Many politicians have found themselves accused of being out of touch with the average voter after fumbling a question on the cost of everyday items such as milk or bread (or, in Iowa, soybeans). Now this classic gaffe has come to the New York City mayoral race, with two candidates offering estimates of Brooklyn home prices that would seem off even if they weren’t running in a city known for outrageously expensive real estate.
The New York Times editorial board recently conducted interviews with all the mayoral candidates to determine who would receive their endorsement (the paper went with Kathryn Garcia). The candidates were questioned about a wide range of topics, including their plans for the NYPD, city schools, and housing. But one particular question caused a stir on Tuesday morning: “What is the median sales price for a home or apartment in Brooklyn?” The actual answer is $900,000, according to the Times’ board, but former HUD secretary Shaun Donovan and former Citigroup executive Ray McGuire seemed to have a much rosier outlook on the New York City housing market.
When posed the question by editorial-board member Mara Gay, Donovan said, “In Brooklyn, huh? I don’t [know] for sure. I would guess it is around $100,000.” When told the correct answer, Donovan said, “Median home? Including apartments?”
The Times noted that Donovan later followed up with an email stating that he was referring to assessed values of Brooklyn homes. “I really don’t think you can buy a house in Brooklyn today for that little,” he wrote.
When Gay put the same question to McGuire, they had this exchange:
Mara Gay: Just answer this to the best of your ability, obviously. What is the median sales price for a home or apartment in Brooklyn?
In Brooklyn, that number has gone up now. It depends on where in Brooklyn.
Mara Gay: Just average for the borough, the median.
It’s got to be somewhere in the $80,000 to $90,000 range, if not higher.
Mara Gay: The median sales price for a home in Brooklyn is $900,000.
Nine hundred. I—
Mara Gay: What—
The other candidates’ responses ran the gamut: $500,000 from former nonprofit executive Dianne Morales, $550,000 from Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams, $800,000 from former sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia, $1 million from comptroller Scott Stringer, and $1.8 million from Maya Wiley, former counsel to the mayor.
Andrew Yang, however, got the amount exactly right.
“So median home — could be any size, right? So some of them would be very substantial. But you’re looking at the median, so you have to, like, whittle down,” Yang said. “I would just say that the median — it’s going to be something, like, much higher than it should be. So the number that popped into my mind is $900,000.”