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New York City Mayoral Candidate Ray McGuire’s Secret Sauce

“Quality of life will determine the future of all urban areas, especially as we try to recapture the people, businesses and revenue that have left our cities.”

Ray McGuire in his home office. Photo by Cedric Wooten Photography

As one of the country’s top investment bankers, Ray McGuire knows that having a “secret sauce” can lead to billions more in investment fees. Capital wants top returns. Promising and delivering them with an edge, an advantage, keeps finance executives in big bonus territory.

Worth spoke?to McGuire, Wall Street’s leading entry in New York City’s mayoral primary race, about what his secret sauce vision for the city is. He answered unequivocally: “Quality of life.”

To him, the policies and effectiveness of delivery of that amorphous, yet critical, issue will determine the future of the city. McGuire went further, “Quality of life will determine the future of all urban areas, especially as we try to recapture the people, businesses and revenue that have left our cities.

On the personal side, McGuire has created a Renaissance life for himself and his family that is the very embodiment of the American Dream. Born to a single mother in struggling Dayton, Ohio 63 years ago, McGuire’s intelligence and athletic abilities were apparent early on, and they brought him life-changing breaks. Despite economic difficulties, his mother and grandparents were stable. They gave him the gift of confidence—that he could do whatever he set out to do.

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Those special qualities led him to Hotchkiss, the elite private high school, then to Harvard for undergraduate and graduate degrees in business and law.

A long career in finance took him again to the very top, making significant global deals, as vice chair of banking giant Citibank. Clearly, he knows how to read a room and get interested parties to say yes. His success has certainly proved his mother right.

“Quality of life” is a macro term. What it means is subjective to each city dweller. For example, one of McGuire’s many concerns is “the digital divide.” Unless this is addressed, a significant percentage of New York City’s youth will be left behind. As McGuire sees it, “Not just the present, but also the future belongs to technology. We need a tech-smart city starting now. Broadband access must be universally available.”

Anyone observing cities and thinking about their future knows affordable housing is another key quality of life issue. McGuire is aware that far too many of NYC’s citizens are spending crippling amounts of their income on rent or mortgages. “Truly affordable housing is going to be a basic requirement in any successful city of the future,” he explained. For sure McGuire knows the cost of shelter in New York City makes it an outlier compared to other, smaller U.S. cities—something the COVID-19 exodus has only highlighted for those who relocated.

Investment in new housing stock must come from both public and private sources, if McGuire is going to conquer this issue, one that has bedeviled every mayor over the last 75 years. Remember, rent control in NYC started after WWII as a temporary emergency measure and has never been lifted.

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Quality of life also means fixing the health care crisis. Thirty-eight states have a smaller population than NYC. So, when McGuire puts “fixing health care” near the top of his list, he understands this is a Herculean task, one that will require innovation and rule changes from deeply entrenched interests. However, he has confidence that progress can be made. “I have always brought diverse people to the table and solved problems by including rather than excluding,” he said. Specifically, he envisions incentives to build primary care clinics in poorly served, outer-borough neighborhoods. He also supports increasing ER capacity by expanding H+H Express Care Centers in those same communities.

Health care is big business. Reforming it will require a buy-in from federal and state stakeholders…not an easy task.

There are other big issues McGuire wants to address: “The police and judicial system, transportation, budgeting and taxes—all of these are components of what will bring New Yorkers back and ensure that talented people with ambition will continue to make NYC their home.” On the very sensitive issue of the police, McGuire is unequivocally clear: “We need to make sure our first response is our best response. A huge area of policing should be focused on mental health issues. We need to help people and the police by making sure every law enforcement encounter is the right one.”

This statement proved prescient. A few days after the Worth interview, a mentally ill, homeless man was arrested after allegedly murdering two homeless subway riders and injuring two others.

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As someone who has lived in NYC for the past half century, McGuire’s words ring true. In addition to police response, people with mental health issues are not getting the help they need. They are living on the streets and in the subways, where they suffer in unimaginable ways. Their quality of life has to count too.

McGuire had some additional thoughts on quality of life. “Sometimes it’s the small things, like a summer job,” he explained. “The one I got changed my life.” McGuire wants every NYC kid to “have one too. It makes a huge difference to what their future looks like.”

Does this all sound too idealistic or is it the valid vision of a man who has overcome innumerable obstacles and needs a new challenge? Or perhaps it is the vision of a governmental outsider, a man who has not spent a lifetime in community board meetings and legislative committees.

I came away from my talk with Ray McGuire having observed a person intent on tackling the problems that anyone getting the mayor’s job will confront. To those worried about the future of urban life, McGuire offers us hope because he believes it is fixable. Like all investment bankers, he has a plan elucidated in a 19-page PDF entitled, “The Comeback Plan: Go Big > Go Small > Go Forward.”

It is still early days; the mayoral primary is in June, and some polls show McGuire is running behind other candidates like Andrew Yang. However, overcoming obstacles in athletics, academics and business is what he does best. He volunteered for this challenge. Let’s see what comes of it. Who knows, perhaps we will all be celebrating at his planned Comeback Festival, scheduled to begin spring of 2022, which he says will be “NYC’s biggest ever.”

With additional content and editing by Deborah Grayson.

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