At a recent town hall, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and tenants’ advocate Jeanie Dubnau had a heated exchange over rent increases, with Adams comparing Dubnau to a “plantation owner” when she questioned him about the Rent Guidelines Board voting to allow landlords to hike rent on rent-stabilized apartments up to 6 percent.
Adams retorted, “First, if you’re going to ask a question, don’t point at me, and don’t be disrespectful to me. I’m the mayor of this city and treat me with the respect that I deserve to be treated. I’m speaking to you as an adult. Don’t stand in front like you treated someone that’s on the plantation that you own.”
Dubnau, who was born in Belgium and came to New York City with her parents to escape the Nazis, is an assistant professor of biology at Rutgers University and has been a tenant rights activist since 1960. During the meeting, she called out Mayor Adams for his “deflection” because he “doesn’t have any answers.” Dubnau criticized Adams saying, “He’s a landlord himself. He said, ‘Oh, I don’t raise the rent on my own tenants.’ Who cares about his own personal tenants? He’s raising the rents on thousands and thousands of people in New York City.”
According to Dubnau, Adams is “an enemy of all the rent-stabilized tenants in New York City.” She highlighted that the mayor receives millions of dollars from real estate, stating, “That’s the main issue here.”
Despite her strong words, Dubnau isn’t expecting an apology from Adams, asserting, “Oh, he’s not going to apologize. I mean, you know the mayor. He thinks he’s the greatest and doesn’t want to be criticized.”
Adams’ spokesperson, Fabien Levy, defended the mayor’s comments, indicating, “The mayor’s comments are the mayor’s comments. We stand by the mayor’s comments.” The mayor himself stated during the meeting, “I think it was a 3% recommendation,” he said. “I don’t control the board. I make appointments. They made the decision.”
Councilwoman Sandy Nurse expressed disapproval of Adams’ comments to Dubnau, describing them as “so disrespectful”. She suggested that the mayor was indeed accountable for the rent board’s decisions, saying, “The mayor appoints the Rent Guidelines Board, so this board is a reflection of his values and his priorities.” Nurse encouraged Adams to apologize, saying, “That reaction was an overreaction, and it was very condescending. I just don’t think it was justified by any measure. I think he should apologize to her.”
Adams, who has faced criticism for his responses to questioning, recently claimed during a press conference that there was a racially motivated effort to keep him from winning re-election. This accusation follows a series of comments where Adams has drawn attention to racial issues and biases against him in the media and politics.