De Blasio Defends Wife’s Role: ‘By Definition She Needs a Staff’

Mayor de Blasio wants the issue of his wife's chief of staff, Rachel Noerdlinger, to be "case closed." (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

Mayor de Blasio, between his daughter Chiara and his wife Chirlane McCray.” (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images)

While he wouldn’t quite compare their power couple dynamic to the Clintons, Mayor Bill de Blasio said today his wife’s large role at City Hall will continue — and so will her need to have a taxpayer-funded staff.

“She’s only just begun, and as I said the other day, she’s working for free on behalf of the people of the city — so by definition she needs a staff,” Mr. de Blasio said during an unrelated press event. “I am absolutely committed to that, because that’s what’s going to allow us to do more for the people of the city.”

A Quinnipiac University Poll released yesterday showed that most New Yorkers think the mayor’s wife, Chirlane McCray, is playing too large a role in city government — and that she should not have a need for a chief of staff. But Mr. de Blasio said they have every intention of replacing Rachel Noerdlinger, who departed that job Monday after weeks of controversy.

A reporter asked Mr. de Blasio if the public’s dissatisfaction with his wife reminded him of the hostile reaction to Hillary Clinton’s active role in the White House when she was first lady — and Mr. Clinton’s response that people were getting two for the price of one.

“They had a partnership, their ability to serve people was directly related to that partnership. They both did an immense amount for this nation, and continue to,” Mr. de Blasio said. “I am a local official, I’m a humble local official, nowhere near that impact, but I try to do a lot for the peope of this city. And the person who is my partner in everything I do is my wife. And she is my top advisor and she is the person who I’ve built everything I’ve done with.”

Ms. Noerdlinger’s salary — $170,000 funded by the taxpayers — to assist Ms. McCray on her unpaid work running the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York and working on issues like domestic violence, has turned a few heads. But the mayor defended the figure.

“The fact that something has been a criticism doesn’t necessarily make it right, I’d just like to offer that point,” said Mr. de Blasio, who also criticized the techniques of “modern polling” in general.

For not the first time, the mayor compared the situation to baseball — citing the Moneyball approach of spending money where it counts.

“I think if you start with a highly effective public servant you get for free,” he said, in reference to his wife, “you’re ahead of the equation right there.”

The large role played by Ms. McCray is a departure from the previous administration. Mayor Michael Bloomberg was unmarried but his live-in girlfriend, Diana Taylor, worked as a state bank superintendent and did not play a large role in governing. But before his divorce, Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s wife Donna Hanover did have a chief of staff — and three other employees. De Blasio Defends Wife’s Role: ‘By Definition She Needs a Staff’