New York City is in the midst of a massive budget crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The city is facing layoffs of 22,000 city workers, the trash isn’t getting picked up, the parks aren’t being maintained.
But Mayor Bill de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, maintains a staff of 14 and has a budget of $2 million.
McCray is a professional activist, meaning she’s a pro at squeezing money out of politicians. She got her soulmate Bill to give her $1.25 billion for a mental health initiative she called ThriveNYC. That was five years ago. So how’s that program working?
No one really knows because McCray apparently can’t keep track of the money.
First lady Chirlane McCray’s ThriveNYC unveiled a splashy new website Monday purporting to show the $1.25 billion plan has “dramatically improved the landscape of mental health services in New York City over the last five years.”
But a closer look at geocoded maps and colorful bar graphs in the “Data Dashboard” reveals missing metrics for over two-thirds of the programs, no advancements for about half of the initiatives and a major decrease in services badly needed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
And there’s only six months worth of data for the nearly five-year-old program.
You mean she has to keep track of the money? I guess no one told her.
Her staff has doubled in size since 2018, including the addition of a videographer.
They include the $70,000 videographer McCray brought on in February. The shooter, who is listed as a Department of Health employee in city records, filmed the first lady making ginger snaps on April 2 during the coronavirus lockdown.
Other members of the shadow staff who participated in a “Team Lunch” in The Bronx in January 2019, according to McCray’s public schedule, are a $143,000-a-year public relations director, also from the Department of Health, and a special assistant from the mayor’s office who makes $115,000.
Then there’s the $130,000 “executive program specialist” from the Dept. of Social Services and $65,000 “associate director of advance” to the first lady.
If I didn’t know any better, I’d guess that’s a pretty good start to a campaign team to run for mayor or maybe governor. Actually, the rumor mill says she wants to run for Brooklyn borough president during the mayor’s last year in office. It’s not far from there to City Hall.
Like any good husband, Mayor de Blasio rushed to defend his wife against these scurrilous — and spot-on — attacks. He sent out the City Hall spokesperson to set the record straight.
“The First Lady manages a robust portfolio and her team works tirelessly to carry out goals and priorities on issues like mental health and domestic violence that will improve the lives of New Yorkers,” she said.
“As the City navigates unprecedented challenges triggered by the COVID-19 crisis, these public servants continue to show up everyday to deliver solutions that reach into every neighborhood and family, and we owe them a debt of gratitude,” Caraway said.
They may show up every day, but what they’re doing remains a mystery. They haven’t posted an update to McCray’s public schedule since last year.
The pandemic has magnified corruption like this when you realize that a lot of that money could keep a few other city workers on the job and feeding their families. Or pay for a few days of garbage pickup and park maintenance. Those are things that would “improve the lives of New Yorkers” more than recording the mayor’s wife making cookies.