NEW YORK (AP) - New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio appointed his wife, Chirlane McCray, to lead an organization that promotes partnerships between the city and the private sector, a decision that further cements the first lady’s outsized influence at City Hall.
McCray, an activist poet, will lead the Mayor’s Fund for New York City, a charity that raises millions of dollars to further the agenda of the mayor, which often includes youth development, health, financial empowerment and the arts.
The appointment ends weeks of speculation and codifies a role in the public sector for McCray, who de Blasio has long called his closest adviser and who has significant say on policy decisions, including helping fill out much of the administration’s senior staff.
Their partnership, unique in city politics, has drawn comparisons to the “vote for one, get two” duo of Bill and Hillary Clinton. De Blasio, who has worked for both Clintons, instead framed the choice as continuation of his administration’s political philosophy.
“When it came to crafting our agenda and our vision this past year Chirlane’s voice and experience profoundly shaped our work,” de Blasio said Thursday. “She knows our mission and our values better than anyone because she has been one of the chief architects of our approach.”
The announcement, which was made at a Bronx outpost of a nonprofit organization that provides job training for former inmates, was full of public flirtation from the mayor and his wife. The pair, who have two children, traded frequent smiles and jokes and exchanged a pair of kisses. At one point, McCray asked de Blasio to “pinch her” to confirm that she hadn’t dreamed up their new jobs. The mayor obliged.
He also joked that he has posted the job opening “on the second floor hallway wall” of their Brooklyn home and only one candidate had applied. But he stressed that his wife was the ideal fit for the post, saying that she would not draw a salary and her appointment was approved by the city’s Conflict of Interest Board.
“The closest person to me in the world is Chirlane McCray, and she has been foundational to all we’ve done, and I thought it was very important that she play a role into actualizing this vision,” the mayor said.
McCray will have the most prominent role of any recent New York City first lady.
De Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, was divorced long before he took office. His longtime girlfriend, Diana Taylor, kept her career as a banker. And while she would often accompany Bloomberg to galas and other social events, she did not have a policy portfolio.
Rudolph Giuliani’s wife, Donna Hanover, had a small staff and promoted health and education causes around the city. But she and Giuliani separated while he was in office.
City dollars finance the $380,000 operating budget of the Mayor’s Fund, which then raises money from the private sector. Its budget in 2012 was $37 million. Its money is used to supplement existing city projects.
McCray will lead a small staff at an office across Broadway from City Hall, but the mayor made clear that she would continue to play a role in pushing his agenda, including his signature proposal to raised taxes on the rich to fund a universal pre-kindergarten programs.