Former cop and state senator Eric Adams has been the president of Brooklyn for a year now, and we sat down with him to look back on his first year at the helm, and look forward to 2015. Adams said that in the new year he wants to bridge the gap between police and the public, get more security gear on the Brooklyn Bridge, keep the boards in the Coney Island Boardwalk, and “embrace bicycling” because “cars are so old school.”
Bill Egbert: Your New Year’s resolution for 2014 was to “visit every neighborhood in the borough and speak to as many residents as I can.” Did you follow through?
Eric Adams: I’ve certainly tried. I am just amazed at the vastness of the borough. There are so many cultures here. I remember when I was a child, how excited I was to go on school field trips. With this job, every time I come in I feel like I’m going on a new field trip.
Brooklyn is an amazing place under normal circumstances, but add in the other factors — the growth and change going on — and this borough forces you to be on top of your game at all times.
BE: Recently Brooklyn has been ground zero for a lot of acrimony between the police and the public, with protests erupting after the failure to indict the cop who killed Eric Garner in Staten Island, and then the murder of two police officers right here in Brooklyn. You’ve taken some heat for criticizing the police, but you also called for a hold on protests while the police mourn their own. How do you walk that line?
EA: Usually, the people who are most critical of you are your parents — because they love you. Well, I loved being a cop, so I speak critically at times. But also, I want to be part of helping people appreciate our police for all the things they do for us. Not just the ultimate sacrifice, as in the case of the two officers who were shot recently, but the smaller things — volunteering in their communities, mentoring local kids. A lot of people don’t know about that. There’s a bit of a communication gap that I want to help bridge.
BE: The city is moving forward with its plan to convert the Riegelmann Boardwalk from hardwood boards to concrete and plastic slats, but a couple of local freshmen councilmen, Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island) and Chaim Deutsch (D–Sheepshead Bay) are trying to prevent that by pushing to have the Boardwalk in Coney Island and Brighton Beach designated as a scenic landmark. What’s your view?
EA: I share their views on the Boardwalk. We do need to protect Coney Island and what makes it so special — its history and traditions — and I think a wooden Boardwalk is a part of that.
BE: Speaking of protecting things, you came out tough against people climbing the Brooklyn Bridge after incidents when the American flags atop the towers were swapped for white banners, and a tourist was arrest for climbing onto the bridge structure for a photo. Why did you stake out such a tough stance?
EA: The Brooklyn Bridge is important — as a traffic route into the city, as a symbol — and that makes it a target. When you trespass on something like the Brooklyn Bridge, the penalty should be more than for trespassing in a park. So I support state Sen. [Daniel] Squadron’s legislation to increase penalties for trespassers on certain sites.
We’re talking to vendors right now about state-of-the-art technology to create electronic fences that will let us know when someone is there. We shouldn’t have waited until the flags were stolen to realize this was an issue.
BE: What are some things that Brooklyn needs more of in 2015?
EA: We need a lot more of those Citi Bikes! We need to catch up with the rest of the globe in alternative transportation. Cars are so old school. We need to embrace bicycling as a transportation alternative, but the infrastructure needs to come with it. We need more bike lanes, buildings should have bus shelters, and we need to remake the entire borough based around that.
BE: What does Brooklyn need less of in 2015?
EA: First thing, I have to say handguns. But there’s also an attitude I want to see gone. People are living in silos, in their own little world, and they’re not appreciating the diversity around us. People need to stop thinking about how to live apart from other people and start enjoying living together. They need to embrace what I like to call “Brooklyn fusion.”