The rival mayoral candidates who are challenging Eric Adams on whether he really lives in New York City will get a chance to confront him on a debate stage Thursday night, after Mr. Adams reversed course and said he would attend the event.
Mr. Adams, the top contender to be the next mayor, had said that he would skip the debate for a vigil honoring a 10-year-old killed in gun violence.
Then came a topsy-turvy two days that have shaken the crowded Democratic primary, which is almost sure to decide who will lead the city as it seeks to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Discrepancies emerged in Mr. Adams’s paperwork, and his habit of pulling all-nighters in his office in Brooklyn Borough Hall, reported by Politico, raised questions about his true residence.
Mr. Adams’s attempt to answer in turn produced an unusual spectacle on Wednesday: reporters peering into the refrigerator and closets of a basement apartment in a building he owns in Brooklyn, where he said he lives.
By Thursday morning, the brouhaha had grown to the point that, Mr. Adams said, his attendance at the vigil for Justin Wallace, the 10-year-old killed in a shooting in Queens over the weekend, would be “a painful distraction.”
Mr. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, blamed his opponents, who had accused him of obscuring facts about his residency and even of living in New Jersey, where he co-owns an apartment in Fort Lee with his partner — a perennial issue in a race where candidates have jousted over who is and is not a true New Yorker. He said they had tried to “politicize” the vigil.
By Thursday afternoon, though, Mr. Adams — surrounded by steadfast supporters who said they did not care where he lived, slept or visited if he worked for their interests — seemed cheerful, as if relishing the skirmish.
“A question came up, and I answered it,” he said as he trotted to his car after speaking to city bus drivers at a depot in southern Brooklyn. “I did it the New York way. I didn’t run from it. I confronted the problem head on, the same way I confronted bad guys as a police officer.”
His supporters at the event, transit workers and leaders of their union, Transport Workers Union Local 100, dismissed the allegations as a distraction ginned up by opponents like Andrew Yang, a former presidential candidate who was running with Mr. Adams at the top of the polls, but in the latest survey appeared to drop to third place behind the borough president and Maya Wiley, a former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Roberto Martinez, a bus driver and a former police officer who said he remembered Mr. Adams from the candidate’s own policing days, called him “a New Yorker true and blue.”
“It doesn’t matter,” he said. “If you’re in Manhattan, you can see New Jersey. If that’s the best they’ve got, forget it. The president of the U.S. lives in Washington, D.C. That doesn’t mean he doesn’t represent the people in Washington, D.C., and the people in New Hampshire. If he wants to go spend the weekend in Jersey with his girlfriend, it’s not going to matter to me.”
The controversy surrounding Mr. Adams’s residency is likely to have little bearing on his eligibility to run for mayor.
Even if he did live in New Jersey, state law only says that he has to be living in New York City on Election Day in November, according to the state board of elections.