I’ve spent my whole life watching the leaves change color on Allerton Avenue, in this small northeastern Bronx community. I’ve listened to the 2 train rumble by, and the kids on their way home from a new school year. As a community organizer and advocate, I also keep a close ear on the voices of my neighbors.
A vibrant and diverse community, we’ve stuck together through some tough times over the decades. But under the Eric Adams administration, I’ve listened to those voices turn against one another. Suspicion and prejudice rear their heads on our block, which has always been home to migrants and newcomers. This isn’t what the Bronx is about.
My neighborhood is home to Community Board 11, a growing home of right-wing politics in recent years. Notably shameful recent moments of CB11 include our vice chair’s op-ed demeaning our Black neighbors and recently heated racist discussions regarding a new housing project for our formerly incarcerated and unhoused neighbors. District residents speaking in favor of the housing project were met with shouts of “animals” and accusations of intent to destroy their neighborhood. We’ve seen a “fan” of the Proud Boys run on the GOP line for state Assembly (Gene DeFrancis), not once, but twice within the past five years, and we’ve invited Rudy Guliani into our local parades willingly. The flags are looking red in the Bronx lately, in more ways than one.
CB11 is but one case study of the right wing’s increasing foothold all across New York City. It’s not hard to see why, with a mayor spouting bigoted anti-migrant talking points, warning New Yorkers about the arrival of asylum seeking migrants with fear-stoking words: “It’s going to come to your neighborhood. All of us are going to be impacted by this. I said it last year when we had 15,000, I’m telling you now with 110,000. The city we knew, we’re about to lose.”
When our leaders resort to actions such as name calling, corruption and violent rhetoric, as Eric Adams has, we know that real-world violence looms. The Pearson attack on a migrant shelter security guard is a clear example of violence that should be unequivocally condemned. When top city officials spend time with gun-toting council members, it raises questions about their priorities, especially in a country plagued by mass shootings and significant death tolls resulting from unrestricted gun laws. The list of Mayor Adams’ failures to respond to our communities’ needs goes on, from refusing to condemn a marine’s murder of Jordan Neely and going MIA when a natural disaster occurs, to dismantling city mandates and creating loopholes to appease corporate interests. Mayor Adams has repeatedly shown us just what he thinks of our safety and our interests when given the opportunity to step up for our citizens.
What’s more — Adams is now being investigated by the FBI for reasons unknown to New Yorkers. Not only does this investigation harken back to the investigations into former President Donald Trump, it also casts an even larger shadow over the Adams administration. The corruption and obfuscation that no doubt lies in the heart of the investigation makes the mayor even less fit to serve.
Allegations like these undermine the core of our democratic process, and erode trust in the political system. We deserve a mayor that is honest, open, transparent and abides by the rule of law. We deserve a mayor that stands for the ideals New York stands for: democracy, inclusivity and promotion of the common good.
Mayor Adams does not speak for our communities. I know the Bronx, it’s the birthplace of hip-hop and a home to the people I love. And it’s home to my neighbors, new and old, who have brought their rich cultural backgrounds to our blocks for as long as any of us can remember.
Corrupt politicians come and go, but we’re going to keep fighting for each other, not against, just like we always have in New York City. I know that I never want to hear my neighbors saying “we can’t let them take over” again when I’m walking down White Plains Road; I want to hear those voices saying “welcome home.”
James Inniss is a Bronx native and public safety organizer with New York Communities for Change.
Correction: This article was updated on Dec. 4 at 11:37 a.m. because it incorrectly stated that Jordan Neely was killed at the hands of a police officer. He was killed by a former marine.
For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes