Mayor Eric Adams has said he plans to appoint Fernando Cabrera, a former Bronx City Councilmember who has espoused anti-gay positions, to a role in his administration, even as he faces growing pushback from the city’s LGBTQ community.
On Monday, the mayor’s office issued a statement saying that Cabrera would become a senior advisor in the mayor’s Office of Faith-based and Community Partnerships. Adams announced the formation of the new office earlier this month, describing it as “a conduit between city government, the faith-based community throughout New York City, and nonprofit organizations.” Politico had initially reported that Cabrera, who served on the New York City Council between 2010 and 2021, was being considered to head the mayor’s Office of Community Health, but that plan was apparently scrapped after outcry from advocates and elected officials.
Cabrera, who is a pastor, infamously drew sharp backlash in 2014 after he traveled to Uganda and touted the country’s anti-gay and anti-abortion policies.
Adams' decision to appoint Cabrera, an individual that several LGBTQ lawmakers have drawn a line against, could pose a critical political test for the new mayor. The latest appointment also adds to a string of controversial picks made by Adams. They include the appointment of his brother Bernard Adams, a former NYPD officer, to be in charge of security detail and Philip Banks III, an ex-NYPD department chief who was the subject of a federal corruption investigation, to serve as deputy mayor of public safety.
Referring to an apology that Cabrera posted on his Facebook page, Adams said, “Fernando Cabrera has acknowledged the pain that his past comments have caused and has apologized for the words he used. I heard and accepted his apology. As a man of faith, I have made clear that our administration will serve all New Yorkers equally and fairly.”
The mayor then added: “I appreciate the community concerns that have been expressed, and I hope New Yorkers will give Fernando the opportunity to show his commitment to bringing together all New Yorkers, regardless of who they love or how they identify.”
The statement from Adams came shortly after receiving a letter from the Council’s LGBTQ Caucus. The group of councilmembers called on the mayor to reconsider both the consideration of Cabrera as well as the appointment of Erick Salgado, a Brooklyn pastor who has opposed same-sex marriage, as an assistant commissioner to the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. The office is charged with increasing access to city services to immigrants across the five boroughs.
Camille Rivera, a Democratic consultant, called Adams’ decision to double-down on Cabrera “an unbelievable situation.”
“It is quite clear that this is Eric’s world and we are just living in it,” she said. “It would be great to figure out when he is going to realize that it doesn’t work like that in city politics.”
As a state senator and Brooklyn borough president, Adams was viewed as supportive to the LGBTQ community, casting the decisive vote in the state legislature for same-sex marriage.
The letter from the LGBTQ Caucus was first tweeted by Brooklyn Councilmember Chi Ossé, a caucus member who is Black and queer.
Tiffany Cabán, a high-profile progressive Queens Councilmember who is Latina and queer, retweeted the statement. Earlier in the day, she also criticized Adams in a tweet.
“When homophobic bigots occupy positions of leadership w the ability to make consequential decisions, queer folks like me are at best invisible & at worst actively harmed,” she said.
On Sunday, Adams was confronted by a woman demanding that he explain his decision to appoint Salgado during an open streets visit with transportation and elected officials in Queens.
After a short exchange, Adams ended the conversation. “Don’t yell at me,” the mayor tells her before moving on. “When you can talk like a human being, we can talk.”
In a statement provided by the mayor’s office, Salgado said, “My views have evolved as society has evolved. As MOIA Assistant Commissioner, my mission will be to lift up immigrant communities across our city, including LGBTQ+ immigrants, who often face barriers to accessing needed services.”
In their letter, the caucus members singled out Cabrera as the most “egregious” of the two Adams’ picks.
Cabrera did not respond to a request for comment.
But on Facebook, Cabrera cited the 2014 Uganda visit, saying he was “deeply sorry for the undue pain and suffering that my past remarks have caused the LGBTQ+ community.” He expressed his “conviction that equality among human beings is real, a human right that must be sanctioned and protected by law – and that includes marriage.”
Christine Quinn, the first woman City Council Speaker who is also openly gay and served with Cabrera, rejected his apology. In a tweet, she called him a “homophobe and a danger.”
Allen Roskoff, the the president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, an influential political group, also condemned the appointment, saying it was “illogical” for the mayor to choose candidates with such histories.
“In my 50 years of gay activism, I have never seen a mayor go out of their way to try to marginalize and insult the LGBTQ community,” he told Gothamist, adding, “It must be because he wants to appeal to a base that shows contempt for the LGBTQ community.”