Eric Adams says NYC need to ‘do better’ in Juneteenth speech

New York City must “do better” to prevent black residents from being driven from their neighborhoods, Mayor Eric Adams said Sunday during a speech marking the June 16 holiday.

Speaking in Central Park, Adams likened the modern uprooting of people of color from neighborhoods across the United States — including the five boroughs — to slavery.

“When I was in Ghana last year, [I] seen how families were displaced, torn apart and brought to America by slavery in the hulls of ships, living in dungeons, spending months and months living in their human waste, having their babies taken away, and having them seen scattered and moved,” he said.

“It’s no different here,” Adams told the crowd at the Central Park Conservancy’s Juneteenth Celebration.

“We can’t look in the rear view mirror and say we should have done better when we’re here right now,” he said. “Let’s do better now. Recognize the presence of people to be part of the community they have built.

The mayor pointed to Seneca Village, which was established in 1825 in the western parts of what is now Central Park, and became home to more than 200 free black people – who were evicted some 30 years later for making place in Manhattan’s iconic green space. .

“Imagine being moved over and over and over again,” Adams said. “When this village was torn apart to build this park, we displaced the energy from Seneca Village. It never came back.

Speaking in Central Park, Adams likened the modern uprooting of people of color from neighborhoods across the United States — including the five boroughs — to slavery.
Speaking in Central Park, Adams likened the modern uprooting of people of color from neighborhoods across the United States — including the five boroughs — to slavery.
Michael Noble Jr. for The Washington Post via Getty Images

“Let’s not commemorate Seneca Village as we create another destruction of a Seneca Village,” he said.

“We should think about that as we run around looking at this beautiful space that [Frederick] Olmsted built, as we look at how awesome this Central Park is in midtown Manhattan, we’ve moved some families here. We destroyed lives,” the mayor said. “There were families here long before Starbucks. They were there and they provided a foundation.

Black communities in the area have been forced to relocate and rebuild in other neighborhoods, such as Harlem, downtown Brooklyn and Bedford Stuyvesant, Adams said, adding, “Now what? it now? We move them again.

May Eric Adams commemorates Juneteenth in New York.
New York City must “do better” to prevent black residents from being driven from their neighborhoods, Mayor Eric Adams said during a speech marking the June 19 holiday.
Twitter/@NYCMaire

“No one wanted this land. This land was not attractive. Nobody wanted Manhattan,” Adams added, referring to less prosperous decades in New York’s history. “These churches have moved from here to build in other places like Harlem, in downtown Brooklyn.

Adams, New York’s second black mayor, noted that black Americans have been pushed out in recent decades from neighborhoods in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Chicago, Los Angeles and Atlanta — communities he lamented have been “destroyed.”

“Starting over and over again, and we wonder why we see some of the crises that we face as black in brown communities,” he said. “Whenever they were able to gain a foothold, they were moved again. As soon as you started building something, it was torn apart.

Adams – who announced in April that Juneteenth would be a paid holiday for city workers – encouraged the roughly 40 attendees to not only reflect on the past, but also to make sure it doesn’t repeat itself.

“Let’s educate our children so they know there were people who were here who built this city we call New York,” he said.

Juneteenth, one of America’s oldest holidays, marks the official end of slavery in the United States in 1865, when Union troops arrived in Galveston, Texas to inform the last Confederate sympathizers that they had lost the Civil War, so all the slaves needed to be freed. In June 2021, Juneteenth became the 12th federal holiday.

Adams Saturday started the weekend with a visit to a synagogue in the Hamptons.

Earlier on Sunday, the mayor’s office announced that City Hall and several other buildings will be lit Sunday and Monday evening in red, black and green – the color of the Pan-African flag – to honor the holiday.

“On this Juneteenth, we proudly say that black history is American history,” Adams said in a press release. “Today is a time to remember and celebrate the countless contributions of Black Americans to our country, while simultaneously recognizing the many sacrifices and hardships our community has faced.

“I hope all New Yorkers will join me in recognizing the freedom that black Americans have been denied for too long.”

Municipal buildings that will be lit in red, black and green are Bronx Borough Hall, David N. Dinkins Manhattan Municipal Building, Queens Borough Hall, Staten Island Borough Hall and DSNY Salt Shed Complex.

Additionally, the colors will be displayed on a slew of Big Apple landmarks, including Madison Square Garden; 30 Rockefeller Place; The empire state building; the Javits Center; One World Observatory and the National September 11 Memorial Museum.

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