Former 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang on Thursday will launch his New York City mayoral campaign — hoping to replace outgoing Bill de Blasio with an audacious pitch for a universal basic income as a headline policy.
Yang will speak in Morningside Heights on the Upper West Side of Manhattan after announcing his campaign on Wednesday evening. In a campaign video, he made a nod toward policies similar to those that characterized his longshot 2020 presidential bid.
“Seeing my city the way it is now breaks my heart,” Yang said. “We need to realize Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream of a guaranteed minimum income and get cash into the hands of people who need it most. We’ll bring New York City into the 21st century by getting everyone high-speed internet so our kids can learn. We’ll take back control of our subway.”
Yang could stake out a relatively moderate candidacy in a field of left-wing Democratic hopefuls. He is widely seen as an early frontrunner and has been surrounded by speculation and interest since he filed paperwork last month.
If his bid succeeds, he would replace the left-wing de Blasio, who cannot run for a third team. De Blasio has been dueling with Gov. Andrew Cuomo over the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hizzoner won plaudits from the left for the implementation of the universal pre-K program but has had his 2020 consumed with the battles of the pandemic and getting schools to reopen, as well as increased crime.
Yang, 46, was born in Schenectady, New York, and his parents are immigrants from Taiwan. He moved to the Big Apple when he was 21. In the 2020 primary, he touted his background in tech startup and gained a passionate following from supporters who became known as the “Yang Gang.”
His universal basic income proved popular among Democrats, and it caught on with other candidates in the field — reemerging amid questions of how to stimulate the economy in the COVID-era.
Yang’s policy for New York City would begin by giving those classed as living in “extreme poverty” about $2,000 a year.
“This program can then be grown over time as it receives more funding from public and philanthropic organizations, with the vision of eventually ending poverty in New York City altogether,” he says on his campaign website.
Illegal immigrants would be eligible for the program, while it would not replace current forms of welfare. He has separately proposed a People’s Bank of New York City.
He is likely to face a packed roster of Democratic challengers ahead of the June Democratic primary. Other early mayoral candidates include New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
Whoever wins the primary will likely be the favorite against any Republican challenger in the overwhelmingly Democratic city.
Yang took hits from primary rivals after he told The New York Times that he had decided to relocate because of cramped conditions in his two-bedroom apartment. Detractors pointed out that New York City residents have contended with the same scenario for months, often in apartments smaller than his. But Yang brushed off the criticism.
“Every New York parent has struggled with educating our children in a time of COVID. I’ve been proud to live, work and raise my kids in this city for 25 years,” Yang said in response to the criticism. “After COVID shut down our public schools, we took our two kids, including my autistic son, to upstate New York to help him adapt to our new normal.”
On the pandemic, he is prioritizing a push for New York City to reopen, noting the damage the lockdowns have done to the economy. He has called for reopening schools and businesses but has also emphasized reopening the “fun” side of the city.
“New York City needs to be the first major City to reopen, and that means reopening everything that makes us who we are,” he says on his campaign website. “Our restaurants, our playhouses, our parks, our events – we’ve sacrificed for the common good, and we deserve to make New York City fun again.”
He’s also called for the “biggest post-COVID celebration” in the world and for to-go cocktails to be made a permanent fixture — noting their popularity in lockdown New York — as well as legalization of marijuana.
Fox News’ Thomas Barrabi contributed to this report.