns whipping them out and shooting back. What can go wrong?”

“You have bought into the NRA narrative, which is violence to combat violence,” she added.

Another Brooklynite who said she had previously voted for Adams echoed those concerns.

“I don’t really care that you are a retired police officer. I firmly believe that more guns in circulation is NOT the right answer,” Moira Flavin wrote. “I know you want to run for mayor in the next election and I think you need to give some real thought to your stance on guns.

“This does not make me feel better; it scares me,” she added.

Prospect Heights resident Lori Azim said her cousin, a Republican cop in Kansas, was more liberal than Adams on gun laws. Alice Henkin lamented the Democratic borough being turned into “the eastern branch of Texas!”

The remarks even cost him governmental support.

Venture capitalist Charlie O’Donnell canceled his involvement in a technology event planned with Brooklyn Borough Hall.

“I was really looking forward to collaborating on an event with the BP’s office, but I’m afraid I can no longer lend my support. The borough president’s call for guns to be brought to houses of worship is absolutely the wrong response to the problem of violence and hate,” O’Donnell wrote one day after Adams’ Pittsburgh comments. “The ‘good guy with a gun approach’ is a fantasy – as we saw *four* police officers wounded at the Pittsburgh shooting.”

Adams’ staff, faced with the fallout, grew concerned.

“He has direct connections to many tech companies as well as much respect within the tech community that helps him draw large crowds to anything he organizes,” Borough Hall employee Joshua Levine wrote to Adams about O’Donnell.

Lew Fidler, a late City Council member working for Adams at the time, forwarded a news article titled “Adams calls for guns in places of worship” to other staffers and advised that “the narrative should be changed quickly.”

The borough president sought to make clear his statement was limited to retired and off-duty police officers who are already legally allowed to carry their weapons.

In the interview with POLITICO, he noted that armed officers often accompany high-ranking politicians into houses of worship, and at other times are stationed outside. In one instance, an off-duty armed officer prevented a shooting at a church in Queens, he said.

“If you’re saying to me, ‘Eric, I wouldn’t want that person to be armed when that person’s coming down the aisle,’ then we really have a different perspective,” he said.

Some residents agreed with him.

A.R. Bernard, a well-known pastor in Brooklyn, co-authored an op-ed with Adams in the Daily News titled, “Guns have a place in houses of worship: We shouldn’t be afraid of highly trained off-duty cops carrying firearms.”

A peace officer asked him to support a policy change allowing that workforce to carry their weapons. Another resident requested he provide a reference letter to help him obtain a permit, which Adams said he did not do.

Retired officer Gary Gorman wrote a note of appreciation: “As a retiree with an unrestricted, I carry to my church but all active officers I feel should carry and licensed retirees should carry also.”

That same day someone named Kenneth Bromberg emailed Brooklyn Borough Hall in agreement. “I can’t think of who is better trained to use their weapons and who is better screened and observed for mental illness,” Bromberg wrote.

On the trail

Adams has been running in second place in most polls, behind former presidential candidate Andrew Yang in a race unlike others in recent memory: It is taking place as the city is crawling out of a pandemic-induced shutdown, voters will head to the polls in June instead of September and their ballots will debut ranked-choice voting. While Yang has been leading every poll, most candidates have yet to begin airing TV ads. And if the last competitive primary is any indication, the outcome is far from decided — at this time in 2013, Bill de Blasio was polling in third or fourth place.

As the campaign heats up, Adams has been the most vocal of the contenders in honing in on the rise in gun violence across the city. A Spectrum News NY1/Ipsos poll released last week found 39 percent of likely Democratic voters think crime and violence are the main problems facing the city, second only to Covid-19, at 51 percent. Asked which candidate would best protect public safety, Adams and Yang were tied at 17 percent.

Recognizing the public concern over rising crime, Adams recently held a press conference on the steps of a Bronx courthouse to lay out his safety plan alongside longtime activist Jackie Rowe Adams, who lost two sons to gun violence.

He also made a point of avoiding protests after the guilty verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial on Tuesday. Instead, he told POLITICO he spent time with his 24-year-old son, discussing police attacks on Black New Yorkers over the years.

“I wanted that to be a moment not of protesting, but a moment for him to see that he needs to pick up the mantle and pick up this fight,” Adams said. “And throwing a molotov cocktail is not a plan.”

This week he accused his opponents of a “deafening silence … on the rising temperature of gun violence, senseless bloodshed that overwhelmingly destroys Black and brown lives.”

“Many people are afraid to be honest around this conversation because it’s not a popular kind of conversation to people who are covering this race,” he said in the interview. “A parent does not receive consolation if someone knocks on their door and says a person in a blue uniform killed their child unjustly, or a gangbanger in blue jeans.”

An armed mayor?

Adams previously said he would arm himself and get rid of the police officers that traditionally accompany mayors if elected to lead City Hall.

“So, as mayor, would you carry a firearm on you, even with a security detail?” Fordham University political science professor Christina Greer, who hosts the FAQNYC podcast, asked him in January of 2020.

“Yes I will, number one, and number two, I won’t have a security detail. If the city is safe the mayor shouldn’t have a security detail with him; he should be walking the street by himself,” Adams responded.

On Wednesday, he softened his stance, saying he made those remarks during a “lighthearted” interview and was “surprised” by the sustained attention it received.

He would only arm himself, he said, if he was in immediate danger.

“If the intelligence informs me that, ‘Eric, there’s a serious, imminent threat to you,’ then I would carry my firearm,” he said. “I would definitely decrease my detail population, my police detail. I believe officers should be protecting the public and I don’t think you need a large police detail as you move around the city.”

Adams has said his inspiration for joining the NYPD came from loved ones and mentors who steered him onto that track after he was arrested for trespassing as a 15-year-old in Southeast Queens and beaten by officers in the precinct.

“Can you imagine being 15, laying on the floor of the 103 precinct? I was a baby,” he said on Wednesday. “Those cops, kicking me in the groin over and over and over again, and looking at their faces and seeing almost pleasure in them doing it. You are marked and traumatized for the rest of your life. Wounds go away but scars remain.”

Years later, as a member of the state Senate, he tapped a staffer to tape him showing viewers how to search their homes for contraband — a video that resurfaced recently and inspired a retort by mayoral candidate Paperboy Love Prince titled, “Eric Adams Please Get Out of My Room.”

Greer, in a recent interview, posited that Adams’ focus on crime is a smart political strategy.

“Black mayors are oftentimes accused of being soft on crime,” she said.

“My question for him then and it still is now — is your strategy still, we all strap up and go to Shabbat dinner, and go to the mosque, and go to church on Sunday?” she added. “Because that’s what he said after the Pittsburgh shooting. And if it’s not then that’s fine; you’ve evolved. But I don’t see how that strategy works for a city of 9 million people.”

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