ERIC ADAMS AND ME
Why I supported Eric Adams for Mayor
Hey New York, if you haven’t heard: We have a new Mayor-elect! Former cop / NY State Senator / Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams will be the 110th Mayor of the City of New York, and the city’s second African-American Hizzoner after the late David N. Dinkins (who served from 1990–1993.)
Adams is inheriting a city still reeling from a pandemic and whose crime rates, empty storefronts, and homeless population are on the rise. I am very open about my support for Eric Adams, as I feel it was not only my privilege but my duty to support him after he supported me and my Off-Track Betting family.
Let me explain:
In 2010 I was working as a telephone betting clerk at the city’s only legal gambling outlet, New York City Off-Track Betting. OTB was in bankruptcy and facing closure. My job, and the jobs of over 1,200 of my coworkers were in peril. A restructuring measure was proposed in the state senate, and passage of this measure would have ensured that a version of OTB would still exist today with many union jobs saved. This was not a handout. Unfortunately, despite great effort made by then-Senator Eric Adams and others, the measure failed and New York City Off-Track Betting closed, killing our jobs.
It was a devastating turn of events. The date was December 7, 2010, and the place was the state capital in Albany. The state senate had just voted to change the name of the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the Hugh Carey Tunnel after New York’s former governor. Next up on their docket was the bill to save New York City’s Off-Track Betting.
This was literally the make or break moment for the employees of OTB. Livelihoods, health insurance, prescription costs, car payments, college tuitions, rents…everything important to peoples’ daily lives, were held in the balance by this bill. Also on the line: the financial fate of the New York racing industry. Without the bets that OTB collected the horse racing industry’s revenue would drop like a stone.
“First, this is not a bailout. If we do not pass this bill, we have started the erosion of racing in the state of New York,” explained Senator Adams, the first to stand up during the session and speak on the bill.
The horse racing industry employs over 30,000 people in New York state alone. Breeders, farriers, groomers, trainers, riders, concessions, bet collectors, janitors, TV simulcast production, are some of the many jobs that are connected to the industry.
Adams continued: “This is an important bill. I vote ‘Aye’ and I ask my colleagues to do the same. A ‘No’ vote on this bill lights the wick to a stick of dynamite that will blow up our racing industry.”
Republican Senators Andrew Lanza of Staten Island and Martin Golden of Brooklyn were the only two senators who had OTBs in their districts who voted against the bill. They voted against their own constituents.
Senator Lanza actually sponsored the bill, then voted against it.
He voted against his own bill.
After losing my job that December day, I decided to tell the story of what went down. I started making what would become the documentary film, OTB Finish Line. I interviewed Eric Adams about his views on OTB, unions, working class people, and his colleagues on the other side of the aisle. Adams understood the stakes that were at play not only for OTB and its employees, but what it meant for the city. He was forthcoming, straightforward, and knowledgeable on his subjects. His demeanor was serious and he generously gave us about 45 minutes of his time.
As we were adjusting the lights and cameras, his demeanor softened a little bit, and he smiled that great Eric Adams smile and he said to me, “You’re like a Steven Spielberg or something, man.” I smiled back and said, “From your mouth to God’s ears.” He gave a hearty chuckle. Then it was back to business.
About two-years later, I was still making the film (it took 6 years to complete.) I was on the A Train heading downtown and who gets on at 34th street and sits next to me? Senator Eric Adams.
“Excuse me Senator?”
“Hi, it’s me Joseph Fusco. You were in my OTB documentary.”
“Oh yes. Hi, how are you? How’s that film coming along?” he asked me.
“I’m still working on it.”
“Well good luck with it. Keep up the good work.” He flashed that smile at me again, and got off at the next stop. I never saw him again.
Mayor-elect Eric Adams will take on unprecedented and incredible challenges when he is sworn in on January 1, 2022. History will prove if he is the right man for the moment. I will give him the benefit of the doubt in the beginning. However, I will not be quiet if I think he is taking the city down the wrong street.
He will be successful in some areas, perhaps he will be less so in other areas, but I have faith that he will try to do the right thing. He has already demonstrated that he is capable of doing the right thing. He championed the workers of Off-Track Betting and of the horse racing industry.
Today we celebrate Mayor-elect Adams and not Mayor-elect Golden, or Mayor-elect Lanza.
There’s a reason for that. Karma.
Joseph Fusco is a former betting clerk at New York City Off-Track Betting, and a filmmaker. His film, “OTB Finish Line” is the award-winning documentary about the untold story of the rise and demise of Off-Track Betting. It is available for rent or purchase by clicking HERE.