Although the death of Jordan Neely has been one of the biggest stories to grip the city, Mayor Eric Adams ultimately decided not to go to his funeral in Harlem.
While Adams was not invited, many advocates and critics thought he might make an appearance as the case has brought national attention to the issue of homelessness and public safety.
As people gathered to mourn Neely, the mayor instead was talking about healthy eating and the continued influx of migrants on a Caribbean Power Jam’s “The Reset Talk Show” radio program.
“Everywhere you go, you are constantly being reminded of bad food, bad things, and you know what? You’re not going to be perfect,” he said.
Meanwhile, Gov. Kathy Hochul was in Buffalo with union members, talking up her wins for working class New Yorkers in the recently passed state budget.
“They finally fled one night to the promised land of Buffalo, New York and they came here, as my grandpa did, to work in the steel plant,” she said.
Among the prominent politicians in attendance at the funeral were Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Lieutenant Gov. Antonio Delgado and Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.
“What we saw today was a gathering of hundreds of people who knew him, who saw him and who valued him and I think it’s important that we all see that a human life was recognized,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Neely, a homeless street performer, was choked to death by Daniel Penny, a former marine, on May 1 after he allegedly got aggressive on the train as he asked for food and water.
Last week, Penny was charged with manslaughter by the Manhattan District Attorney. The tragedy has thrust the city’s response to public safety, homelessness and mental health into a major debate.
The case also has racial implications, as Neely was Black, and Penny is white.
“I think if a Black homeless man had choked a white marine to death, he would still be on Riker’s Island because he couldn’t afford the bail that was set for him,” Williams said. “That’s something we can’t let go because we’re at a point now where we’re really going to have to decide to fix this or continue to sow fear and sow division.”
Rev. Al Sharpton eulogized Neely on Friday pointing to the failures of city agencies to help him as he struggled with homelessness and mental health.
Advocates say now is the time for officials to make impactful changes.
“It’s important for them to not let Jordan Neely die invisible,” Shams DaBaron, also known as “The Homeless Hero,” said.
As of Friday, Penny’s defense fund has raised more than $2.6 million compared to Neely’s funeral fund that has raised almost $150,000.
Adams and Hochul’s absence for some could be a sign that they don’t want to wade further into a case that has become politically charged. Those that attended were officials who have insisted Neely was murdered, though Penny has not been indicted.
Neely was expected to be buried later on Friday. Ironically, The Mount Neboh Baptist Church was the same location where Neely’s mother had her funeral more than a decade ago.