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NEW YORK — Ray McGuire has built his fortune and notoriety in the financial sector, becoming one of the highest-ranking Black leaders on Wall Street. Now, as he plots his hopeful course for City Hall, he says his relatability shouldn’t be questioned.

“I’m not quite certain what that means,” he said when asked if he’s relatable enough to win.

He said his mother worked three jobs as she and his grandparents raised him, his brothers and several foster siblings.

“I come from the neighborhood,” he said during PIX11’s Democratic mayoral forum.

“[If] I were a successful entertainer or a successful athlete, would they be asking the same question? I’m a Black man who’s been successful at having climbed the ladder in the world of finance — and where I started, there were one or two people who looked like me,” he said. “I thought we were at a point where we’d begin to celebrate excellence and celebrate success, especially those like me who come from the bottom, who’ve had the opportunity, which is what I want all New Yorkers to have, especially for little Ray-Rays who look like me.”

Every New Yorker should have the opportunity to succeed, and to have a quality education to help them get there, he said.

But that opportunity is not the reality for so many of New York’s youth.

“If I randomly take 10 Black and brown fourth graders, two, maybe three can read. If I look at third through eighth grade, 60-70% — same demographic — below proficient. The system is not working, and we ought to be outraged.”

When asked about his experiences with choosing private schools for his family, he said it was his education and the sacrifices of his mother that helped him get to where he is. And as the city’s chief executive, who’d be responsible for the city’s public schools, he said the system is broken regardless of which type of school kids attend.

“I would want to make sure they get the best quality education in the district schools, in the magnet schools, in the parochial schools, and in the charter schools,” he said. “Our children’s lives should not be determined by their zip code — which, today, it is.”

Based on a recent PIX11, NewsNation, Emerson College poll, more than three quarters of respondents gave New York City schools a “grade” of C or below; nearly 17% of all participants gave the school system an F.

“This is preposterous,” he said of the school system. 

McGuire said his plan, which he calls “cradle to career,” would create affordable child care for children zero to four so that young children can develop and learn.

It also would guarantee no student would end the third grade without the ability to read and do basic math. He said in the years that follow, students read to learn, and far too many students move on without proficiency in reading ability.

He also said he’d fill the gaps with a tutor corps, made of college students, retired teachers and current teachers for kids in need.

McGuire also answered tough questions about his opposition to defunding the police, how he’d realign police accountability, and how he’d provide “roofs of dignity” to New York City’s homeless with affordable housing. Watch the full interview to find out those answers and more.