The Jewish Week asked the top candidates in June’s Democratic primary for New York City mayor where they stood on a range of issues. Find the other candidates’ responses here.
Ray McGuire served for 13 years as the head of global corporate and investment banking at Citigroup and as a member of the Citi Foundation Board, helping the firm improve the lives of people in low-income communities. He is a member of the board of the De La Salle Academy, an independent day school primarily serving gifted students, and served on the boards of the New York Presbyterian Hospital, the New York Public Library, the Whitney Museum and the Studio Museum in Harlem. He has also served on advisory boards for the Council of Urban Professionals, Sponsors for Educational Opportunities, Management Leadership for Tomorrow and others throughout the city.
After a year in which concerns about anti-Semitic hate crimes rose, we are now seeing increasing reports of attacks against Asian Americans. How would you prevent and punish hate crimes, and how would you balance calls for solutions from law enforcement with those that seek less police involvement and more education and community outreach?
It is an essential responsibility of the mayor of New York City to ensure the safety of its citizens. Today, that’s not the case. We’ve seen a horrifying increase in hate crimes, especially among the Jewish, Muslim, Sikh, and Asian American communities. I will push for comprehensive anti-discrimination campaigns, and will call injustices out every time. Hate crimes tend to be underreported and do not get the attention they deserve, which I will work to stop under my administration. Speaking out is a critical first step — we need to condemn discrimination every time we see it, and combat the often powerful voices in this country that stoke hate. We also need better data — underreporting means we may not be giving the right support for victims or providing investment in the places where we can make the most difference — that’s something I would make a major focus. We must have enforcement, which is why I would preserve funding for the NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force and expand resources to prosecute these prejudiced acts. I will work with the police and the Jewish community to make certain that the Jewish population of New York City not only is secure, but feels secure.
This summer, the relocation of homeless men to hotels on the Upper West Side became a topic of debate within the Jewish community living there. Some supported the move as a gesture of compassion and a necessary solution to a housing crisis, and others objected that it had been done without sufficient community input and it presented a danger to the area’s permanent residents. How do you intend to address the plight of those sleeping unsheltered on the streets and in the subways, along with the safety and quality of life concerns of the city’s residents and business owners?
In the immediate, the city moving individuals to prevent the spread of COVID was the right move. However, a better solution would involve community stakeholders and outreach first. My plan for homelessness focuses first and foremost on preventing people from losing their housing in the first place. I will keep those with a place to stay in their homes by providing rental subsidies, legal assistance, and advocating for additional section 8 vouchers from the federal government. Second, we need to ensure people experiencing homelessness have tailored support services. I will make sure that children and families receive childcare and access to wifi while adults receive any needed mental health and substance abuse treatment as well as job training. I will leverage my management experience to simplify the bureaucracy and streamline services across agencies.
Finally, we must create a pathway to permanent housing by shortening the time that people are in shelters, which are not meant for long term use. We have to hold providers responsible for the duration of stay in their shelters. I will consider all options to accomplish this including expanding affordable housing stock through quality basement apartments, accessory dwelling units, and communal housing.
At the height of the Covid crisis, some sectors of the city’s haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community were seen to be flouting safety guidelines. At the same time, leaders of the community felt singled out by the mayor, health department and law enforcement for public censure and fines. What lessons in governance did you draw from this issue?
As mayor, I will focus on having a respectful working relationship that handles difficult issues professionally and thoughtfully. I will form policy in collaboration with the communities it impacts. We cannot implement or communicate policy in a way that vilifies any of our communities or increases risk of them being singled out for harassment.
Jewish students have historically been disproportionately represented in the city’s specialized high schools, and Jewish alumni of these schools are justifiably proud of the education they received and excellence they represent. At the same time, the number of Black and Hispanic students has been vanishingly low and has plummeted in recent years. How would you increase diversity in the city’s specialized schools? Would you eliminate the Specialized High Schools Admissions Test?
I would not eliminate the SHSAT, but I don’t support a test being the sole criteria. Admission criteria should also include grades, recommendations, essays, and extracurricular activities, which together creates a more meaningful assessment of every student. We have to get students especially in underserved communities who want to go to these schools earlier and better opportunities to prepare – that includes the best tutoring, after school programing, and access to extracurriculars.
The Covid crisis caused many New Yorkers to question their commitment to city life, and to consider relocating to the suburbs or other parts of the country. What’s your best case for convincing Jewish New Yorkers to stay or come back, and what specific policies will you pursue to keep them or welcome them back home?
Improving the quality of life and making NYC a better place to run a business will bring back the millions of residents, commuters, and tourists whose spending power will tremendously boost the economy. People are eager to work in person and to start travelling again, so we need to make sure they have a safe and vibrant city to return to. My economic Comeback plan focuses on immediate stimulus to bring back jobs; a Comeback Festival that will drive tourism; a Comeback Bank to help new small businesses get started; and increased focus on safety and quality of life issues.
From whom do you seek advice on Jewish communal affairs? Who on your staff serves as a liaison to the Jewish community?
I recently met with the Orthodox Union board, Agudath Israel of America and Crown Heights Jewish Community Council. I also spoke with a group of 20 rabbis — a mix of Reform, Conservative and Orthodox rabbis, as well as with the leaders of the Hasidic Bobov sect, the largest Orthodox voting bloc in the Borough Park neighborhood in Brooklyn. I am committed to bringing Jewish community leaders and members to the table, so that those in my administration can become better advocates and institute meaningful policy reforms. I will appoint liaisons to Jewish communities and will make sure to prioritize cultural competency.