Maya Wiley, former lawyer for the de Blasio administration, New School professor, and MSNBC correspondent, publicly announced her 2021 Democratic mayoral bid this afternoon in front of the Brooklyn Museum. She was joined by State Senator Michael Gianaris of Queens, State Assemblyman Michael Blake from the Bronx, Upper West Side Councilmember Helen Rosenthal, and District 33 Councilmember Stephen Levin, all of whom gave their resounding endorsements.
The event was Wiley’s first since yesterday’s drop of her campaign video and running announcement.
Wiley joins a Mayoral race that has already been fraught with news, including the surprise drop-out of Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who was previously considered the favorite, and the potential run of former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia.
“I am running for Mayor because I believe in this city,” Wiley said on Thursday to cheers from the modestly sized and socially distanced crowd. “The mere existence of this place is a miracle.”
Wiley has made attempts to distance herself from the increasingly unpopular tenure of her former employer, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and never mentioned the Mayor by name during her speech. Still, she made several digs at him, including an acknowledgment of the “crisis of confidence” New Yorkers have in their leadership, and a joking “you’ll never have to wonder if I’m in Iowa.”
The novel COVID-19 pandemic was a major topic of Wiley’s speech, in which she was nearly moved to tears when talking about the tragic loss of her father she experienced as a young girl.
“We are a City in pain,” she said.
Wiley intentionally separated herself from her opponents and from the previous mayors of New York, none of whom have been women and only one of whom has been Black.
“I am not a conventional candidate,” she said, in what has become a sort of motto for her campaign.
“The coronavirus has blown the lid off of what is possible,” Wiley said, talking about a New York of the future. For her, this New York includes the right to healthcare, better employment rates, a thriving business economy.
New York is still fighting what she called America’s oldest pandemic— structural racism. Wiley hopes to increase housing security by investing in housing that doesn’t displace communities, and a stronger, more respected NYCHA.
When faced with debt, Wiley says, the current administration cut education and public transportation, leaving the NYPD budget “virtually untouched”, implying that her administration would do things differently.
The NYC Subway will also be a big part of her platform, as she works to transform it into a “22nd Century” piece of infrastructure.
When asked about the recent controversy in Boro Park that has arisen amongst communities after closures were prompted, Wiley offered a sympathetic approach.
“What we have to do right now since COVID is real is put public health first,” Wiley said. “We must be engaging with community leaders, including faith leaders, to partner in ensuring that they are part of the solution. Every single community should know that it’s going to be treated the same.”
Wiley joins candidates like Dianne Morales, who is also a black woman and activist, Brooklynite Quanda Francis, Scott M. Stringer, the city’s comptroller, Loree Sutton, and potentially the borough president Eric Adams in the race.