Eric Adams appoints controversial new cultural commissioner

Jahlil Rush

New York City Mayor Eric Adams has appointed former City Council member Laurie Cumbo as the new commissioner for the Department of Cultural Affairs.

Cumbo’s earlier positions included serving as city council member, representing the 35th district which included Brooklyn neighborhoods Fort Greene, Clinton Hill and Prospect Heights. She also served as majority leader of the council.

Before her political career, she founded the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts, or MoCADA, in Brooklyn and previously worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Brooklyn Museum.

Cumbo’s appointment has been met with pushback from community leaders. According to Politico, she faced opposition from others due to her past voting record on a bill allowing non-citizens in New York City to vote in local elections.

Opposition to her appointment included Luis Miranda Jr. father of “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who said he cannot support her newfound position.

“I am sorry, but Ms. Cumbo’s recent anti-immigrant statements make it very difficult for me to support her appointment,” Miranda said.

In addition to Miranda Jr. former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito called Cumbo an “affront to the Latino Community” in a March 2022 tweet.

Cumbo is no stranger to controversy. Before she was sworn in as council member in 2013, she made statements about her Black constituents and the Jewish community shortly after a string of assaults against Jewish people at the time.

In a released statement, Mayor Adams stood by his decision to appoint Cumbo noting her experience in the arts and culture sector of New York City.

“Laurie Cumbo brings a breadth of experience in the arts, community advocacy, and city government to her role as commissioner. She will be instrumental in leading our efforts to strengthen New York City’s vibrant cultural life and connect New Yorkers to cultural experiences and institutions in all five boroughs,” Adams said.

He also noted that people can change and learn from their past mistakes when referring to the former City Council member.

New York City’s Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer also backed Cumbo’s appointment and experience in arts while noting how the city’s arts and cultural organizations were most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Deputy Mayor Torres-Springer said. “And I look forward to working with her to support the entire cultural community, create quality creative jobs, and expand access to the arts for all New Yorkers.”