One of New York City‘s most high-profile campaigners for defunding the police lives in an Army barracks protected by tanks and soldiers, it has emerged.
Jumaane Williams, who is running for governor of New York, was accused of hypocrisy on Sunday when New Yorkers blighted by rising crime and soaring gun violence learnt that he is living in a fortress.
‘He gets to protect himself, and yet we can’t?’ asked Joseph Rolland, 53, who lives close to Williams’ base in Brooklyn.
He told The New York Post: ‘I’m not upset that he gets to protect himself on a military base as long as the citizens of the city can also protect themselves, whether it’s through private security or our police department, which we pay taxes for.’
Williams, 45, is currently the New York City Public Advocate – an elected position, which means he oversees city agencies, investigates complaints about services and makes suggestions for improvements.
Jumaane Williams, 45, is currently running to be elected governor of New York, with a Democrat primary scheduled for June. He is a vocal supporter of the movement to defund the police – yet lives surrounded by military security
Williams is seen on June 2, responding to a wave of anti-Asian attacks
The Brooklyn-born politician lives on Fort Hamilton, an Army base in Brooklyn
He has long been a vocal supporter of the movement to defund the police, and in June 2020, during the George Floyd protests, he led marches to Brooklyn Borough Hall to demand the cuts.
Williams wanted cuts to the NYPD budget to fund youth and community development as well as social and children’s services, and said that the $1 billion cut agreed in July 2020 was insufficient.
He also threatened to refuse to sign a warrant authorizing the collection of real estate taxes, which underpin the city’s budget.
He said he would not sign that warrant unless the city eliminated the next class of police officers.
‘If we have a hiring freeze for every single city agency, that should include the NYPD,’ Williams said at the time.
He did not follow up on his threat.
A spokesman for Williams said that his living on an Army base did not contradict his views on defunding the police.
‘The suggestion that his work to protect, promote, and reimagine public safety would change with his address is belied by his record on these issues for over a decade – that work continues as he advocates for policies to advance community in neighborhoods citywide,’ the spokesman told The New York Post.
Williams, wearing his ‘Stay Woke’ badge, speaks at a vigil near where a 10-year-old boy was shot and killed in Queens
Williams, his wife and children live on the Fort Hamilton base in the Bay Ridge area of Brooklyn.
The family, who have lived there for two years, rent a corner townhouse on the base with a backyard and water views of the Verrazano Narrows for about $4,000 a month.
To enter the base, vehicles and passengers are subject to identity checks and surveillance.
In 2018, a pizza delivery man from Ecuador, Pablo Villavicencio, 35, was handed over to immigration officials while bringing food to the base. His case was later dropped.
The base remains one of the most protected corners of Brooklyn.
‘When he needed a new home for his family in 2019, they chose a publicly-available unit in Fort Hamilton not because of its position on a base but because it offered the best unit for his family’s price point and criteria,’ said Williams’s spokesman.
Williams (far right) is pictured on November 1 with councilman Brad Lander (left) and Ruben Diaz Jr (second left) at celebrations for the 30th anniversary of Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network’s (NAN)
As public advocate, his taxpayer-funded salary is $183,801.
Similar properties on surrounding public streets rent for closer to $5,800 a month, the Post reported.
There are 228 homes on the garrison and 15 per cent are occupied by civilians who have to join a waitlist to move in, the paper said.
The base housing offers free parking, access to a large swimming pool, playgrounds, a bowling center, Burger King, Einstein Bagels, Subway, a dry cleaners, a gas station, a barbershop offering $14 hair cuts, and a US Post Office.
The base also boasts a range of military hardware, from historic cannons and WWII artillery to modern Humvees.
Brooklyn born and raised, he was a council member before being elected Public Advocate.
On November 16 he announced he was running for governor of New York, taking on the incumbent Kathy Hochul – and her $10 million campaign war chest – and Letitia James, the attorney general.
Other likely Democrat contenders in the June primary – with a November vote – include Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York; Mike Spano, mayor of Yonkers; and Steve Bellone, county executive in Suffolk County.