Andrew Yang kicks off NYC mayoral bid, calls for universal basic income

Current Mayor Bill de Blasio cannot run for a third term.

Former 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful Andrew Yang on Thursday launched his New York City mayoral campaign -- hoping to replace outgoing Bill de Blasio with an audacious pitch for a universal basic income as a headline policy.

"I’m running for mayor for a very simple reason -- I see a crisis and believe I can help," he said, citing the COVID crisis as well as high unemployment in the Big Apple.


Yang spoke in Morningside Heights on the Upper West Side of Manhattan after announcing his campaign on Wednesday evening. 

"We need bold ideas and fresh ideas to revive our city," he said. "We need to look forward and adapt to economic challenges of today and the future. We also need a city government focused on competence and delivering for our people every day."

He called on the city to move away from political blame games: "When in reality, the people have been losing and it is tearing our city apart."

Yang could stake out a relatively moderate candidacy in a field of left-wing Democratic hopefuls. He described his platform as "a positive vision for New York City and a rational, progressive plan to implement it and make it a reality."

He is widely seen as an early frontrunner and has been surrounded by speculation and interest since he filed paperwork last month.

If his bid succeeds, he would replace the left-wing de Blasio, who cannot run for a third team. De Blasio has been dueling with Gov. Andrew Cuomo over the response to the COVID-19 pandemic. 


Hizzoner won plaudits from the left for the implementation of the universal pre-K program but has had his 2020 consumed with the battles of the pandemic and getting schools to reopen, as well as increased crime.

Yang, 46, was born in Schenectady, New York, and his parents are immigrants from Taiwan. He moved to the Big Apple when he was 21. In the 2020 primary, he touted his background in tech startup and gained a passionate following from supporters who became known as the "Yang Gang."

His universal basic income proved popular among Democrats, and it caught on with other candidates in the field -- reemerging amid questions of how to stimulate the economy in the COVID-era.

He has called for it again in NYC, calling it "the largest basic income program in the history of the country."

Yang’s policy for New York City would begin by giving those classed as living in "extreme poverty" about $2,000 a year.

"This program can then be grown over time as it receives more funding from public and philanthropic organizations, with the vision of eventually ending poverty in New York City altogether," he says on his campaign website.

Illegal immigrants would be eligible for the program, while it would not replace current forms of welfare. He has separately proposed a People’s Bank of New York City.

He is likely to face a packed roster of Democratic challengers ahead of the June Democratic primary. Other early mayoral candidates include New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

Whoever wins the primary will likely be the favorite against any Republican challenger in the overwhelmingly Democratic city.

Yang took hits from primary rivals after he told The New York Times that he had decided to relocate because of cramped conditions in his two-bedroom apartment. Detractors pointed out that New York City residents have contended with the same scenario for months, often in apartments smaller than his. But Yang brushed off the criticism.

"Every New York parent has struggled with educating our children in a time of COVID. I’ve been proud to live, work and raise my kids in this city for 25 years," Yang said in response to the criticism. "After COVID shut down our public schools, we took our two kids, including my autistic son, to upstate New York to help him adapt to our new normal."


On the pandemic, he is prioritizing a push for New York City to reopen, noting the damage the lockdowns have done to the economy. He has called for reopening schools and businesses but has also emphasized reopening the "fun" side of the city.

"New York City needs to be the first major City to reopen, and that means reopening everything that makes us who we are," he says on his campaign website. "Our restaurants, our playhouses, our parks, our events - we’ve sacrificed for the common good, and we deserve to make New York City fun again."

He’s also called for the "biggest post-COVID celebration" in the world and for to-go cocktails to be made a permanent fixture -- noting their popularity in lockdown New York -- as well as legalization of marijuana.

Fox News' Thomas Barrabi contributed to this report.