Mayor Adams says ‘proactive’ aid could’ve saved Jordan Neely; stays clear of discussing Daniel Penny chokehold role
NEW YORK — Mayor Eric Adams continued to steer clear Tuesday of discussing U.S. Marine vet Daniel Penny’s role in Jordan Neely’s chokehold death, while suggesting that the homeless subway busker may still be alive had he received more “proactive” help.
“We cannot be so encompassed and so thoughtful on talking about merely how this young man died without answering the question: How was he living? We need to be open about that,” Adams said in a speech at John Jay College’s Manhattan campus
Adams — who has faced criticism from fellow Democrats for refraining from condemning Penny’s for putting Neely in a fatal chokehold — brought up the incident unprompted in a morning speech. The remarks focused on how what he characterized as a broken social safety net failed Neely.
The mayor said Black young men make up the majority of homeless New Yorkers battling severe mental illness and sleeping in the subway system — but they historically have not received enough help from the city.
“I’ve been in the subway system for almost two years now, and talking to them, trying to get them off the system, in the care that they deserve,” Adams said.
“I don’t want us to be energized when we have a death and not energized when there’s conditions that’s creating the deaths that are at our hand. We have to be proactive, and not merely reactive.”
Adams did not specify which types of proactive services he believes could’ve helped prevent Neely’s death. His spokesman, Fabien Levy, declined to elaborate later Tuesday.
The mayor has been a proponent of admitting mentally ill homeless people to hospitals. He rolled out a policy last year that empowered outreach workers and NYPD officers to hospitalize homeless people against their will if they are deemed to not be able to care for themselves.
Some civil libertarians contended that Adams’ plan to force mentally ill people into hospitals could be seen as unlawful government detention.
Neely, a Black 30-year-old known for his Michael Jackson impersonations, died May 1 after Penny, a white ex-Marine, put him in an extended chokehold on an F train.
Adams’ John Jay College remarks did not include any mention of Penny, who police released within hours of the incident. Penny has not been charged with any crimes, and his lawyers claim he acted in self-defense after Neely started acting erratic and shouting at other subway riders.
In the immediate aftermath of Neely’s death, left-wing Democrats like New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez blasted Adams for opting against calling for the ex-Marine’s arrest. Instead, Adams has said he wants to let authorities fully investigate the incident before he weighs in.
Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office is considering bringing charges against Penny, but has yet to make a decision, according to law enforcement sources.
On Monday, Donte Mills and Lennon Edwards, attorneys representing Neely’s family, issued a sharply-worded statement addressing Adams.
“The family wants you to know that Jordan matters,” their statement said. “You seem to think others are more important than him.”
In his Tuesday remarks, the mayor offered sympathy for Neely’s relatives.
“My heart breaks when we lost young Jordan,” he said. “Many people miss the fact that Jordan is my son’s name, and I think about every time I lost a young man or woman throughout this entire country that are fallen victim to so many levels.”