Democratic New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang drew swift condemnation from critics over what they described as an insensitive remark at Wednesday night’s final televised debate.
Yang, who has slipped from the frontrunner status he enjoyed for months to a more fluid spot within the primary campaign’s top four, was addressing mental illness and homelessness.
“Yes, mentally ill people have rights, but you know who else have rights? We do: the people and families of the city,” Yang said. “We have the right to walk the street and not fear for our safety because a mentally ill person is going to lash out at us.”
Rival campaigns quickly pounced on the comment, but backlash grew more broadly on social media once video of the remark began to circulate.
Earlier in his answer, Yang said the city needs to take a different approach given the spike in violent crime and several seemingly random attacks on the subways.
“I’m so glad we’re talking about this. Half of the attacks on Asian New Yorkers have been by the mentally ill. They’re walking around, they’re mentally ill, they see someone who’s different, and then they lash out. So this is such a crucial issue to return a sense of safety to our city,” he said.
Yang said the city needs to offer “more psych beds” and find a way to involuntarily commit those who are acting violently or are unresponsive, a practice that has been rolled back in the decades since major psychiatric institutions began to close across the country.
Other candidates in the race have a similar position to Yang’s and have called for more police in the subway.
Fellow candidate Scott Stringer replied to Yang’s comments by saying, “You can’t say, ‘Psych beds for all’ … That is the greatest non-answer I’ve ever heard in all of our debates.”
The second-term congresswoman wields one of the most powerful endorsements for Democrats seeking to consolidate the progressive vote in the contentious mayoral election. But Wiley, a civil rights attorney and former cable news analyst, is facing off against several other more moderate candidates, including Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, and former sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia. Whichever Democrat wins the primary will likely prevail in the general election this fall.
“We have an option of a candidate who can center people, racial justice, economic justice, and climate justice, that didn’t just come up to run for mayor, but has experience and has a lifetime of dedication to this,” Ocasio-Cortez said in the video, which pulled from her endorsement speech earlier this month.
She added, “Maya Wiley grew up in the movement and she understands and appreciates the importance of grassroots organizing, not just in supporting but in leading movements, in being the north star for policy.”
Ocasio-Cortez appeared with Wiley at a campaign rally outside City Hall in Manhattan last week to announce that Wiley would be her first choice of candidates in the city’s new ranked-choice electoral system. This allows people to vote for several candidates in addition to their top choice.
The congresswoman largely stayed out of the race until the final days, but has been repeatedly critical of a few candidates, including Yang.
Much of the public polling on the 2021 mayoral race has been sporadic and limited, with New York’s three biggest pollsters – Marist College, Siena College, and Quinnipiac University – sitting out the race until this week, when Marist released a poll in conjunction with WNBC, Telemundo, and Politico.
Simulating ranked choice voting is the most common reason cited by pollsters for holding off on the Democratic primary, and some have tried while others have done a more conventional horse race model.
Wiley had struggled to break out for months, but now sits somewhere in the top three to four candidates, consolidating progressive backers as New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s campaign has stalled. Two women have accused Stringer of sexual assault in the early 2000s. Stringer has denied the allegations and any wrongdoing.
After rounding up the most support from the party’s left wing early on, Stringer has since lost several prominent progressive endorsements – including a mass defection from Ocasio-Cortez’s cohort in the New York State Legislature – with some switching to rivals while others have held off.
Wiley, for her part, has improved her fundraising in recent months, reaching more small donors and getting creative with The Strokes performing for one.
New York City may be a preeminent global financial capital, but the city runs on its small businesses.
Last August, a report by the Partnership for New York City indicated that about a third of the city’s 240,000 small businesses might remain closed when the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
With a citywide 28-day COVID-19 positivity rate average hovering at 1.1 percent, much of the city has reopened, but there is still work to be done.
For Ray McGuire, a longtime Wall Street executive and one of the eight major Democratic candidates running in the city’s mayoral primary that will be held on June 22, steering the city’s economic recovery after the pandemic would be one of his paramount objectives as mayor.
“I want to have the greatest, most inclusive comeback in the history of New York City,” he said.
McGuire, 64, knows a thing or two about financial advancement, having grown up as the son of a single mother in Dayton, Ohio, and going on to become a top investment business leader.
After graduating from Harvard University, where he earned three degrees – a B.A. in English, as well as business and law degrees – McGuire carved out a career in investment banking, notably at Merrill Lynch. He’d go on to serve as the global co-head of mergers and acquisitions at Morgan Stanley.
McGuire became one of the highest-ranking Black executives on Wall Street when he entered a role as the head of global corporate and investment banking at Citigroup, originating and executing deals valued at over $650 billion.
Now he wants to apply his managerial experience to a city that he says has been hampered by the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio.
McGuire recently spoke with Insider about his campaign, which has focused on economic issues, affordable housing, and improving access to education throughout the city. Below are edited excerpts from that interview.
Q. You’ve touted your Comeback job accelerator program as a way to bring back economic life to the city in a big way. How would the plan work?
A. My plan is to put 50,000 jobs in small businesses to take care of half of their wages for one year, to help them retain their New York city sales tax receipts for one year, to waive all fees due for one year, to appoint a deputy mayor for small businesses, and to have that deputy mayor have “red tape” commission to cut through all the bureaucracy. There’d be a shot clock, which would put some discipline into when the city responds to applications from small businesses. I want to make this city the best place for small businesses to come.
New York City has so many pressing infrastructural needs that have developed over generations, largely due to a lack of funding. What investments would you make?
In what I call the ‘Go big, Go small, Go forward’ plan … ‘Go big’ is focused on infrastructure, including affordable housing and broadband for the 1.5 million New Yorkers who don’t have it. We’ll also invest in climate resilience for the hundred-year floods that come every five years, in places like the Rockaways [Queens] and Hunts Point [Bronx] and and Red Hook and Coney Island [Brooklyn], along with Lower Manhattan.
Several of your competitors have deep experience in government and they’re now asking voters for a huge promotion. Your business background carves out a different lane in the race. How does your experience differentiate what you would do as mayor from the other candidates?
Most of them have never run organizations that are large and complex. This is not the first time that someone could be in a leadership role, but has never led before. This is serious business. I have had a track record of leading large, complex businesses. That track record extends globally. I’ve had to be a doer, not a talker. The vast majority of them have been talkers and have never managed budgets larger than $10 million or $50 million or $100 million. [In April, Mayor de Blasio released a proposed 2022 budget of $98.6 billion.] We are at a very dangerous intersection in this city. For somebody who’s simply looking for a promotion, was termed out, or served in this failed administration, this is not the time for their first job, nor is it the time for a consolation prize.
You’re running on a change platform. What do you feel is the biggest shortcoming of Mayor de Blasio’s administration?
The biggest shortcoming is a lack of management experience, lack of judgment, and an inability to attract and retain the best talent. It’s almost like a revolving door. Look at how long people have been in their positions.
You’ve basically been campaigning throughout the pandemic. As someone who’s spoken to voters from all walks of life across the five boroughs, what is something that has really stuck out to you over the past few months?
They’re highly, highly, highly skeptical of career politicians. They show up for the photo ops, but things haven’t changed and have actually gotten worse. People want something different. The status quo hasn’t served them.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the most prominent progressive voices in the country, on Saturday endorsed Maya Wiley in the New York City mayoral race, imploring voters to “come together as a movement.”
For Wiley, a civil rights attorney and former political and legal analyst for NBC News and MSNBC, the seal of approval from Ocasio-Cortez is a significant development as she sought to consolidate progressive voters in the run-up to the June 22 Democratic primary.
In accepting the endorsement, Wiley appeared with Ocasio-Cortez outside of City Hall in Manhattan, where the attorney also served as counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio from 2014 to 2016.
“If we don’t come together as a movement, we will get a New York City built by and for billionaires, and we need a city by and for working people,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said. “So we will vote for Maya No. 1.”
(New York City is using a ranked-choice system for the first time in a mayoral race; in addition to their first-choice candidate, voters can select additional candidates in descending order.)
For Ocasio-Cortez, who represents New York’s 14th Congressional district, anchored in the eastern section of the Bronx and parts of Queens, it’s a chance to prove her influence among liberal and younger voters in the city.
For Wiley, the thumbs-up could give her a lasting boost over her most direct rivals in the progressive lane, City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Dianne Morales, a former nonprofit executive.
Both Stringer and Morales have faltered in recent weeks over separate controversies.
Still, Wiley will face a set of formidable candidates in a field that includes Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, and Kathryn Garcia, the former sanitation commissioner.
Yang has made a few similar blunders before in the campaign, specifically in policy proposals that are already in place in some form.
He was also asked about Section 50-A of the New York Civil Rights Law by Julia Marsh of the New York Post. The 1976 carve-out keeps disciplinary records for city police officers confidential, as well as those for firefighters and corrections officers.
Yang appeared unfamiliar with the provision in his answer.
As the number of undecided voters has ticked down in the limited public polling on the race, Yang has finished in either first or second place in the latest surveys along with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
A pair of Democratic New York City mayoral candidates offered drastically low estimates when asked about the median housing price in Brooklyn.
Ex-Citigroup executive Ray Donovan estimated that the middle figure was around $80,000 to $90,000. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan guessed $100,00. Both were wrong – by some $800,000.
“In Brooklyn, that number has gone up now,” McGuire said. “It depends on where in Brooklyn.”
Gay reiterated that it’s the median for the borough, meaning the price at which half of homes are more expensive and half are less.
“It’s got to be somewhere in the $80,000 to $90,000 range, if not higher,” McGuire said.
To that, Gay said: “The median sales price for a home in Brooklyn is $900,000.”
McGuire did, however, correctly estimate that the median rental price for an apartment in Manhattan is $3,000 per month.
Donovan, who ran the Department of Housing and Urban Development in the Obama administration from 2009 to 2014, ended up offering an even lower figure.
“In Brooklyn, huh?” Donovan said in his interview. “I don’t [know] for sure. I would guess it is around $100,000.”
When Gay pointed to the $900,000 figure, Donovan asked if it included apartments. He later emailed the Times saying that his estimate referred to the assessed value of homes in the borough, adding “I really don’t think you can buy a house in Brooklyn today for that little.”
Frontrunner Andrew Yang ended up getting the figure spot-on when he was asked the same question.
“This is, like, blowing my mind, this question,” Yang said in his editorial board interview. “So median home – could be any size, right? So some of them would be very substantial. But you’re looking at the median, so you have to, like, whittle down. I would just say that the median – it’s going to be something, like, much higher than it should be. So the number that popped into my mind is $900,000.”
“That’s exactly right,” Gay replied.
“No way!” Yang said. “I was going to go with $800,00 or $900,000.”
Other candidates in the field overshot the figure, with City Comptroller Scott Stringer pegging it at around $1 million, and attorney Maya Wiley offering the highest estimate at $1.8 million. Meanwhile, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams guessed that it was $550,000, while non-profit executive Diane Morales put it at $500,000.
Kathryn Garcia, former commissioner of the city’s Sanitation Department, said the median housing price in Brooklyn was $800,000. She received the Times endorsement.
New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang says that if he’s elected to office this year, he’ll work to convince New Yorkers who fled to Florida during the COVID-19 pandemic to return, calling the Sunshine State “boring.”
During an episode of “The New Abnormal” featuring editor-at-large Molly Jong-Fast, Yang described the importance of the business sector in helping revive New York’s economic fortunes to ensure that people will want to come back to the city.
“The goal has to be to try to justify the premium that organizations and individuals have paid to be in New York City because the opportunities here are better, the culture is better, the quality of life is better,” he said. “It’s a very tough sell when your costs are much higher and you can’t really make those arguments as compellingly.
He added: “My perspective running New York City is that we’re going to need the private sector to be a huge part of the recovery. We have lost approximately 300,000 New Yorkers, some of whom were very high earners and high taxpayers, where they decided to go someplace like Florida because they thought they could save a lot of money on taxes. That’s something we should be aware of try to to counteract.”
Yang said that he would stress school reopenings and the city’s enduring cultural appeal in convincing former residents to return to the city.
“I’m going to be calling people, saying, ‘Look, Florida’s boring.’ You had a good time there but come on back,” he said during the interview. “And by the way, the schools are open. The shows are open. Your friends are here and you know, you can pay a premium as long as we can make the case that New York City is back.”
“I have some of the same conversations, and the city itself does not control most of the taxes that the people you’re describing talk about,” he said. “The municipal government controls property taxes. There are issues with the property taxes that I would like to change and reform. But most of what you’re describing is happening in Albany, where they’re talking about higher state income taxes.”
Yang is currently competing in a competitive Democratic primary that includes Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, former Civilian Complaint Review Board chair Maya Wiley, former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, and longtime Wall Street executive Ray McGuire, among others.
The Democratic and Republican primaries will both be held in June, with the respective winners advancing to the November general election.