On his Life Journey
Adams: Well, I think a review of my life’s journey shows that I have gone through a lot from being arrested as a young boy at 15 to turning that into a purposeful moment and becoming a police officer, starting 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement, spending 22 years in the department as part of the small team of computer programmers that devised the first of its kind technology to monitor crime that later gave way to other versions of it, to going through the typical life of a person who’s trying to move into middle class America, going to school at night to get my associate’s, my bachelor’s, my master’s and moving from sergeant to lieutenant to captain, becoming a state senator, knowing how to write laws and finally becoming borough president.
It was almost 20 years ago that I spoke with then Deputy Mayor Bill Lynch after I saw that we were able to turn around this city’s law enforcement apparatus. We were a dysfunctional law enforcement agency where we were not preventing crimes, we were just responding to crimes. Now, there are a lot of things we have to do with police and injustice but we learned how to fight crime. We were in a city where we were having 2,000 homicides a year and many of them were in Black and Brown communities.
Once I saw we can use technology to fight and deal with crime in our city, I went to Deputy Mayor Bill Lynch, and this is part of my resume that many people are not aware of. Number one, my computer experience in the role I played back then but number two, how I got on this journey. Bill Lynch said to me back then, he says, “Eric, you may be right in your assessment of how to get the city operating and stop being dysfunctional but right now you have your associate’s degree, I need you to go back to school and get your bachelor’s degree.” Instead, I went back and got my masters, paid my own way at CUNY. He said, “You’re a sergeant, I need you to become a lieutenant.” I didn’t stop at lieutenant. I continued to push, and I became a captain. Learned how to write laws and became a state senator. He said, “I need for you to become a congressperson or the borough president.” And I became the first Black president of the borough of Brooklyn.
So, I’ve been on this journey for over 20 something years because I know that our city is dysfunctional. We create crisis and those crises are because our city is inefficient, and inefficiencies lead to inequalities and gives way to injustices. And that’s at the heart of my campaign, to show that taxpayers are doing their job, they’re paying taxes. We are not doing our job by using those tax dollars to run the city the way it ought to. And at the heart of my talking point is Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He said, “We spend a lifetime pulling people out of the river. No one goes upstream to prevent them from falling in in the first place.” That’s what we do in the city overall but mainly to Black and Brown immigrant people when our policies are downstream policies and not upstream policies.
Just look at the cornerstone of dysfunctionality and that’s the department of education. We have good teachers, dedicated, but the system is a failed system. One, we create three serious crises in the city. We create number one, our health crisis. 17% of 12-year-olds in this city, in this country have early signs of heart disease, and that’s really connected to the food we feed children. So, you have one agency like the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, that spends millions of dollars to fight childhood obesity, childhood diabetes, childhood asthma. Yet you have the Department of Education, they feed our child 960,000 meals a day and those meals cause childhood obesity, childhood diabetes, childhood asthma. That is what I talk about when I say we create our crisis.
As Mayor, we’re going to drive a nutritionally based education where we’re going to teach children hydroponics, vertical farming, how to grow food to eat it in the cafeteria, how to identify food deserts in their community and teach urban farming in their community so we can start dealing with the lack of access to healthy food by empowering our young people to do something.
The second crisis we create in education is the criminal justice crisis. 80% of the men and women at Rikers Island don’t have a high school diploma or equivalency upon entry. A third of the 18 to 21-year-olds read below a fifth-grade reading level. According to a Texas study, 30 to 40% are dyslexic, 55% have a learning disability. So, if we had done our job upstream in the Department of Education, we would not be pulling people out of the river for the lack of education. It shows that lack of education leads to incarceration. My focus is to redefine education in this city, and people talk about the K through 12 years, that’s wrong. Education is prenatal to career, and I’m going to do what we should. We have to change the disjointedness of education, and I’m going back to the group of neurologists and pediatricians that I have been talking to and join them. Their research is showing the importance of the first thousand days of life.
The first classroom is in a mother’s womb. If the mother is not eating the right food, getting the right folic acid, the right iron, a child could be born with cognitive issues, learning disabilities, and genetic markers are turned on that will impact the quality of that child’s life for the rest of his or her life. And so, my focus is to make sure that every mother and her child will receive a doula that’s going to teach her nutrition and brain development. 80% of the brain neurons grow in the first thousand days. I’m going to show her how to participate in that brain growth. By the time the child gets to pre-K, it’s too late. They’ve already had 80% of their brain grow.
So, we’re going to empower parents to be part of the development of their child and to change the genetic markers that can impact the quality of a child’s life for the rest of their life. It’s about empowering them.
Then we’re going to introduce how to deal with trauma with meditation, yoga, and mindfulness. I see it in Brooklyn, where they’re sending teachers to learn how to incorporate yoga and meditation and mindfulness in their classroom because a lot of these children are experiencing trauma and we need to start teaching self-care. So, if you add that with a balanced nutrition and you add it with learning self-care, you’re starting a healthy life.
Third, we are schooling and not educating. They’re trying to teach to excel and not teach to prepare our children for the future. I’m going to get rid of taking summers off. Why are we off during the summer times for two months? Science is showing the summer slide. See, that’s based on an agrarian calendar. When children had to be off to go pick corn, nobody is picking any darn corn anymore.
There’s no reason for children to be off two months anymore and we can’t afford not to have continuous education. Now, it doesn’t mean children must be in schools, but they can use remote learning and technology to spend two hours a day to learn critical thinking, working in groups, social skills, financial literacy, all these soft skills that will determine your ability to be successful. I know I’m saying a lot brother.
On his Administration
Government, our government is number one. We are not operating in a team. We are operating in silos. So, my first days in office, I’m going to have all my commissioners do three things. Number one, they’re going to clearly define the mission of their office. Number two, they’re going to ensure that their mission feeds into the overall mission of the state. Number three, they’re going to examine their office and identify any action that they are carrying out that conflicts with the mission of another agency. So the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Department of Education, they won’t be in conflict with each other in serving healthy food.
And on health in hospitals, you go to the hospital for diabetes, they give you food that is aggravating your diabetes. We’re not going to have those conflicts. The Department of Buildings is not going to conflict with our desire to allow companies to open and restaurants to open as we fight for employment, we’re not going to have an agency that is too slow to get our offices open.
So, it’s about how do we have a uniform attack to the crisis we are facing and not the disjointed silo approach. And then we want to move the city to a real time governing. In Boston, they have something called a CityScore where they monitor in real time the productivity, the movement, the delivery of city services and how well they’re doing. How are we scoring ourselves in a real way of how successful we are as a city? Right now, we scatter and play. There’s no real analysis, there’s no real time, we’re not using technology to move the city forward. Our city is stuck in the 1970s while the entire globe is moving into the 21st Century.
I come with the background of technology. I come with the background of understanding how to reform systems. I come with the background of what I believe is my secret weapon. Let me tell you what I believe my secret weapon is brother.
Look at every successful person in this city, if they’re a sergeant, if they are a white-shoe law firm attorney, if they are a topnotch architect or engineer, you look at everyone and then you trace their path. Somewhere in their lineage is a blue-collar worker. Somewhere in their lineage is someone sacrificed something. They may not have a high level of education, they may not have a lot of money but what they had is not dollars and cents, they had common sense. We have not had a blue-collar mayor in over 70 years. I’ll be a blue-collar mayor. I’m a person that knows that we must go back to common sense governing again. So, I’m not Ivy League, I didn’t go to Harvard and Yale. As I indicated as a child, I went to jail, but you know what, I work hard, I know that New Yorkers work hard and we need someone who has gone through a lot to help people who are going through a lot, and I know I’m the right person to move this city in the right direction.
Part of looking at a mayor, we should look at the character of the person. When you look at the character of a person being arrested and assaulted by police officers yet instead of saying why was it me say why not me on the force? And going into the agencies and fighting for reform. When you look at the person being told you are diabetic and you’re going blind and you’re going to lose some fingers and toes, and instead of that, the person finds ways to reverse diabetes without medicine, then writes a book and then institutes a program at Bellevue Hospital, the first of its kind to show other people how to reverse diseases, that’s the character of the person that you’re looking at. And so, part of my narrative is not only my professional abilities but is the character of who I am, moving into Borough Hall, putting a mattress on the floor during COVID-19 and leading the borough from a position of being on the frontline and not being in the rear. That’s the character we’re looking for.
If we can get our healthcare system under control, which is not sustainable right now, then we would start improving not only the financial success of our city but also the mental and physical health of our city. Our healthcare system is in a crisis. COVID-19 became what it was because of the comorbidities the pre-existing conditions. Those are all avoidable health care issues and I want to show us how do we become smarter and healthier as a city.
Once I got into this health space, I don’t do anything halfway. I tell people all the time that because I left the police department doesn’t mean I stopped being an investigator.
And if I can investigate crimes, now I can investigate the crime of what we’re doing to our body and our children. Let me tell you about the power of breast milk and I don’t know if you have looked into this, but I’ll encourage you to do so. Our bodies have what’s called microbiomes and it gets really deep. There are various groups of organisms that live in us. It’s so important because they are our defense system. We’re only 10% of our DNA and we are 90% of these, of colonies of microbes, and that breast milk that you were getting, it is what these colonies of microbes that live in us use to fight off disease and protect us, that’s why we need that breast milk. When you don’t breastfeed a child, the child could grow up with a weakened immune system, it grows up with exposure to obesity and other diseases.
And so, when we take breastfeeding out of our care, we are actually harming the foundation of the child’s life. A third of the babies we deliver go through caesarian not because of the danger to the mother. but because of the time, they want to do it in the fast way. But when that child goes through that birth canal, the child is inoculated with those microbiomes that is the foundation of that child’s entire system.
What we’re doing in this city and in this country is so wrong about how the body operates. I was on a forum yesterday and I was sharing with people that a healthy plant-based diet impacts your mental health. Some of the mental health disorders that we’re looking at are tied to the food we eat. And the people who are on the panel, they started criticizing me and said, “What is this conspiracy theory you’re talking about?” And so, I sent them over the prestigious studies from Harvard and Lancet and all the reports and now people are starting to say, “Wait a minute, this guy Eric Adams is talking about stuff that no one else is talking about,” because it’s time to turn the corner, it’s time for us to stop living a lie. It’s time for us now to start understanding how our bodies operate and move this city and people particularly of color in a new direction.
On Credible Messengers
One, I believe in this term “credible messengers”. To me, that’s a powerful term. I just wrote a book, “Healthy at Last” and it talks about my journey and my mother’s journey and her reversal of diabetes at 82 years old. What’s important is instead of trying to force feed people, engage them in it. What does that look like? It looks like going to our school system, the children will lead. Educating them on a nutritionally based education, showing them how to grow food, showing them how to cook food and make it tasty, healthy food because right now as I was saying earlier, we are schooling children, we’re not educating children.
Education is using not the four walls of the classroom to teach someone how to do a test but how to use the entire city, and to solve problems. Showing children how to identify the food deserts in their community. Part of their civic involvement should be opening farmers markets, opening community gardens, growing food, showing how to harvest, showing how to cook the fresh food. And so, I say, we’re going to involve our children in the entire process of identifying problems in their community and correcting them.
I have a program now at Democracy Academy, check out this program. I bought these little cars, they’re about the size of a fridge and the students grow vegetables inside them. These children in this alternative high school, these children were not coming to school. When I gave them these units, they were able to start this urban farm project and the food they grew, they were giving to NYCHA residents. The principal said, “Eric, we can’t stop these kids from coming to school. They want to stay longer because they felt engaged. They felt they had a purpose.” Our children are not being fed the knowledge they yearn for. That’s why we spend $500,000 through the lifetime of a child’s education and what are we getting for it? These children by the time they get to the tenth grade, they’re no longer engaged.
Every child is not going to college and every child doesn’t have to go to college. There’s nothing wrong with having dirty hands but having a clean life. We demonize those skills and because of that we miss a golden opportunity. We’ve seen our city building up and the future of our children is going down, because we told our children if you become a carpenter, an electrician, a plumber that you’re not suitable, you had to become a person that wears a tie every day, and that was the wrong message that we sent out because having gainful employment is important.
So, what did I do? I teamed up with a good brother over at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, first of its kind in the city, the Brooklyn City Center, and it teaches children these real skills that they need so they could be gainfully employed. We’re going to put a Brooklyn City Center type of program in every borough and we’re going to build a Transit Tech Center with a dormitory so that we can take homeless children and have them live in the dorm to teach them skills about the transit industry.
We have a substantial decrease as many people have retired from the transit industry. This is an opportunity for us to fill that. Every school is going to have shop, every school is going to have basic electrical, basic carpentry, these are real skills and we’re going to put in place a program where children graduate from high school with a certification. The OSHA training. Offering the internships that they need so they can go right into these apprenticeships and union type jobs.
It’s amazing that our young people know nothing nowadays about those basic skills that you and I know. They don’t even know how to use masking tape. They don’t even know how to use a hammer and all this stuff that you and I knew. When I left school, I knew what a miter cut was.
I knew how to measure something. Our children have no clue of these things that you and I learned while we were in school.
There are a lot of things that have been daunting about COVID-19 but there are a lot of things that have been new that we should open ourselves to, and one of them is the use of technology in education. There’s no reason why we can’t have some of the smartest teachers teach through remote learning. We could have some of the best teachers using remote learning to have a larger classroom experience for some of these students. There’s no reason we can’t use technology to do some of those instructions that you are talking about. I look at How-To videos all the time. Just the other day, I was using a How-To video to brush up on some stuff I wanted to brush up on.
There are some entities that I have met with that talk about an independent learning model because even when you put 35 students in the same classroom, they’re not all at the same educational level. And so, there are new ways and new companies that have devised ways of teaching children based on where they are in the instructions and identifying who needs to get additional support. We need to incorporate this in the new definition of education and stop this madness of schooling.
Here’s what I’m going to be. I’m going to be a mayor that transform our city, our school into the age of computer learning and artificial intelligence. There’s a report that is mindboggling. Oxford University put out a report that in the next 20 years, 40% of the jobs that we are training our young people for today won’t be around in the next 20 years.
And it’s not only self-driving cars as people think. If you go to the trading room floor of the stock market, where you have traders and brokers, these places had 5,000 employees. Right now, it is down to only 500 because computer learning, and automation has changed how we trade stocks. Now you’re going to see that in every area of our city. Cities in this country are going to work differently. And so, I’m going to be the mayor that’s going to take our city from the 20th century into the 21st century and be prepared to not only use that knowledge to employ and improve the quality of life but also use that knowledge to run our city better. We are not running our city efficiently, our inefficiencies, they’re creating inequalities and giving way to injustice, and I’m going to turn that around.