Adams looked to controversial ally to run mental health office

Via Peters

Within hours, City Hall officials confirmed Cabrera would not take the helm of the mental health office.

Yet Cabrera, a Christian pastor with longstanding ties to anti-LGBTQ groups, was seen working out of the Thrive office in recent days and has met staffers, four people familiar with the situation told POLITICO. A fifth person said Cabrera was still working out of 253 Broadway on Friday.

When a POLITICO reporter went to 253 Broadway to speak with Cabrera, a staffer with the mental health office offered to see if he was available. Moments later the staffer’s colleagues said he wasn’t available. 

Adams, at an unrelated press conference at City Hall Friday, simply said “no” when asked if he had appointed Cabrera to the position.

LGBTQ groups have long railed against Cabrera, who briefly challenged Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in 2020 before dropping that for an unsuccessful bid for Bronx borough president. Chief among their concerns are remarks he made in 2014 after visiting Uganda. At the time he posted a video to YouTube from overseas praising the government as “godly” and remaining steadfast in the face of what he characterized as pressure from the United States to get the nation’s leaders to back same-sex marriage.

“Godly people are in government. Gay marriage is not accepted in this country, even when the United States of America has put pressure, and has told Uganda, ‘We are not going to fund you anymore unless you allow gay marriage,’ and they have stood in their place,” Cabrera said in that video. “Why? Because the Christians have assumed the place of decision-making for the nation.”

City Hall officials initially declined to comment on Cabrera taking the helm of the mental health office and whether the mayor agrees with Cabrera’s position on same-sex marriage. The former Council member did not return multiple requests for comment.

His potential appointment drew concerns.

“This is the most outrageously homophobic appointment I’ve ever witnessed in my entire history in the movement,” said Allen Roskoff, a longtime gay rights activist and president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club.

“To put a vile, homophobic bigot in charge of mental health, it insults every member of the LGBTQ community. It would be similar to appointing David Duke to head the B’nai B’rith,” he said of the American neo-Nazi and international Jewish service group.

Young people who identify as part of the LGBTQ community are 120 percent more likely to experience homelessness and seek mental health services from the city.

Thrive became a political issue for former Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration following reports that the $1 billion program had few metrics to track outcomes and spending.

Following public pushback, McCray and Herman pivoted Thrive to focus on people with serious mental illness and ways the NYPD could connect people living on the streets to care. Before leaving office, de Blasio codified the Office of Community Mental Health into the City Charter so that it remains a permanent part of city government.

Gary Belkin, who designed the original Thrive program and declined to weigh in on Cabrera’s anticipated appointment, said the mental health effort should “get back to its original intention of getting into communities to do mental health where they live.”

“This is a mayor who’s talked eloquently about the needs of government to step in and go upstream,” he said. “I hope we’re not sliding downstream only for a mental health approach.”

Joe Anuta contributed to this report.

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