Rachel Noerdlinger, a top aide to the mayor’s wife who recently came under media scrutiny for dating a convicted felon, announced Monday that she will be taking an indefinite, unpaid leave of absence from her chief-of-staff position.
In September, media reports emerged that Noerdlinger’s boyfriend, Hassaun McFarlan, had an extensive criminal record, including shooting and killing a teenager more than 20 years ago, while fighting over a jacket. McFarlan also posted several anti-police comments on his Facebook account, calling police officers “pigs.”
More recently, McFarlan was arrested in New Jersey for marijuana possession. Last Friday, Noerdlinger’s son, Khari, was arrested for trespassing after police found him hanging out with several friends at a Washington Heights apartment building. He was sentenced to a day of community service.
Noerdlinger’s $170,000-a-year position includes assisting the mayor’s wife, Chirlane McCray, with her duties as the chair of the mayor’s charity fund. McCray and Noerdlinger have also sat in on high-level police meetings, according to media reports.
Following the revelations, the city’s largest police union, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA), called for Noerdlinger to step down.
On Monday, Noerdlinger released a statement announcing that she will be leaving her position in order to spend more time with 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 in the statement.
Noerdlinger added that she didn’t mind the scrutiny, “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.” She called the public attention on her personal life “a distraction” from the administration’s work.
At an unrelated press conference on Monday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said he respected Noerdlinger’s decision, and that the city will be looking for someone to fill her position in the meantime.
But de Blasio also disapproved of the public scrutiny, calling it “far, far overblown.”
“I, for one, think that everyone deserves some measure of privacy in their private life, even if they are a public servant,” de Blasio said.
In a released statement, the president of the PBA, Patrick Lynch, called Noerdlinger’s job “a very questionable position.” He added that the association hopes City Hall will fill the newly opened position with “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.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.