Editors’ Note: The Willowbrook State School, was, according to Wikipedia: “Willowbrook State School was a state-supported institution for children with intellectual disabilities located in the Willowbrook neighborhood on Staten Island in New York City from 1947 until 1987.
The school was designed for 4,000, but by 1965 it had a population of 6,000. At the time, it was the biggest state-run institution for people with mental disabilities in the United States. Conditions and questionable medical practices and experiments prompted Senator Robert F. Kennedy to call it a “snake pit”. The institution gained national infamy in 1972, when Geraldo Rivera did an exposé on the conditions there. Public outcry led to its closure in 1987, and to federal civil rights legislation protecting people with disabilities. A February 2020 New York Times investigation found that the alumni of Willowbrook continue to be abused in smaller group homes.
A portion of the grounds and some of the buildings were incorporated into the campus of the College of Staten Island, which moved to Willowbrook in the early 1990s.”
On September 22, 2021, Eric Adams was interviewed on Morning Joe, where he was asked about the homelessness problem. Part of his response was to mention Willowbrook State School. He stated the following:
“We made a big mistake when [in] Willowbrook, a few employees harmed those who were patients in Willowbrook on Staten Island. There was a reaction from the advocates to close down Willowbrook, deinstitutionalize those who need round the clock services. But we didn’t balance that with real programs to give it to them.”
Curtis Sliwa reached out to us and provided the following statement in response to the comments made by his mayoral opponent, Eric Adams:
On Friday, September 24th, mayoral candidate Curtis Sliwa addressed the insensitive comments made by Eric Adams about Willowbrook State School in Staten Island. During a conversation about homelessness and mental health with MSNBC’s “Morning Joe”, Sliwa’s opponent Eric Adams said that closing the school was a “big mistake” and an “overreaction”.
Willowbrook State School was a former school for intellectually disabled children and adults. It was shut down for its inhumane conditions. For 40 years, students of this school were starved, neglected, and even abused by its staff. The facility was overcrowded, understaffed, and flooded with disease, including hepatitis.
Many investigations were conducted into the indescribable horrors that took place at this school. ABC’s Investigative reporter Geraldo Rivera uncovered these horrors in an expose that lead to the school’s closure. After Adams’ appearance on “Morning Joe,” he tweeted, ‘As someone deeply involved in exposing the horrors of Willowbrook, I am disgusted by Adams’ comments about the developmentally disabled. Curtis Sliwa for Mayor.’
Adams said, “We made a big mistake [when closing] Willowbrook. A few employees harmed those who were patients at Willowbrook on Staten Island. There was a reaction from the advocates to close down Willowbrook, deinstitutionalize those who needed around-the-clock services, but we didn’t balance that with real programs to give it to them.”
Sliwa emphasized during the press conference that he believes Adams has no compassion, no empathy, and no understanding towards the intellectually and developmentally disabled. “Adams should be forced to apologize for his statements that have hurt so many people, especially Geraldo Rivera. The conditions were inhumane,” Sliwa said.
Staten Islander reached out to Eric Adams for comment, and have not received a reply.