The entrepreneur and former Democratic presidential candidate released a video on YouTube this week officially announcing his mayoral candidacy, titled: “Why I’m Running.” It features gleaming shots of the city as Mr Yang is seen chatting with locals, posing with his wife and discussing his plans to help small businesses impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
“New York City has been my home for 25 years,” he says in the video. “I’m running for mayor for my two boys, for you and for every New Yorker.”
But before he could even release the campaign video on Wednesday, Mr Yang was drawing backlash for comments he made in a New York Times profile, in which he appeared to lament his living situation in the city with two young children in a two-bedroom apartment.
Mr Yang, who owns a weekend home in upstate New York, told the newspaper: “We’ve spent more time upstate than in the city over the last number of months, but I also spent time in Georgia, as you know, I spent time in Pennsylvania campaigning for Joe and Kamala.”
“We live in a two-bedroom apartment in Manhattan,” he added. “And so, like, can you imagine trying to have two kids on virtual school in a two-bedroom apartment, and then trying to do work yourself?”
The comments sparked swift criticism and ridicule from many New Yorkers, who called his statements tone deaf.
Much like the presidential primaries, Mr Yang has joined a crowded race for New York City mayor. Several prominent New Yorkers have thrown their hats in the ring, from former MSNBC analyst Maya Wiley to city Comptroller Scott Stringer. The race already features at least 20 candidates.
Mr Yang’s mayoral campaign has adopted a version of the universal basic income plan which served as the centerpiece of his presidential campaign during the Democratic primaries last year.
The program, funded through various citywide philanthropic efforts, was projected to cost an estimated $1 billion, and would provide cash assistance to nearly 500,000 New Yorkers.
He has also envisioned ideas like a “People’s Bank” to further aid New Yorkers and contribute to his calls for citywide universal basic income.
Early polls published by the Education Reform Now Advocacy group showed Mr Yang with a narrow lead over Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams, holding 17 percent of support compared to 16 percent for Mr Adams.
The New York City mayoral primary is scheduled for June 2021, follow by the general election in November.