Two of the richest candidates in the race for New York City mayor—ex-Citigroup executive Ray McGuire and Obama-era HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan—have no idea how much a house costs in Brooklyn.
In New York Times interviews that could have been cut from an Arrested Development blooper reel, McGuire and Donovan low-balled the borough’s median sales price by hundreds of thousands of dollars. Both believed the median price hovers around $100,000 or less. In reality, it is $900,000.
Donovan estimated similarly, wagering that the median clocked in around $100,000—even though he bought a four-story house in Boerum Hill for $2.3 million two years ago.
In a statement to The Daily Beast, McGuire wrote that he had “messed up when accounting for the cost of housing” in Brooklyn. “I am human,” he wrote. “But make no mistake, I care deeply about our city's affordable housing crisis."
A spokesperson for Donovan told The Daily Beast he had “misinterpreted the question and made a mistake.” After the Times interview, he clarified by email that he had been thinking of the assessed values of homes.
“As Shaun says, he is a housing nerd and public servant who has dedicated 30 years of his life to solving the problems of housing affordability and homelessness, and the wrong number slipped out,” the spokesperson wrote.
The irony of Donovan’s error was not lost on critics: for years, he worked on housing policy. From 2004 until 2009, the would-be mayor worked as the commissioner of New York City’s Department of Housing Preservation and Development under then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
He went on to serve as Barack Obama’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development until 2014, overseeing the department when some 10 million Americans lost their homes during the foreclosure crisis.
McGuire, who stepped down from his executive role at Citigroup in October, reported on his disclosure statements that he took home between $1.02 million and $1.7 million in income from Citi alone last year, with an additional deferred income of more than $500,000 he expected to receive from Citi after the reporting period covered by the disclosure.
The questions to both candidates came at the end of separate Times’ interviews, when members of the Editorial Board gave the would-be mayors a three-question pop quiz on the city they hope to govern. Most of the candidates came much closer to the median price.
New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer estimated just slightly too high at $1 million. Attorney Maya Wiley weighed in with $1.8 million, while former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, whom the Board ultimately endorsed, wagered $800,000.
Only Andrew Yang, the frontrunner and self-identified “math guy,” got it right, guessing $900,000, while Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams underestimated around $550,000, as did non-profit alum Dianne Morales, the most progressive candidate in the field, with $500,000.