Bushwick pol slams Mayor for appointing his wife to COVID-19 task force

Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D–Williamsburg) slammed the mayor for appointing his wife to a coronavirus task force.
Photo by William Alatriste for the New York City Council

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s coronavirus task forces are toothless acts of nepotism, according to one Bushwick councilman.

Councilman Antonio Reynoso, who is gearing up to run for Brooklyn Borough President, slammed the mayor for appointing his wife Chirlane McCray to help lead the city’s COVID-19 response — accusing Hizzoner of trying to raise her profile ahead of her own long-rumored run for borough hall.  

“We’re currently in a pandemic, and the business-as-usual politics that people play has to be unacceptable at this point,” Reynoso told Brooklyn Paper.

De Blasio, whom critics have accused of bungling the city’s coronavirus response by not seeking the advice of scientific experts, appointed McCray to lead the city’s racial equity task force, which aims to help communities of color that have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. 

The task force has no “decision-making power,” a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office told NBC New York

“The entity itself does not have decision-making power,” Jane Meyer told the station on April 28. “This group will be an ear to the ground and will be able to raise issues quickly or suggest ways to better connect with and serve communities that are most impacted.”

Within the five boroughs, black people are 130 percent more likely to contract coronavirus than their white counterparts and are twice as likely to die from the virus, according to city data. The Hispanic population faces similar challenges, as they are nearly 1.8 times more likely to succumb to the outbreak than white New Yorkers. 

With such a stark racial disparity, the city needs to focus on combating the inequities within the city’s diverse communities — rather than playing politics during a pandemic, Reynoso said. 

“If we’re going to address a health crisis that affects people of color because of their health outcomes, I would like that to be a health expert,” said the councilman.

McCray — who has lived in Manhattan for the past seven years, but has said she is “seriously considering” running for office — is currently head of ThriveNYC, a mental health initiative that critics have called a “money pit,” and say there is “no evidence that it is working.” 

She also heads a separate mental health initiative geared towards new parents that only serves Brooklyn residents and expires in 2021 — when de Blasio’s term runs out, and her potential borough presidency would commence. That health program has also faced criticisms, with detractors charging that it was an ineffective political ploy meant to raise McCray’s profile in the borough she potentially hopes to represent.

The Brooklyn councilman isn’t alone in his criticism. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have questioned Hizzoner’s appointees for the task force.

“This is political. I wish de Blasio would stop doing this,” Queens Councilman Robert Holden told the New York Post. “Let her win the Brooklyn borough presidency on her own merits.”

City Hall defended the mayor’s appointments and argued that McCray is qualified to address the task force’s goals. 

“First Lady McCray is a highly qualified public servant who has worked for decades to end inequity,” said City Hall spokeswoman Siobhan Dingwall. “She has managed a diverse portfolio since the start of this administration and will help us rebuild this city stronger than it was before.”