Annie Lowrey: Stop worrying about budget deficits
As Yang continues his trek through Flushing, he talks up his vision and listens to voters’ concerns. At one point, he ducks into a boba-tea shop. “I really like this place!” he says, beaming as he pulls a piece of paper from a lacquered box on the establishment’s back wall, a Taiwanese tradition called drawing lots. As supporters crowd the shop, he reads from the slip, which features both an adage and a forecast of future luck: “It says: Don’t feel alone; rely on friends to get through tough times, ” he announces.
“Average good luck,” a woman in the crowd adds, peering at the forecast on Yang’s paper slip. “It’s very difficult to get very good luck.”
“Average good luck!” Yang says. “That’s kind of poignant.”
Andrew Yang is on the ferry to Staten Island.
Wearing the same style of striped scarf he wears every day, he beholds the Statue of Liberty, mugging and saluting. “Look at this!” he says. “Very patriotic!” His campaign photographer snaps a few photographs of him staring into the middle distance.
I note how far we are from where we started. I mean that literally. Getting from Throgs Neck to Staten Island can take hours, unless you have a helicopter or a motorboat. In the five boroughs, more than 8 million New Yorkers live, among them 1 million public-school students, almost 60,000 homeless people, 325,000 public employees, 2 million homeowners, and 113 billionaires (give or take). Being the mayor for all these people is often described as the second-hardest job in American politics, and it may actually be the first.
Over several conversations, Yang and I talk through his plan to build a kind of city-state with a pro-business orientation, agile social services, and excellent physical infrastructure. Sort of like the Fiorello La Guardia administration, remade for our late-capitalist age. The bureaucratic obstacles are real, Yang tells me. The city’s budget, with its $4 billion shortfall, is also a problem. But he quickly pivots to his plans to pull in more state and federal resources, his willingness to find “modest value-adds,” and his desire to milk the city’s billionaires and work with its nonprofits.
Yang is sitting with me inside the ferry, digressing about the ingenuity of New York’s philanthropies, when we see a man on the deck outside raise his walking stick and strike a Getty photographer. The photographer, Spencer Platt, has been following Yang on the campaign trail; the attack is random and unprovoked.
“Oh my God!” Yang shouts, and we rush outside, where Platt and the assailant are scuffling. The attacker turns around to see Andrew Yang, in his Andrew Yang mask. “Yang for New York!” he says, starstruck, as Platt escapes. “You are the man! Would you like me to support you?”
“I would like that,” Yang says, his body tense but his tone warm. He examines the man’s elaborate gold necklace. “Is that one of those Bullets 4 Peace necklaces?” he asks, referring to a line of jewelry made from spent casings.