Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, recently announced they are separating.
According to an interview published on July 5 in The New York Times, de Blasio and McCray said that for now, they will continue to live together at their shared townhouse in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood. Though they said they are not planning to divorce, they will date other people.
“You can feel when things are off,” de Blasio told the Times, “and you don’t want to live that way.”
De Blasio served two terms as mayor, and initially, New Yorkers seemed to appreciate his more down-to-earth approach after three terms under billionaire Michael Bloomberg. After winning a highly contested Democratic primary in 2013, de Blasio won voters over with his opposition to the New York Police Department’s “stop and frisk” policy, his promise to increase taxes on the wealthy, and his commitment to a more racially inclusive city. McCray and the couple’s biracial son featured prominently in de Blasio’s campaign ads, significantly increasing his popularity.
In the Times interview, de Blasio and McCray said their marriage had been deteriorating for some time, but the COVID-19 crisis in New York prevented them from discussing the issues they were having. McCray added that de Blasio’s ill-fated presidential run in 2020 also hurt their relationship, especially because she was skeptical of his campaign.
“I can look back now and say, ‘Here were these inflection points where we should have been saying something to each other,’” de Blasio said to the Times. “And I think one of the things I should have said more is: ‘Are you happy? What will make you happy? What’s missing in your life?’”
De Blasio and McCray met while working for former New York Mayor David Dinkins, the first Black man to serve in that role. McCray had previously identified as a lesbian before meeting de Blasio, and they married in 1994 in a ceremony officiated by two gay men.
“He was very easy to fall in love with,” McCray told the Times.
Those experiences and their relationship were a large part of the couple’s appeal when they entered city politics in 2013, especially among progressive voters. The Times interview notes that sometimes de Blasio’s aides winced at how much affection the couple showed each other during public appearances.
Despite coming into office with a solid following, de Blasio’s recent campaigns have not gone well. He followed his disastrous presidential campaign with an equally disastrous campaign for New York’s 10th Congressional District. After withdrawing from the race, de Blasio said he was done with electoral politics.
McCray was also a polarizing figure during de Blasio’s time as mayor. A mental health initiative she oversaw drew controversy for its spending and performance. Others criticized the couple for prioritizing their mutual political ambitions over governing the city. McCray considered running for Brooklyn borough president in 2020 but ultimately decided against it.
“I thought about running for Brooklyn borough president,” McCray told NY1 in the fall of 2020. “I thought about it long and hard and decided in this urgent moment there’s so much work to be done, right now, right here where I am.”
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