She’s not Maya from the block.
Maya Wiley has staked her claim to Gracie Mansion on unifying New Yorkers around her progressive bona fides and hard-bitten personal story.
But it’s a tale that has often required looking past a number of silver spoons, and alleged hypocrisy, including:
- Putting her own kids in selective city schools, and an elite private one, despite campaigning against what she calls “racist” academic screens.
- Making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year as a “career” activist and lawyer for the de Blasio administration.
- Living in a multi-million home in an exclusive area of Brooklyn with private security, while advocating to defund the NYPD.
“It worries me,” Shaquana Boykin, a Brooklyn district leader who is backing Dianne Morales in the mayor’s race, told The Post. “Wealth and economic status changes everything. You can be white, purple, yellow — if you come from a different economic status, your lived experience is different.”
Bhaskar Sunkara, founder and editor of the socialist magazine Jacobin, said, “I think the left in the future should be running actual working-class candidates,” noting Wiley’s gilded trappings made her less than ideal.
Wiley, 57, polled in a near-dead heat for second with former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia in this week’s Post survey, but trailed frontrunner Eric Adams by about 5 percentage points.
She lives with her husband, financier Harlan Mandel, 58, in a historic Prospect Park South estate valued at $2.7 million. The home, built in 1905 by architect John J. Petit, has come in for fawning praise by elite connoisseurs.
“Like many larger Prairie School houses, this house sprawls in a series of wings,” gushed Brownstoner in 2011. “The ground floor is laid in Roman brick, while the upper floors are clad in shingle siding. … Diamond paned windows, Jacobean carved strapwork, leaded transom windows, and the striking side oriels, with carved shields, garlands and putti all add to the house.”
The digs are fitting for Wiley, who has turned a life of activism into a lucrative career. In the two years she worked as counsel for Mayor de Blasio between 2014 and 2016, Wiley raked in more than $400,000 in compensation, city records show.
After leaving that job, Wiley headed to the New School, where she became a senior vice president for “social justice.” Tax records show a nearly $300,000 payday in 2018 and another $250,000 in 2019. A plum gig as an MSNBC legal analyst netted another $60-100K a year as well, according to her public disclosures.
The cash has allowed Wiley to be charitable — like when she donated $1,000 to her Ivy League alma mater, Dartmouth College, for new conference chairs in 2019.
Wiley — the daughter of chemist and civil rights leader George Wiley and one-time art gallerist Wretha Whittle Wiley — has been described as an out-of-touch careerist.
“My biggest gripe with Maya Wiley is I don’t know what she did. I don’t know what she accomplished,” said Rudy Hinojosa, 27, who attended New School during Wiley’s tenure. “As far as I knew she was either very behind the scenes, or just was a talking head.”
An MSNBC insider told The Post Wiley had attempted to weave the network into her campaign materials — which resulted in a tough “conversation” with the network.
“There was a feeling that she was using the MSNBC tag to get a larger liberal following in her materials,” the source said. “A discussion had to be had with her about distancing herself. She was abusing it essentially.”
Wiley’s beau, Mandel, does well for himself as CEO of the Media Development Investment Fund, a self-described “not-for-profit investment fund.” Mandel earned more than $900,000 in compensation between 2017 and 2019, tax records show.
MDIF invests in the equity and debt of newsgathering organizations in countries including Poland, Brazil and South Africa. The organization received initial funding from George Soros and the billionaire’s Open Society Foundations continue to support it. The MDIF did not respond to The Post’s requests for its most recent IRS tax filing, which charities must disclose by law.
From 1996 to 1998, Mandel worked as deputy general counsel at the Open Society Foundations. Wiley also worked there in the late ’90s, according to her LinkedIn profile.
Later progressive organizations she was involved with — the Tides Foundation and the Center for Social Inclusion — were both bankrolled by Open Society grants, The Post has reported. As president of the Center for Social Inclusion, where she worked from 2002 to 2014, she was paid more than $180,000 in 2013, according to filings of that group.
Wiley has also been dogged by questions of hypocrisy, failing to live up to her own standards, and being a limousine liberal.
“I think definitely she fits that description pretty well,” Sunkara said.
Though she has called for slashing a billion dollars from the NYPD and has even declared herself open to the idea of taking their firearms away, Wiley and her tree-lined neighborhood are protected by private security. The protection is paid for from the Prospect Park South Charitable Trust — which Mandel has contributed to.
The security, which patrols the area at night, is very helpful for shooing away pesky drunks and others undesirables, neighbors said. Busting similarly low-level quality of life crimes has become taboo for rank-and-file NYPD — thanks in part to the advocacy work of people like Wiley.
Then there is Wiley’s record as an Assistant US Attorney in the Southern District of New York, between 1994 and 1997, where she cut her legal teeth defending the US government from an array of civil rights suits.
The self-described anti-racism warrior represented federal corrections officers accused of beating up a handcuffed prisoner and then throwing him down a flight of stairs, and postal employees who allegedly harassed a black co-worker.
This work as a federal prosecutor is curiously absent from her LinkedIn profile.
Wiley has also sent her children to exclusive city schools, some of which require special testing or are for the “gifted and talented” — screens Wiley has called racist and promised to do away with.
“There should be no discriminatory admissions policies, period,” Wiley previously told The Post.
Her oldest daughter attended the public Mark Twain Intermediate School for the Gifted and Talented in Brooklyn, before heading to Humanities Preparatory Academy in Manhattan, which screens for good grades as a criteria for admission. Her younger daughter spent grades six through 12 at Brooklyn Friends, an elite private school that charges $51,000 per year in tuition.
Wiley’s campaign declined to comment.
With additional reporting from Melissa Klein