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Chirlane McCray

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Chirlane McCray
Chirlane McCray.JPG
McCray at a rally to protest the closure of
Long Island College Hospital in 2013
First Lady of New York City
Assumed office
January 1, 2014
Preceded by Donna Hanover
Diana Taylor (de facto)
Personal details
Born Chirlane Irene McCray
(1954-11-29) November 29, 1954 (age 63)
Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.
Nationality American
Spouse(s) Bill de Blasio (m. 1994)
Children 2
Residence Gracie Mansion
Alma mater Wellesley College
Occupation Writer, public affairs

Chirlane Irene McCray (born November 29, 1954)[1] is an American writer, editor, communications professional, and political figure. She has published poetry and worked in politics as a speechwriter. Married to current New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, McCray is the First Lady of New York City. McCray and de Blasio have two children, Chiara and Dante. After de Blasio became Mayor of New York in 2014, McCray and her family moved from their home in Park Slope, Brooklyn into Gracie Mansion,[2] the traditional residence of New York City mayors. As an unpaid member of the de Blasio administration, McCray chairs the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City; has led ThriveNYC, a mental health initiative; and has been described as de Blasio's "closest advisor."[3]

Early life and education[edit]

McCray was born in and spent her early years in Springfield, Massachusetts. Her mother, Katharine Clarissa Eileen (née Edwards), was an assembly worker at an electronics factory, and her father, Robert Hooper McCray, was an inventory clerk at a military base.[4] She is of Barbadian and St. Lucian descent, but traces her grandmother's last name (Quashie) to Ghana.[5]

When she was ten years old, her family moved to Longmeadow, Massachusetts, becoming only the second black family in the area. Other families in the neighborhood circulated petitions demanding they leave.[6][7]

In high school, McCray was for a time the only black student in her school.[8] McCray cites this early experience with racism and bullying as part of the reason she began to write, using her poetry as an outlet for her anger.[6][7][8] She also wrote a column for her school newspaper, in which she denounced classmates for their racism.[8]

McCray enrolled at Wellesley College in 1972. While studying there, she became a member of the Combahee River Collective,[6] a black feminist organization, which inspired her to write prose and poetry.[9]


After graduating from college, McCray moved to New York City to work for Redbook. She published an essay in Essence in 1979 entitled "I Am a Lesbian".[6][10] Essence later described the essay as "groundbreaking", asserting that it was "perhaps the first time a Black gay woman had spoken so openly and honestly about her sexuality in a Black magazine".[7] The purpose of the essay was to "dispel the myth that there are no gay black people".[11] Some of her poetry is included in Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology.[12]

In 1991, McCray entered politics. She worked as a speechwriter for New York City Mayor David Dinkins.[13] During the Clinton administration, she worked for the New York Foreign Press Center as a public affairs specialist.[14] She also worked as a speechwriter for the New York State Comptroller Carl McCall and for New York City Comptroller Bill Thompson.[15]

McCray with spouse, Bill de Blasio, and their two children.

In 2004, McCray left Thompson's office to work in the private sector.[16] She worked for five years at Maimonides Medical Center.[9] She also worked for Citigroup in its public relations department for six months before deciding it was "not a good fit".[8] During her husband's campaign for mayor of New York City in the 2013 election, she edited his speeches and helped interview candidates for staff positions.[8]

When de Blasio became mayor, he hired publicist Rachel Noerdlinger to be McCray's chief of staff.[17]

In his second month in office, de Blasio named McCray chair of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City.[18] Since then, the Fund has focused on mental health, immigration, and youth workforce projects.[19]

In November 2015, McCray led the launch of ThriveNYC, a plan to overhaul the city's mental health and substance abuse services,[20] promoting a shift from a traditionally more reactive model, which can strain police, prisons, hospitals, and schools,[21] to an integrated public health approach, focused on awareness and early identification.[22][23]

Personal life[edit]

McCray met Bill de Blasio in 1991, when they both worked at New York City Hall for Mayor David Dinkins.[6][13] At the time, de Blasio was an aide to a deputy mayor and McCray was a speechwriter. McCray and de Blasio were married in 1994 in Prospect Park, Brooklyn.[6][24] Asked about her sexuality, McCray has stated that she hates "labels".[25] In 2012, when asked about her 1979 essay, she commented: "In the 1970s, I identified as a lesbian and wrote about it. In 1991, I met the love of my life, married him."[26]

McCray and de Blasio have a daughter and a son, and lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn,[6][13] until their 2014 move into Gracie Mansion.[2]


  1. ^ Fermino, Jennifer (December 3, 2014). "First Lady Chirlane McCray in sling after birthday injuries". New York Daily News. Retrieved December 29, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Gay, Mara (July 28, 2014). "De Blasio Finally Settles Down at Gracie Mansion". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 2, 2015. 
  3. ^ Gonen, Yoav (March 7, 2018). "De Blasio gripes about rules barring spouses from paid gigs in government". New York Post. Retrieved March 8, 2018. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ de Blasio, Bill; McCray, Chirlane (March 29, 2012). "My family's journey to Ghana". Amsterdam News. Retrieved January 2, 2015. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Marantz, Andrew (August 5, 2013). "Significant Other". The New Yorker. Retrieved January 2, 2015. 
  7. ^ a b c Villarosa, Linda (May 9, 2013). "Chirlane McCray: From Gay Trailblazer to Politician's Wife". Retrieved August 14, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Barbaro, Michael (October 1, 2013). "Once Alienated, and Now a Force in Her Husband's Bid for Mayor: Chirlane McCray Plays Key Role in de Blasio Campaign". The New York Times. Retrieved October 23, 2013. 
  9. ^ a b "About Chirlane". Archived from the original on March 30, 2014. Retrieved January 2, 2015. 
  10. ^ Walker, Hunter (December 5, 2012). "Ancient History: The Lesbian Past of Bill de Blasio's Wife". New York Observer. Retrieved January 2, 2015. 
  11. ^ Mcdonough, Katie (May 9, 2013). "Bill de Blasio's wife, Chirlane McCray, on the "fluidity of love" and the political spotlight". Retrieved August 14, 2013. 
  12. ^ Mance, Ajuan (October 18, 2009). "Pioneering Black Feminist Makes History Again". Black On Campus. Retrieved August 14, 2013. 
  13. ^ a b c Barbaro, Michael (January 1, 2010). "The Family Bible Is a Guest for the Oath, but Not a Participant". The New York Times. Retrieved August 16, 2013. 
  14. ^ The Plum Book: U. S. Government Policy and Supporting Positions for 9,000 Federal Civil Service Positions. DIANE Publishing. 1996. p. 236. ISBN 0788135708. 
  15. ^ Fermino, Jennifer (May 21, 2013). "Bill de Blasio's wife, Chirlane McCray, opens up on her role as the mayoral race's most visible spouse". New York Daily News. Retrieved August 14, 2013. 
  16. ^ Seifman, David (August 8, 2004). "Ferrer's Pitch For Ballpark". New York Post. Retrieved August 14, 2013.  (subscription required)
  17. ^ Grynbaum, Michael M.; Stewart, Nikita; Rashbaum, William K. (October 3, 2014). "At City Hall, Backstage Player Is Cast in Main Stage Uproar". The New York Times. Retrieved November 18, 2014. 
  18. ^ Taylor, Kate (2014-02-06). "De Blasio Appoints Chirlane McCray, His Wife, to Lead Nonprofit Group". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-10-11. 
  19. ^ "Priority Areas - Mayor's Fund". Retrieved 2017-10-11. 
  20. ^ "ThriveNYC: A Mental Health Roadmap for All" (PDF). 
  21. ^ Ghansah, Rachel Kaadzi (2016-02-09). "Chirlane McCray and the Limits of First-Ladyship". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-10-11. 
  22. ^ "Fund for Public Health - New York". Retrieved 2017-10-11. 
  23. ^ "ThriveNYC". Retrieved 2017-10-11. 
  24. ^ Saul, Michael Howard (January 1, 2013). "Family in the Spotlight: De Blasio's Wife, Children Provide Multiracial Backdrop to Likely Mayoral Bid". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 14, 2013. 
  25. ^ O'Neill, Natalie (May 10, 2013). "Bill de Blasio's wife recalls him first learning that she was a lesbian". New York Post. Retrieved August 14, 2013. 
  26. ^ Belonsky, Andrew (September 3, 2013). "When Bill de Blasio's Wife Was a Lesbian". Out. Retrieved January 2, 2015. 

External links[edit]

Honorary titles
Preceded by
Donna Hanover (2002)
First Lady of New York City