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Yang officially in NYC mayoral race, rebooting promise of universal basic income

The candidate for NYC mayor has fielded criticism this week for leaving the city with his family during the pandemic

Updated: January 15, 2021 - 3:38pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang this week kicked off his bid to become the next New York City mayor and began the campaig with his signature universal basic income plan.

"We can eradicate extreme poverty in New York City," Yang said on "Good Day New York," a program on a local Fox affiliate. "If you put just a little money in their hands it can actually be what keeps them in their home and, again, avoids them hitting city services that are incredibly expensive." 

Yang's proposal is a version of his staple campaign promise during the presidential competition, which was to give every American $1,000 a month. The budgetary logistics of his plan were questioned at the time, and again are being questioned now, especially with regard to the perpetually stressed budget of the city.

His revised plan could provide income for half-a-million of the New York City's poorest residents.

Yang has been criticized in recent days for a variety of reasons pertaining to his qualifications for the mayoral position. In an interview with the New York Times, Yang explained that he and his family decided to leave the city and move upstate for the most brutal months of the coronavirus pandemic.

"Can you imagine trying to have two kids on virtual school in a two-bedroom apartment, and then trying to do work yourself?" said Yang.

Critics said the comment was out of touch, considering hundreds of thousands of parents in New York City have been in that  situation this past year. 

On television Friday morning, Yang defended his "New York-ness" to his critics.

"Anyone who thinks that somehow my New York-ness is in question can just come and say it to my face and see how ridiculous it is. I remember walking north away from the crumbling towers on 9/11. I remember getting married to Evelyn at City Hall. I remember having our son at St. Luke's while Hurricane Sandy was turning the lights off all over the city," he said. 

Most recently, Yang has become the subject of a mild bout of Twitter criticism, after posting a video of himself shopping at a local New York City "bodega" to encourage New Yorkers to continue supporting their local businesses. Users have taken issue with Yang's choice of shop arguing that the store he selected was too spacious and upscale to truly count as an authentic New York City bodega.

"Bodegas have apparently gotten a lit bigger in the last few months," wrote former Obama White House adviser Ben Rhodes.