New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is getting mixed reactions for his decision to appoint his wife to head a new coronavirus recovery task force aimed at bridging racial inequity by prioritizing aid for the city’s communities of color.
According to the New York Post, de Blasio announced Sunday that First Lady Chirlane McCray would co-chair his Task Force on Racial Inclusion and Equity.
“The economic and racial disparities that have been made so clear by this crisis, we knew about them before,” de Blasio said in a press briefing. “A powerful, painful exclamation point has been put on them by this crisis.” De Blasio said he created this task force to ensure that the city’s poor and minority communities don’t get left out of recovery efforts. Among other things, one of the program’s goals is to ensure that businesses owned by women and people of color get their fair share of relief funds.
But there are a number of NYC lawmakers, both Republican and Democrat, who are not so happy about de Blasio’s decision.
“Chirlane doesn’t have an impressive track record running task forces or agencies,” Councilman Joe Borelli (R-SI) said, referring to McCray’s ThriveNYC program, which has been criticized as being a “billion-dollar money pit” that didn’t have much success.
ThriveNYC is a program founded by McCray in 2015 as a “commitment by the city of New York to create and support a comprehensive mental health system that works for everyone,” according to the program’s website. But critics say that 911 calls for incidents related to emotionally unstable people and the number of mentally ill homeless people have spiked since the initiative—which was originally given a budget of $850 million over four years but now gets $250 million annually—was put in place.
Some of McCray’s detractors believe she has been appointed to lead de Blasio’s task force as a political move because it is rumored that she is a contender for Brooklyn borough president.
“This is political. I wish de Blasio would stop doing this,” Councilman Robert Holden (D-Queens) said, according to the Post. “Let her win the Brooklyn borough presidency on her own merits.”
“Her track record on Thrive and the statue commission hasn’t been so good,” he continued.
But de Blasio not only disagrees that McCray’s Thrive program is evidence that she’s wrong for this job, he also insists that the initiative proves she is exactly the woman for the position.
“I think what Chirlane has done over these last six years is take this issue, put it in the light, open up access for millions of people and then continue to build out a structure that could focus on effective delivery and equity, de Blasio said in his briefing on Sunday. “I think that’s exactly the kind of mindset needed for this task force.”
Not everyone is unhappy with McCray’s appointment to lead this task force. Former 45th district council member and NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams applauded the appointment in a statement, according to Amsterdam News.
“The primary function of this task force cannot be to engage in a long, protracted process of deliberation and study, dwelling on how we got here. We know this disparity was created by a long history of systemic inequities and injustices,” Williams said. “Additional delays waste time that the people being devastated by this crisis— those who are deemed essential but treated as expendable— just don’t have.”
City Hall spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein said McCray is “exactly who New Yorkers want in their corner and will help us rebuild this city stronger than it was before.”