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Eric Adams’s former girlfriend, with whom he still owns an apartment in Brooklyn despite initially claiming otherwise—and who also owns a condo apartment in the Fort Lee, New Jersey, building where Adams and his current girlfriend own a unit.
- Personal fitness and exercise instructor
- Champion bodybuilder
- Healthcare administrator
What’s the word for a straight couple where the woman seems deeply cool and the man does not? If that term had been around in the 1990s, it might have been applied to Sylvia Cowan and Eric Adams, who dated for an unspecified period of time while Adams was a cop and Cowan was, notably and impressively, a champion competitive bodybuilder. (“In a world that can be unreliable, I always rely on moving steel and sculpting flesh,” she once said. Put that on a mug and sell it on Etsy!)
Cowan, who today is a VP for customer care at a health insurance company, would be just a footnote in Adams’s biography but for the fact that in 1988, Cowan and Adams purchased a one-bedroom co-op apartment in Crown Heights at 425 Prospect Place—an apartment that came up repeatedly during Adams’s mayoral run, when questions about where exactly he lived and his rather murky real estate holdings dogged his campaign.
The first problem? While running in 2005 and after becoming a state senator in 2006, Adams did not include in required disclosures that he co-owned that apartment with Cowan. When pressed by reporters during his 2021 campaign on this omission, Adams replied that he had given away his ownership of the apartment to Cowan in 2007, providing as evidence a photocopy of a short, unnotarized letter from that year which stated he was turning over his shares to Cowan “without asking for any payment for my portion of the shares.”
Cowan appeared to back up that assertion, releasing a statement through his campaign that she has “fully owned 425 Prospect Place, Apartment 1K since 2007, when Eric signed his half over to me.” She added, “Eric and I remain good friends.” But somewhat perplexingly, in a 2018 campaign filing for his 2021 run for mayor, Eric Adams listed his residential address as 425 Prospect Place, despite his campaign stating that he had lived in the Bed-Stuy townhome he’s owned since 2003 for almost a decade. That statement was seemingly at odds with another statement made by his campaign, which told the CITY that actually, Adams had lived at 425 Prospect Place apartment until 2013, before moving to the Crown Heights apartment of his good friend Lisa White, where he lived before moving to his Bed-Stuy townhome in 2017.
But back to 425 Prospect Place—Cowan’s “good friend” then turned around and placed all of the blame for this confusion over who owned the apartment on Cowan. “I followed all of the rules I was supposed to follow,” Adams said. “I turned [my shares] over to her. It’s her responsibility and obligation to notify the board. I signed a contract. I no longer wanted to have ownership in it. I signed a contract and turned it over. Now if she neglected to tell them that’s one thing. But I did what I was supposed to do.” He added, “I’m proud of my transparency and so I turned over the information to her and if she was slow in doing something, that’s another thing. But I turned over everything to her.”
What he didn’t acknowledge was that it appears that in 2017, he blocked the sale of that Crown Heights apartment. According to the CITY, that year, Cowan had attempted to sell the apartment, and a real estate agent Cowan worked with told the outlet that at the time, she said that Adams “wasn’t fully supportive of her selling the apartment.” (He also recommended that she buy a condo in Fort Lee, which is where he and his current girlfriend Tracey Collins had bought a place in 2016. In 2017, Cowan took his advice, buying a unit…in the same building as Adams and Collins.)
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Another problem? Six months into his first year as mayor, Adams revealed in a financial disclosure filing that he still owned half of the apartment on 425 Prospect Place. This time, he said, the mistake was not Cowan’s, but that of his (former) accountant, whom he had previously blamed for misreporting on his tax documents that he didn’t live in the Bed-Stuy townhome, after that accountant became homeless. Adams, however, promised that he was doing his best to finally get rid of his ownership stake.
Did he Get That Stuff Done? No. According to Adams’s latest financial disclosure, filed in June 2023, he continues to own half of the apartment. “After previously learning that the transfer did not go through, the mayor initiated the process last year to transfer the property, but for tax-related purposes, it is currently being delayed, and the mayor has filled out his C.O.I.B. paperwork to reflect that fact,” his now-Deputy Mayor for Communications Fabien Levy told the New York Times.
And on October 17, during his weekly off-topic press conference, Adams shared that he still owns it. And the very next week, he hinted he may want to keep his stake in it after all. “And talking about my co‑op, I don’t know if you realize it, but Prospect Heights is now a hot place to own property, and so I’m trying to decide what I’m going to do with my personal property that I announced on my COIB, and I follow all the rules. This is my property,” he said. “Many folks did not want to come in. I made it safe and now everyone is enjoying the great work that I’ve done. So, if I want to…if I wanna hold on to my apartment, it’s reported. I say what it is. And I’ll make up my mind on how I’m going to deal with my finances. You know, some of you thought I lived in Jersey, you know? So, yes, so you know, I’m making smart decisions.”
Cowan appears to have no desire to talk about it. “I AM NOT INTERESTED IN SPEAKING TO THE MEDIA,” she texted the CITY in June 2021, in response to inquiries. We reached out to Cowan for comment, but never heard back.
That’s too bad, because we would love to chat with her and ask her some questions. What’s it like owning an apartment in the same building as your ex and his current girlfriend, and why would you want to do that? Is she mad that Adams said it was her fault that he didn’t take care of his ownership mess? Was she the inspiration for Adams’s own physical glow-up?
But mostly, we want to talk with her about her bodybuilding career, because judging from all the evidence, it ruled and she killed it. Plus, we have to know: Is Adams the “former boyfriend” who she said “got a little frightened and urged me to ease up on the muscle building” after she began her “muscle transformation”?
Regardless, Cowan knows her worth. “It takes a very secure person to be with me,” she said in 2005. “I am who I am and I will not change who I am for anyone.”
Last updated: 12/18/2023
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