Throughout this year’s mayoral campaign, Raymond McGuire has said he entered the race to heal a divided city, wracked by the COVID-19 pandemic, with new leadership informed by a business background.
McGuire, a former Citigroup vice chairman, said his relationship with the Haitian community includes supporting business leaders and providing disaster relief for Haiti in the wake of natural disasters like Hurricane Matthew.
“I just look across the spectrum from entertainment to entrepreneurs and I see that members of the Haitian community have been leaders in many of those fields,” said McGuire, an Upper West Side resident, about Haitians in the city. McGuire, 64, left Citigroup last year to run for mayor.
“The biggest thing for the community is to be included,” said McGuire, one of the longest-tenured executives on Wall Street. “I have [planned] the greatest, most inclusive comeback in the history of New York City.”
McGuire has touted his experience leading large organizations and centered his campaign on an ambitious economic proposal to create thousands of jobs in infrastructure modernization projects. The plan also entails helping small businesses recover from the pandemic with their workforces restored.
From humble beginnings
McGuire grew up in Dayton, Ohio, where he was raised by grandparents and a single mother. She worked three jobs at one point to provide for himself, two biological brothers and multiple foster children, he said. Because of his mother’s sacrifice, McGuire said, he was able to leave home at 16 to attend the elite Hotchkiss boarding school in Connecticut.
He later earned a bachelor’s, MBA and law degrees from Harvard University. McGuire said education got him to where he is today.
Now, the multi-millionaire said he has the broad perspective and experience needed to lead. He has outlined plans to expand investment in social and emotional support for public school students, in addition to internet access and summer employment opportunities. His leadership involves investing in education and creating more affordable housing.
“I speak the language of the people who are the most needy and the people who [are] the developers,” McGuire said. “In my former job, we were the largest affordable housing lender in the country.”
An inclusive recovery
Entrepreneur Jeff Lindor said he first met McGuire about three years ago, at a meeting the Wall Street executive organized, to discuss bail reform with NYPD leadership. Over time, Lindor became more acquainted with McGuire’s philanthropic work supporting minority youth in the city.
Lindor, who runs a business incubator for Black male professionals called The Gentleman’s Factory, said he supports McGuire’s policies, like appointing a deputy mayor for small, women- and minority-owned businesses.
“Ray, out of all of the candidates, has the most solid plan for the comeback of New York City, the most economically inclusive plan,” said Lindor, 35, of Flatbush. “It’s helping to really build the capacity of underrepresented communities.”
Through his Jobs Accelerator plan, McGuire seeks to get 50,000 more New Yorkers back to work by subsidizing 50% of workers’ salaries for one year at businesses that were hardest-hit by the pandemic. On his website, McGuire has also pledged to help small businesses with rent relief and put thousands of New Yorkers to work repairing bridges, water mains and other infrastructure.
Many Haitian business owners have struggled to receive assistance due to issues like poor credit and lack of banking relationships, The Haitian Times has reported. When it comes to helping immigrant-run business owners receive assistance, McGuire said he would fund community development financial institutions and institute mentorship programs.
“When it comes to how you get the investors or supporters, you need to have business plans,” McGuire said. “My mentorship program would be there to support development of business plans … those who speak French or Creole, as an example, would have those lessons done in French and Creole.”
McGuire has received the most private campaign financing of any candidate, at more than $11.7 million per city records. But in a race with political mainstays like Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and city Comptroller Scott Stringer, the former executive has not cracked the top five in most polls.
His name was not familiar to Emmanuel Coffey, CEO of Autotech Driving School on Nostrand Avenue, in the heart of Brooklyn’s Little Haiti. However, Coffey echoed some of McGuire’s policy prescriptions, citing the inconsistent support for small businesses during the pandemic.
“They provided some assistance in March and April  from the pandemic, but I don’t know that it was sufficient,” Coffey said. “They could also subsidize rent or a portion of it, but all of that falls under financial assistance.”
Building an equitable city
In addition to revealing business gaps within the Haitian community, the past year has exposed overly aggressive policing in minority communities and inequities in housing access, as thousands of tenants fell behind on rent.
Self-described progressive candidates like Maya Wiley and Dianne Morales have advocated directly for NYPD budget cuts to fund social services. Some polls suggest a majority of city residents support the idea of defunding the police, but McGuire called the policy demand a “disaster.”
“People who are talking about [defunding], they live in gated communities and they pay for private support,” McGuire said.
He has advocated for expanding community policing and instituting accountability mechanisms into the NYPD instead. However, cuts could be on the table after McGuire’s proposed top-to-bottom review of public safety spending.
McGuire also has a robust housing plan that includes building 350,000 new units in eight years, with the majority of the $2.5 billion in capital funding going toward housing that is affordable at 50% of the area median income (AMI). Current AMI for a single person is $81,600. The plan calls for changing city zoning requirements to build on underutilized city land.
Supporters like Lindor say that promoting economic advancement could help community members afford the rising cost of housing.
“If you build community capacity so they can get into the middle class, they would then be able to afford the [housing] market,” he said.
To build inclusiveness and opportunity, McGuire called for an alternative to the same leadership that he said has failed the city.
“My plan is a plan to get us out of this, it is a plan to give people opportunities, it is a plan to invest in communities,” McGuire said. “This is not a time for somebody who doesn’t have serious management experience.”