NEW YORK — With a promise to institute a cash giveaway program to half-a-million New Yorkers, former presidential candidate Andrew Yang will announce his bid to become the city’s next mayor Thursday morning.
Yang will unveil his candidacy in Morningside Heights, where the Schenectady native first lived when he moved to New York City in 1996. He will then hopscotch the city, via public transportation, to meet with elected officials in voter-rich neighborhoods. He is planning lunch with Queens Borough President Donovan Richards and do a walking tour with Assemblymember Latrice Walker, who represents Brownsville, Brooklyn.
During his rollout, Yang intends to announce a local version of his “Universal Basic Income” proposal, his team said.
The plan would be far from “universal” in a city of nearly 8.5 million people.
Yang is vowing to launch what his team said would be the largest program of its kind nationally — a proposal to give 500,000 New Yorkers living in poverty between $2,000 and $5,000 per year. It’s not yet clear exactly how the money would be generated; his 2-page plan indicated he would spend $1 billion each year from the roughly $90 billion city budget, while relying on grants from philanthropic groups.
The cash would not affect current benefits like housing vouchers and Medicaid, according to the policy paper.
“We need to realize Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of a guaranteed minimum income and get cash into the hands of people who need it most,” Yang said in his launch video, which was directed by Darren Aronofsky, who is known for his psychologically dark films.
The plan already won the support of Ritchie Torres, a former City Councilmember who was recently elected to represent the Bronx in Congress.
“Your advocacy for Universal Basic Income is so critical,” Torres tells Yang in the 2-and-a-half minute spot. “The surest way to end poverty is to put money in peoples’ pockets. It’s that simple.”
Torres was not immediately available for comment, but recently said Yang is on his short list of candidates to endorse.
The video is meant to introduce Yang to voters and solidify his New York City ties — it highlights him riding the subway, visiting a barbershop and answering lightning round-style questions about local sports teams and local food rivalries from his wife, Evelyn.
It comes on the heels of stories highlighting his decision to leave the city during the height of the pandemic last year and spend time in his second house in New Paltz.
Yang told POLITICO, which first reported the story, that he left to give more space during a mandatory quarantine to his two young children, one of whom has autism.
But in an interview with the New York Times, he went further, saying: “We live in a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan. And so, like, can you imagine trying to have two kids on virtual school in a two-bedroom apartment, and then trying to do work yourself?”
The comment opened him up for derision from his opponents in the race and their supporters, which was met with a fervent defense from his social media followers, not all of whom can vote in the upcoming election.
Yang also uses the video to lament the state of a city ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic — unemployment soared, tourism all but ended and a hospital system strained by the virus, which has killed more than 25,000 residents here so far.
In addressing these problems, Yang promised high-speed internet for everyone — responding to a digital divide laid bare by remote schooling — and local control of the state-run subway system, which has been floated in the past but never achieved.
Yang, a proven fundraiser with a loyal social media following, is the latest entrant into the crowded field for mayor. Some two dozen Democrats are competing in the June primary — a number that will narrow as the financial demands of campaigning prove too great for some. Given New York City’s overwhelming Democratic registration advantage, the primary is likely to determine the next occupant of City Hall.
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