Once you tug at the loose ends of the Rachel Noerdlinger story, the whole administration of New York mayor Bill de Blasio seems to unravel in your hands.
For the last few days, the tabloids have been all over Noerdlinger, 43, chief of staff to de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, because of the disclosure by DNAinfo.com that her live-in boyfriend, Hassaun McFarlan, 36, is a cop-hating criminal. At 15, after A Better Chance—a charity that sends inner-city black kids to good suburban schools—had paid for McFarlan to attend a Connecticut school for two years, he returned to the Harlem housing project where his single mother lived and promptly shot an 18-year-old neighbor to death over a down jacket. Three years after pleading guilty to manslaughter (around the time his drug-dealer father died of AIDS) and serving six years in prison, McFarlan landed in jail again for interstate drug dealing. He pled guilty and got out of prison in Massachusetts in 2007. A series of traffic arrests began in 2009—the year his mother committed suicide—and ended just after de Blasio was elected mayor, when McFarlan, driving girlfriend Noerdlinger’s Mercedes, refused to stop for a cop guiding traffic around an accident but instead sped up so aggressively that the cop had to jump out of his path. Charged with disorderly conduct, he pled guilty this March. Little wonder, as McFarlan wrote on Facebook, that “I cant come outside without the pigs fucking with me in the hood out the hood im a magnet to police fucking with me.” The solution, according to a tee-shirt he wears, is to end the police tactic of stop-and-frisk.
None of this would matter publicly if McFarlan’s girlfriend’s boss, the mayor’s wife, did not play so central a role in New York City governance. But she does. “As I’ve said probably a thousand times,” de Blasio declared of McCray, “she’s my most important adviser and the person I’m closest to in the world—and the person I listen to the most.” That’s not hyperbole—the mayor listed his wife alongside himself on his campaign’s organization chart, and New York Magazine reports that since the inauguration, people describe them as “virtual co-mayors.” “Understand Chirlane and you’ll understand me,” de Blasio once said. “We do everything as a couple—we think as a couple.” McCray has approved and often interviewed all important hires in her husband’s administration, from commissioners and deputy mayors on down, and she has ensured that women and minorities are heavily represented in their ranks. In addition, she runs the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, controlling a $50 million-plus pot of public and private money to set up pilot programs for everything from youth employment to immigrant assistance, as she sees fit.