Mayoral frontrunner Eric Adams on Wednesday blamed the “good friend” he says he gave away his shares of a Brooklyn co-op to for some of the confusion surrounding his tangled property records.
“It’s her responsibility,” he said.
Adams insisted he did nothing wrong in failing to list his stake in the Prospect Heights apartment he’d owned for years with friend Sylvia Cowan in the financial disclosure forms all New York public officials are required to file.
As Adams spoke out following THE CITY’s story detailing a clouded, broken paper trail, mayoral rival Maya Wiley accused him of ignoring multiple questions about what she called his “shady real estate dealings.”
With the June 22 primary approaching, Adams addressed the co-op issue after a raucous news conference in Brooklyn Heights that deteriorated into a shouting match between his supporters and protesters urging voters not to rank him when they cast ballots.
Adams waved off his handlers who were trying to escort him through the boisterous throng to a waiting car — declaring he “loves protests” and would stay to answer the media’s questions hours before Wednesday night’s final Democratic mayoral debate.
Struggling to be heard above the din, the Brooklyn borough president insisted he’d followed all the rules in his handling of the Prospect Heights co-op he co-owned with Cowan, who describes herself and Adams as “good friends.” They co-purchased the apartment in 1992.
Adams claimed he “assigned” his shares of the co-op to Cowan in 2007 at no charge, although there is no public filing reflecting that transaction. He provided THE CITY a photocopy of a letter he says he wrote transferring the shares to Cowan as of March 1, 2007. The letter was signed by Adams but not Cowan, and was not notarized.
Property owners are required to notify co-op boards of any change in ownership. But Cowan, in a statement provided by Adams’ campaign, said she only “recently” told the board.
‘Proud of my Transparency’
Adams blamed Cowan for the 14-year delay.
“I followed all of the rules I was supposed to follow,” he said. “I turned [my shares] over to her. It’s her responsibility and obligation to notify the board. I signed a contract. I no longer wanted to have ownership in it. I signed a contract and turned it over. Now if she neglected to tell them that’s one thing. But I did what I was supposed to do.”
He added, “I’m proud of my transparency and so I turned over the information to her and if she was slow in doing something, that’s another thing. But I turned over everything to her.”
On Tuesday and again on Wednesday, Cowan did not return calls and emails from THE CITY seeking comment.
Adams’ campaign has yet to respond to THE CITY’s request to provide documentation that the co-op board was notified of the transfer of shares recently.
Cowan also owns a co-op in a Fort Lee, N.J., tower — living one floor below the apartment Adams’ campaign told THE CITY he purchased for $288,000 cash in 2016 in partnership with his girlfriend, Tracey Collins.
THE CITY’s report also detailed how Adams had reported in financial disclosure forms that he’d been collecting upwards of $50,000 a year in rent from another property he owns, a four-family building in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. He has said that was enough to help him pay for his son’s college tuition.
But in 2017, 2018 and 2019, Adams filed tax forms with the IRS claiming that he’d netted zero taxable rental income on that property because, he says, expensive repair costs offset the revenue. There’s no record of any building permits at that address, but Adams insisted the work that was done didn’t require Department of Buildings permission.
Adams says he lives in the Lafayette Avenue building, and gave reporters a tour of his apartment last week after Politico raised questions about whether he lives in the Fort Lee building.
‘Hide From Questions’
An hour before Wednesday’s news conference, Wiley, whose rankings in mayoral polls have recently been on the rise, went after Adams in response to THE CITY’s report on both the hidden co-op and the zeroed-out rental income.
“On the same day a new story emerges on Eric Adams’ shady real estate dealings, he’s hosting a press conference to try and change the subject and hide from important questions about his ethics and conflicts of interest,” she said in a press release.
Wiley listed a series of issues she said Adams needs to address — including why hadn’t filed required Schedule E forms with the IRS detailing the rental income and claimed expenses. She also questioned Adams’ statement that he can no longer find his 2015 and 2016 tax forms.
In recent days, Adams has focused much of his criticism on Wiley, particularly after she responded to a question at a June 10 debate about whether she would take guns away from police officers. She said she was “not prepared to make that decision in a debate.”
All the other candidates gave a simple answer to that question: No. The next day Wiley backed off, explaining, “No one is seriously talking about taking guns away from cops.”
Rivals have also raised questions about Adams’ role, back when he was a state senator, in awarding a contract to an outfit looking to run a casino at Queens’ Aqueduct Race Way.
THE CITY recently revealed Adams’ evasive responses to lawyers for the state inspector general back in 2010 during a probe of the Senate leadership’s approval of a politically wired bidder.
In a transcript of the IG’s examination, Adams repeatedly stated “I don’t recall” to questions about the favored bidder making tens of thousands of dollars in political donations to his campaign.
He also minimized his role in the selection of the bidder, Aqueduct Entertainment Group (AEG), a contention that was contradicted by the testimony of then-Governor David Paterson and former Senate Conference Leader John Sampson.
The IG ultimately questioned the veracity of Adams’ testimony and his claim of having little to do with the AEG selection. That selection was later revoked after evidence emerged that the Senate leadership had leaked details of a rival’s bids to AEG.
Adams has insisted he did nothing wrong during the Aqueduct scandal, denying that he leaked anything to AEG.