New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) held a press conference Wednesday where he explained how he justifies having taxpayers foot the bill for the staff of his wife, First Lady Chirlane McCray, following a report that she has a 14-person team that costs the city $2 million annually.
What are the details?
Earlier this week, New York City publication The City reported that McCray–who is not a city employee–has been building up her team at City Hall under the radar as she considers a potential run for Brooklyn borough president. As De Blasio threatens to cut 22,000 jobs due to revenue loss amid COVID-19, the outlet says, McCray has nearly doubled her staff.
McCray’s new hires reportedly include $150,000-a-year senior adviser who was brought on in April following an announced hiring freeze, and a $70,000 videographer who was signed on in February. According to The City, the videographer’s “work for McCray includes a ‘Baking with the First Lady’ clip that was posted during the height of the pandemic in early April.”
Following backlash over the news of his wife’s costly payroll, de Blasio told the press that critics do not “take into account the work that’s being done,” explaining, “This work is about the needs of the people of this city especially in crisis.” He cited his wife’s work on mental health and pointed to the effectiveness of her coronavirus racial inequality task force.
The New York Post reported that “De Blasio made the comments despite his insistence that there’s not enough money in city coffers to maintain parks or pick up trash.”
McCray has come under fire for big spending and a lack of transparency in the past. Last year, Politico reported that the first lady’s $850 million mental health initiative, Thrive NYC, “has operated without much scrutiny or accountability,” pointing to budget discrepancies in the hundreds of millions since its inception in 2015.
In response to McCray’s purported staffing needs, Republican City Councilman Eric Ulrich told The Post, “Whatever happened to the money from Thrive NYC? How much taxpayer money will the mayor’s wife pilfer before leaving office? How can she sleep at night hiring these hacks knowing so many other city workers are facing layoffs this fall? This is a disgrace!”
But de Blasio insists that his wife’s aides will be vulnerable to layoffs just like the other 22,000 city workers whose jobs are threatened if the state or federal government does not provide a multibillion dollar bail out to The Big Apple as the mayor has requested.
Without such funds, de Blasio said, “Unquestionably there will be layoffs at City Hall. There’s no question about it for my staff, her staff, everyone.”