Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s legacy became a political cudgel Monday as Mayor Adams and his critics took swipes at each other over New York City’s migrant crisis while attending an event honoring the late civil rights hero.
The rhetorical fireworks erupted at the Rev. Al Sharpton’s annual MLK Day forum in Harlem, where a long list of local Democratic officials gathered to reflect on the great civil rights leader.
Comptroller Brad Lander, a progressive who has increasingly clashed with the more moderate mayor, told the crowd that King would have been at the forefront of welcoming Latin-American migrants if he was still alive today.
”There is room in this city,” Lander said. “We will, with help from Albany and Washington, find the resources to provide shelter and services [for migrants] because, as Dr. King said, ‘We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.’”
The comptroller’s comments marked a shot across the bow at Adams, who has said on multiple recent occasions that there’s “no more room” for migrants in the city and urged the federal government to stop sending them.
The mayor ran late to Sharpton’s event, so he was not present for the comptroller’s dig.
But after arriving — by which point Lander had left — Adams addressed the city’s deepening migrant crisis in his own remarks.
”I don’t even know the madness of people telling me I shouldn’t go speak to my fellow mayor in El Paso to deal with a crisis that the national government was supposed to be dealing with,” said Adams, who returned Sunday from a trip to the Texas border city as New York scrambles to house and provide services for the more than 40,000 asylum seekers who have arrived since last spring.
In an apparent reference to Lander, who has long been rumored to have aspirations for higher office, Adams added: “Stop running for office, and do the office you got now.”
The mayor was firm in his rejection of more migrant arrivals on Sunday, telling reporters in Texas: “New York cannot take more. … There is no more room.”
Lander was among a handful of politicos on the left who said such comments — and Adams’ border trip as a whole — sent the wrong message.
“The mayor’s trip to Texas does little to deliver the $$ NYC needs to provide shelter and services,” Lander tweeted Sunday. “Instead, it risks reinforcing a harmful narrative that new immigrants themselves are a problem.”
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams echoed Lander’s remarks on Monday.
“We have to actively choose to unite those who are suffering, not allow the adoption of an ‘us-or-them’ mindset with our newest and aspiring New Yorkers,” Williams said at NAN.
“Look to Dr. King’s example — he would fiercely condemn and fight anti-Black inequity, which is very much alive,” he continued, “and in the same breath call to support all who are struggling against oppression, for ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’”
In between speakers at the hourslong event, Sharpton at one point chimed in to urge Democratic people of color to quit “infighting.”
“We need to stop this mess,” he said.
For months, Adams pleaded with the federal government and Gov. Hochul’s administration for financial and logistical assistance to accommodate the migrant influx while predicting that the crisis will cost the city at least $1 billion this fiscal year.
Congress acted at least in part on Adams’ request, earmarking a “substantial share” of $800 million in aid for New York, while Hochul’s administration has said it’s spending millions of dollars on stationing National Guard troops in the city to help with migrant response.
But Adams has said the aid so far is not nearly enough.
In recent weeks, he has shifted his rhetoric from calling on the federal government to help accommodate migrants to saying Washington should stop sending them altogether — a rhetorical shift that’s earned him qualified praise from Republicans.
“The mayor is right in the sense that he’s saying this is a national crisis,” Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.) said on Fox News Monday. “But he needs to say that is a national crisis created by Joe Biden.”
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