Leading by Example: Why it's not important where Eric Adams lives
But it is important that he and his staff defaults to honesty.
“The term 'residence' shall be deemed to mean that place where a person maintains a fixed, permanent and principal home and to which he, wherever temporarily located, always intends to return.”
Putting aside the archaic gendering of the law, this one sentence written into New York State’s Election Law that defines the residency requirements of candidates is one of the laziest and most ridiculous pieces of text I’ve ever seen. NY1’s Errol Louis is right. It needs to be clarified and I’m grateful that he dug it up.
He dug it up, of course, because there have been some recent questions as to where NYC Mayoral Candidate Eric Adams actually lives. It’s a bizarre story and the details basically amount to this:
Adams lists a rental property in Bed Stuy as his home address.
It seems clear that his son is living full time in the apartment that Adams claims as his own.
It seems clear that Adams lives with this girlfriend in Fort Lee, NJ.
I would have assumed this would have disqualified him from running and that this would amount to nothing short of election fraud.
It doesn’t—at least, not according to the law.
What seems pretty likely, or at least plausible, is that maybe Adams was living in this Bed Stuy apartment at one time, before he moved in with his girlfriend, and that once he did, he let his son use his place. That is a totally reasonable and admirable thing as a dad as I’m sure he’s probably cutting his son a good deal or perhaps not charging him at all.
But I had assumed it was election fraud because of the way Adams and his team reacted to the story.
That’s my biggest issue, and it is my continuing issue with Eric Adams. I don’t care where he lives. I care that he’s honest, knows what the law is, and wants to abide by it—and most importantly, that his staff knows he has that expectation of them, too.
His team could have said, “Look, this is the law. He qualifies under the law. He fully intends to maintain his residence in Bed Stuy should he not win—it just happened to be that his girlfriend had extra space at the same time he had the opportunity to be a good dad and he took it.”
That literally would have been the end of the story.
Instead, they acted as if he had broken the law, and went into full coverup mode. Their first instinct was to flood the zone with a bizarre series of questionable statements about unit numbers changing, clerical errors, and a whole thing about working late at night in the office—while he supposedly lives a 20 minute bike ride away.
That led to a Twitter spiral of fridgegate sleuthing, demands for EZ Pass receipts and a bizarre press conference in front of garbage cans that culminated in a tearful admission that he missed many of his son’s football games as a kid.
What that had to do with the proverbial price of bread, I have no idea.
His fatherhood wasn’t in question—his residence was.
At some point, you have to question the culture surrounding someone whose team’s first instinct, and seemingly his, is to obfuscate the truth even when, as it turns out, they’re not doing anything wrong.
Just imagine if he had said the following:
“We believe the Borough President has complied with the residency requirements, but we have asked the Board of Elections for a confirmation. Should it turn out that he does not meet the requirements, and the remedy is that he has to evict his son from his apartment and return to living there full time, he will in all liklihood withdraw from the race because family comes first.”
He would have sealed the race. His ethics would have been unquestionable. The willingness to lay it all out on the line for a review from the appropriate authoritative body would be a fantastic signal.
At what point do you ask yourself why that wasn’t their instinct?
You have to assume that’s because this isn’t new for Eric Adams—to be caught bending or breaking the rules. Early in his career, when he was caught taking campaign cash from a gaming company, state investigators issued a scathing, 308-page report saying that Adams showed “exceedingly poor judgment” by attending a victory celebration with the donors when the pick was first made.
Immediately, Adams went into coverup mode, giving “non-credible testimony“ to authorities on the matter.
Years later, Adams solicited donations for a non-profit to support Brooklyn, from powerful real estate interests—exposing a significant loophole in the money and influence laws of the city. While he didn’t necessarily get into trouble for this, he did get into trouble when it was found out that he and his team failed to do step one in the usage of a non-profit to get around the rules.
Yeah, that’s the other thing he and his team lacks—competency. If you’re going to blur the lines between charity and the buying of political influence, the least you could do is bother to create the charity. Its this same incompetence that is so bewildering around the residency issue.
Not only did his staff not bother to ever check on what the requirements to run were in the first place and what rules he had to abide by—but the couldn’t even be bothered to check the statutes after the accusations were made.
They decided that covering it up was more important than figuring out if they had actually done anything wrong.
Haven’t we had enough of politicians where the extent of their malfeasance is only outpaced by the extent of their incompetency?
Organizational culture isn’t just about team outings, ping pong tables or mission statements. It’s about a direction everyone defaults to moving in when there isn’t a written rule for something or when the next step is unclear.
There are many leaders who have created cultures where the people who worked for them wouldn’t dare propose covering up something like this. Could you imagine working on some non-profit with Jimmy Carter in the room and saying, “You know, Mr. President, I think we can get away with this, so why don’t we just sweep this under the rug?”
It just wouldn’t happen.
Clearly it happens within Eric Adams’ circle.
What I can’t figure out is whether they just think rules in general don’t apply to him and they just think we’re stupid, or whether they’re so incompetent that they don’t actually know what the rules are. The idea that we were supposed to believe that his primary residence was his son’s apartment—it’s preposterous.
But it’s not nearly as important as thinking that this will be the same team tasked with difficult press conferences where a cop does something he shouldn’t, or an accounting scandal they inherited comes to light. It’s the same organizational culture that will be in charge of approving new developments for some very wealthy donors that come at the expense of neighborhoods and lower income residents.
Is this the ethics culture worthy of City Hall?
New Yorkers need to hold their candidates to a higher standard. We deserve better than to be sold a bridge.