Mayor Bill de Blasio picked his wife Chirlane McCray to be chairwoman of the The Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City, giving the city's first lady a formal position in his administration alongside her unofficial role as a top adviser.
De Blasio said he chose McCray, 59, for the unsalaried post because of her experience in city government -- they met while both serving in the Dinkins administration -- and her past work with activists and civic groups. The mayor said no one else was considered for the job with the nonprofit, which collects millions of dollars in private donations for city programs.
"This had to be someone who was as close to the core of what we're all about as humanly possible," de Blasio said. "We can safely say that no one could compete with Chirlane McCray on that particular score. She's the right lady for the job."
McCray is often at de Blasio's side at public events since he became mayor, as she was during his campaign. She also has consulted on major appointments and helped craft strategy on his tax plan to fund universal pre-K in the city.
In announcing her appointment after a visit to the Osborne Association, which provides programs to help ex-inmates, de Blasio introduced McCray as "my closest confidante, my No. 1 adviser."
Their working relationship has drawn comparisons to the collaborations of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Asked about that during a news conference McCray said she and the mayor are "clearly a partnership."
"Taking on this position is really a continuation of this journey we've been on together," she said. The appointment was cleared by the city's Conflicts of Interest Board, de Blasio said.
The Mayor's Fund, formed in 1994, has an eight-person staff and works with city agencies to provide public programs. It is funded by foundations, corporations and individuals. Under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the fund collected $383 million in contributions and established programs such as the Young Men's Initiative, which provides educational and employment programs for black and Latino men, and Million Trees NYC, a planting program. It also helped in superstorm Sandy recovery.
"We'll be putting our own stamp on the Mayor's Fund," de Blasio said, " . . . focusing on our progressive values and our emphasis on outer-borough communities and immigrant communities and our emphasis on the needs of children and families." A president to handle day-to-day operations will be appointed soon, de Blasio said.
As first lady, McCray also has a $170,000-a-year chief of staff at City Hall, Rachel Noerdlinger.