When there is an open election that does not directly involve the voting public, political reporters search for the scoop that reveals how the next City Council Speaker is selected. Based on recent history, that choice depended on the Queens delegation and the borough’s Democratic Party chair. With Corey Johnson leaving office at the end of the month, two contenders from this borough emerged as the frontrunners, Francisco Moya from Corona and Adrienne Adams from South Jamaica.
Without naming sources, multiple reporters described Moya as the choice of mayor-elect Eric Adams, while Adrienne Adams (no relation) was the favorite of the Council’s Progressive Caucus. In Queens, the incoming class of Democratic Council Members is very ideologically diverse, ranging from DSA headliner Tiffany Cabán in Astoria to Robert Holden in Middle Village, a registered Democrat who received more votes on the Republican line.
Entering into this fray, the New York Post reported this past Wednesday that Queens Democratic Party Chair Rep. Greg Meeks voiced his support for Adrienne Adams. “Greg Meeks has made a deal with Tiffany Cabán, Sandy Nurse, and the other anti-Israel council members to back Adrienne Adams, because that’s the only way they get to 26 votes. They don’t have the votes otherwise,” the newspaper quoted an unnamed insider.
This misleading story gave the appearance that Meeks was abandoning his Jewish supporters for political expediency, quoting another unnamed source that his apparent partnership with Cabán was a “marriage of convenience.”
Seeking to give this hit piece a longer shelf life, the next day it followed up with quotes from Jewish community leaders condemning Meeks for partnering with “anti-Israel socialists.” But the only Member of the Tribe who went on the record was Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, a rabbi from Brooklyn who is the executive vice president of the New York Board of Rabbis, longtime FDNY chaplain, and a radio show host.
Not a single voice from Kew Gardens Hills, Forest Hills, Far Rockaway, or Jamaica Estates appeared in the story to condemn or condone Meeks’ support for Adams. When it comes to stories relating to Israel, countering BDS, and fighting anti-Semitism, the city’s political reporters have no difficulty getting quotes from our local elected officials, community leaders, and activists. Their absence from the story forced Kew Gardens Hills district leader Shimi Pelman to issue a public statement.
“I stand by our Queens County Leader Gregory Meeks, a steadfast supporter of our community and the State of Israel. As the chair of Foreign Affairs, he has defended our State of Israel and advocates for our right to safely practice our faith while hate crimes have increased.”
Pelman later noted that Adams has a familiarity with the Jewish community and its needs, along with its views concerning public safety. “She voted against defunding the police and is a friend of the Jewish community and Israel,” he said.
Outgoing Councilman Barry Grodenchik echoed Pelman’s support for Meeks. “It is beyond questioning that Rep. Gregory Meeks is a true friend of the Jewish community and Israel,” he wrote in a tweet. “Anyone suggesting otherwise is either misinformed or trying to divide us. I thank my brother Shimi Pelman for his excellent statement, which perfectly sets the record straight.”
Assemblyman Daniel Rosenthal added that Meeks’ record on Israel and Jewish causes speaks for itself, and his district includes a sizable Jewish constituency that covers Jamaica Estates, Holliswood, Far Rockaway, and Belle Harbor.
Besides the context of Meeks’ and Adams’ record on Israel and combating anti-Semitism, the New York Post also failed to note that they both represent southeast Queens and have known each other for many years. Concerning the mayor-elect, besides having the same last name, they both attended Bayside High School and grew up in South Jamaica. After graduating from Spelman College, she worked in the corporate world in operations, training, and communications.
Her transition towards public service included a seat on the Queens Public Library’s board of trustees, serving as chair of Community Board 12 since 2012, and as a member of a stakeholder group that advises the governor on the redevelopment of downtown Jamaica. In 2017, she was elected as Councilwoman for the district covering South Jamaica, Richmond Hill, South Ozone Park, and Rochdale Village.
Adams’ ascendancy is historic, as she would be the first Black woman to serve as Council Speaker, but her experience in the private sector, as a neighborhood activist, and as an adviser in the transformation of Jamaica from a seedy commercial strip to a booming urban center.
With history as the guide, former Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito comes to mind. She served in that role from 2014 through 2017, during Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first term. A former labor union organizer, she had the support of her progressive colleagues, but as Speaker she visited Israel and provided generously towards Jewish communal causes. Likewise with Adrienne Adams, whose record is appealing to progressives and moderates alike.
Concerning Rep. Meeks, his leadership on the local level and as chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee is beyond reproach. Having read his statements and hearing him speak, he has an encyclopedic grasp not only in regards to the Middle East, but also other hotspots around the world. His support for a Council Speaker from Queens is a plus for this borough and the larger city.
By Sergey Kadinsky