November 17, 2014

Rachel Noerdlinger, Chirlane McCray's aide, takes leave of absence


Rachel Noerdlinger, a top aide in Mayor Bill de Blasio's administration, will take an unpaid leave of absence for an indefinite period following the arrest of her teenage son on trespassing charges, she and the mayor said Monday.

Noerdlinger, who serves as chief of staff to the city's first lady, Chirlane McCray, will be replaced at McCray's discretion, but is welcome to eventually return to City Hall, de Blasio said. He defended Noerdlinger as the subject of "repulsive" smears in recent months.

Noerdlinger said in a statement she will return to "fighting for social justice" after she fulfills obligations to her son.

"These past two months have been extremely difficult for both of us, and his arrest on Friday heightens the need for me to devote my full attention to Khari, my number one priority," she said.

Khari Noerdlinger, 17, was charged with misdemeanor trespassing Friday in a Washington Heights building where he was not a guest, according to a criminal complaint.

The rank-and-file police union had called for Noerdlinger's ouster amid intense scrutiny of the criminal history of her boyfriend, Hassaun McFarlan, 36, who was convicted in 1993 in the shooting death of a man; her failure to disclose in a city background check that she lives with McFarlan; her unpaid debt including parking tickets; and anti-police rhetoric by McFarlan and Khari Noerdlinger on social media.

"I can handle criticism and scrutiny of me, even when it's mean-spirited -- that comes with the territory when you take on the status quo," she said. "But increasingly, my son has been subjected to attacks that have nothing to do with the public interest, and everything to do with derailing this administration."

Khari Noerdlinger accepted an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal with one day of community service, according to the Manhattan district attorney's office.

NYPD unions have been critical of what they've said is Noerdlinger's influence on police matters. Patrolmen's Benevolent Association president Patrick Lynch was skeptical Monday about the need for a chief of staff to the first lady.

"Should City Hall decide to fill what is a very questionable position, we hope they can find someone who appreciates the critical role that police have in making this city a viable place to live and who will not bring an anti-police bias to the table," he said in a statement.

De Blasio said his wife, chair of the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City, needs a chief of staff to "organize all of that work for greatest effect."

Sharpton said in a statement he supports Noerdlinger's decision and she is undeserving of "media distortion, smears and outright lies."