Ray McGuire, a longtime Wall Street executive, had the most recognizable name of the four participants at Thursday's virtual mayoral forum hosted by CUNY's Center for Community Media.
Other candidates that had a chance to explain why they are the best choice to navigate the city out of crisis were Art Chang, Barbara Kavovit and Joycelyn Taylor.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, New York City struggled with solutions to fix several problems, like homelessness and equitable access to health care. The pandemic, which created a historic economic crunch, made the challenges exponentially worse.
More than 40 candidates think they have the answers and have entered the race to replace Mayor Bill de Blasio.
According to a recent poll, about half of voters surveyed said they couldn't make up their minds about which candidate could get job done.
Andrew Yang, the former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, topped the list of voters' first choice at 16%. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams came in second at 10%.
McGuire, who has raised more than $7 million, mostly from "Wall Street and real estate titans," garnered just 4%. None of the other three participants at the forum made the poll's list of expected frontrunners.
Yang, the son of Korean immigrants, grew up in Ohio. He's a serial entrepreneur who started 12 small businesses in New York.
"What differentiates me from the others is that I have the heart of a real progressive and the mind of a businessperson who has worked in many industries," he said.
Perhaps better known for appearing on Bravo's Real Housewives, Barbara Kavovit is the founder and CEO of Evergreen Construction.
"We need a businessperson with a big business brain who will build the government on common sense policies," Kavovit said.
McGuire opened with his rags to riches story. The Dayton, Ohio native grew up in a low-income household, but rose to become a vice chairman at Citigroup, one of the few Black executives in Wall Street's elite circle.
"I have the experience of running a business globally," McGuire said about his qualifications for mayor, adding that he has managed billions of dollars in budgets and created jobs.
Rounding out the panel of business-savvy candidates, Joycelyn M. Taylor, the CEO of TaylorMade Contracting, said she had "the lived experience of an everyday New Yorker." The Brooklyn native grew up in NYCHA's Louis H. Pink Houses in East New York.
By January, renters in NYC were more than $1 billion behind in rent. The moderator asked the candidates how they would prevent an avalanche of evictions and fix the affordable housing crisis.
McGuire said he would extend the moratorium on evictions and give small landlords relief. Part of his housing plan includes rental subsidies and advocating for additional Section 8 vouchers.
For Chang, working with the financial services industry is key. He would extend the eviction moratorium and urge banks to restructure mortgages, which would lead to cancelation of accrued debt for tenants and small landlords.
Taylor said eviction moratoriums don't go far enough. A successful plan must include relief for small landlords and debt forgiveness to tenants.
"As mayor, I would try to create more homeownership opportunities for minorities," she added.
Amid a rise in violent crime, Kavovit said now was not the time to defund the police. Restoring trust and confidence in the NYPD would be one of her priorities as mayor.
She said she wanted to see more community policing and less law enforcement involvement in cases dealing with mental illness and homelessness.
Chang's plan includes redirecting police funds, granting civilian boards more authority in disciplining cops, and dispatching social workers to help deal with nonviolent situations.
Taylor called for the decriminalization of poverty and an end to the school-to-prison pipeline. As mayor, she would defund the police to pursue true reform.
This was the third in a series of mayoral candidate forums hosted by the CUNY Journalism School that will continue through the lead up to the primary election.