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Make me mayor and I’ll hire one of my fellow candidates to run the nuts and bolts of City Hall.
That was Andrew Yang’s broad message to The Post’s Editorial Board on Thursday, as the Democratic front-runner pitched himself as a man who can build the right team to bring New York City back to life after the coronavirus pandemic — while he coordinates and manages.
“You’re going to need to build a team with a range of experience and, certainly, if I’m the mayor, that team will need to consist of a number of people who are very deeply experienced in government,” Yang said during the hour-long sit-down. “I’m already thinking about how to staff the administration and make sure we can actually move the bureaucracy.”
Number one on his list?
Kathryn Garcia, one of his competitors in the June 22 primary, who has served as the ‘Ms. Fix-It’ for the past two administrations — including tours as Sanitation Commissioner, head of the sewer system, the city’s lead czar and public housing chief after the Housing Authority was rocked by scandal, and building the Big Apple’s emergency COVID-19 food delivery program for the poor and homebound.
“I would like Kathryn Garcia to have a role in my administration and one of the reasons is that she’s an experienced operator, having not just the Department of Sanitation, but also other very significant agencies,” he said. “I like and respect her. I have my eyes very wide open for people like Kathryn.”
While others would manage the day-to-day, Yang said that he views the job of mayor as “team-building, culture-setting” and orchestrating and improving relationships between the public and private sector.
“It’s going to be administrative,” he allowed, but quickly added: “It’s also going to be activating resources in the private sector, in the tech sector, in the philanthropic sector — and cheerleading for a recovery for New York City.”
Under questioning, Yang said that he would push Michael Mulgrew, the head of the UFT, to reopen public schools more quickly and offered his special needs son’s return to the classroom as a poignant example of the importance of in-person learning.
“The data clearly shows that being in-person is better for kids, that remote learning is 30- to 70 percent less effective,” said the tech entrepreneur, who mounted a long-shot bid in 2020 for the White House. “And it also shows that the kids who are most at risk are poorer New Yorkers, who tend to be disproportionately black and brown.”
However, when pressed on how he would convince Mulgrew to relent, Yang offered few details and stopped short of saying he would order teachers back to classrooms. Instead, he argued that he could make a case to the public more effectively than Mayor Bill de Blasio, putting pressure on Mulgrew to offer concessions.
“I would have made a case to the public, saying to parents, ‘look, kids need to be back in schools at some point’ and the data shows that we’re really not serving them well,” “Pretending remote school is a substitute is not right, it’s — at best — a mediocre stop-gap.”
“I’m going to suggest that I would be better situated than the Mayor has been because people see me as — and I hope this is the case, I see myself as is — as someone who’s going to act on behalf of the people of New York City,” he added.
During the interview, Yang also brushed aside questions about the quality of the education offered by private yeshivas run by sects of the city’s politically powerful Orthodox Jewish community.
“I visited a number of these schools and the kids are learning English and math and basic subjects, at least in my exposure to them,” he said. “My starting point is that they’re investing a ton in educating their kids in a way that they see as best for them.”
Yang’s renewed defense came just days after scoring a significant endorsement from community leaders in the heavily Hasidic neighborhood of Borough Park.
His statements run contrary to the findings of a city investigation that revealed the curriculum at just two of 28 examined yeshivas met state requirements for providing an education that is substantively equivalent to one offered in public school.
A subsequent probe in 2019 exposed that the de Blasio administration buried the report to win a key vote from an Orthodox lawmaker in Albany for the renewal of mayoral control of the Department of Education. Emails obtained by The Post in 2020 showed de Blasio was aware of the stonewall.
When pressed about how he would handle new instances of non-compliance as mayor, Yang demurred when asked if he would crack down and, instead, said his response would focus on working with the oft-insular communities.
“If there’s an issue, we take it to the community and say ‘we want what’s best for your kids’,” he said.
When asked again, Yang responded: “You cross that bridge when you come to it” and then added that “the atmosphere should be one of partnership and not something else.”
The conversation sprawled across a slew of topics — including the soaring number of shootings in recent months.
Yang said that he would be open to reviving the NYPD’s controversial and recently-disbanded plainclothes anti-crime squads to tackle the doubling in gun-play.
He offered the restoration as one potential solution when pressed how he would respond to a hypothetical request from a future police commissioner for more officers to combat the violence.
“If someone comes to you and says ‘we need all these new officers,’ I’d be like, ‘well, first, let’s consider reconstituting a version of the anti-crime unit,” Yang said, discounting the possibility of a major expansion to the 35,000-strong police force.
“But you don’t need to expand the number of officers to reconstitute that unit,” he continued. “You already have tens of thousands of officers.”
When asked about how he would deal with the high-profile shootings and other complaints that have dogged the plain-clothes squads in recent years, Yang said he would hire better cops.
“If you were to reconstitute it, you would need to do so very judiciously in terms of identifying the types of officers you bring on,” he said. “You don’t want to do something that’s not productive.”
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