Democratic mayoral nominee and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams encouraged unity to a room full of Brooklyn Democrats on Wednesday night, gathered to celebrate the borough’s diverse slate of primary winners, offering full-throated support for the party leaders and urging reform-minded critics to fall in line, according to a video of the speech shared with Gothamist / WNYC.
“This used to be one of the most powerful boroughs in the entire country. We had some of the most powerful leaders come out of this borough. What happened to us? We became divided,” Adams told the crowd gathered at Giando’s on the Water in Williamsburg. Invoking a theme of his successful primary campaign, Adams said the party needed to unify so it could address the gun violence that has spiked across the city.
“We were so busy acting like the Crips and the Bloods, fighting each other, instead of finding real solutions for our families and our children,” he said using the names of two rival street gangs, “That has to stop.”
His comments were met with a mix of cautious optimism and a healthy dose of pragmatism from reformers who said they too want to work effectively with the county leadership. The event came after a heated primary season that featured hard-fought battles across the city, up and down the ballot. Within Brooklyn it also followed a series of squabbles which led to a court battle last year between leaders of Brooklyn’s Democratic county organization and the New Kings Democrats, a reform political club which has sought rule changes to make the county committee’s operations more transparent and democratic.
Adams spoke explicitly about the reform club in his remarks.
“I want to say to the New Kings Democrats: Be Kings, and show how you unite the kingdom and not divide the kingdom. I want to say to all the progressives of this borough and city: being progressive is uniting us and not dividing us,” he said, extending his call for unity to those who identify as moderates and conservatives.
“When someone shoots a 10-year-old, they do not ask what party they belong to or what political club they belong to. When someone has to sleep on the street because they don’t have affordable housing, they don’t look at their buff card and voting record. Let’s stop this,” he added.
He also threw his support behind county leaders across the city, particularly Assemblymember Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, the head of the Kings County Democrats in Brooklyn, and State Senator Jamaal Bailey, the leader of the Bronx County Democrats.
“Let’s give this county leader the power she needs so she can be a strong county leader for the county of Kings and unite with our county leader in the Bronx, so he can be strong, and the same thing with Queens and Manhattan and Staten island. This is how we solve these problems,” said Adams, name-checking other supporters including Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, State Senator Diane Savino from Staten Island, and former Assemblymember Keith Wright and City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez from Harlem and Upper Manhattan.
Bichotte offered a similar message of unity before bringing Adams to the stage, offering praise for City Council Member Antonio Reynoso, the left-leaning Democratic nominee for the Brooklyn Borough president who has pushed for reforms within the Brooklyn Democratic organization and at the New York City Board of Elections. Calling out a tweet he sent before attending the event, she said she looked forward to working with him as the new Borough president.
I’m getting some calls regarding the @bkdems dinner and wether or not folks should show up. I say YES! We won, we Are the Democratic nominees and we should be a part of spaces that belong to us. We have a lot of work to do to reform it, this dinner won’t stop that from happening!
— Antonio Reynoso for BP (@ReynosoBrooklyn) July 14, 2021
“We have elected an unprecedented number of diverse Democratic nominees, who are young, who are first-generation immigrants, who are LGBTQ, who are New Yorkers, who are progressives, who are centrists, who are moderates, who are Democrats that are all shades of blue. And for the first time ever, New York City is poised to welcome a female majority at City Hall,” Bichotte said.
“We have to figure out how to govern together,” said Sandy Nurse, who attended Wednesday’s event as one of the newly nominated female candidates expected to represent Brooklyn in the City Council next year after defeating county-backed Councilmember Darma Diaz in the primary for the 37th Council district.
“It is on everybody who is coming into these positions to attempt to work together and to transcend. That being said, I think the progressive camp has been very, very committed across the board to building that way. It’s always an open table, there is room for expansion and I believe that’s been the orientation of the progressive-left,” Nurse said.
While she was not in attendance on Wednesday night, Marianna Alexander, head of the New Kings Democrats, denied that the organization’s actions had been divisive.
“What we’re trying to do is just be a part of the county operations, bring new perspectives to it, bring energy, bring foot soldiers to the party. For the most part, we’ve been shut out and that was not our decision,” Alexander told Gothamist / WNYC. She said her group has offered the county technical support when it comes to running meetings and even encouraged the full county organization to run a public-awareness campaign around ranked-choice voting. Neither offer was accepted.
“We’d love to work together more than anything,” Alexander said. “But unity is not squashing dissent.”
Another organization that has not seen the Kings County Democrats roll out their welcome mat is the Brooklyn Young Democrats, which was in a pitched battle with the county over its charter earlier this year.
“We have heard what Borough President Adams and County Chair Bichotte have said about party unity, and we certainly hope it is something they take seriously in the future,” said Abe Silberstein, communications director for the Brooklyn Young Democrats. “As of now, they have not reached out to us,” he added, while pledging full support for Adams mayoral election in November.