NEW YORK — Andrew Yang's closing argument on the campaign trail included a big check, holding a ceremonial symbolic check signing for his proposed $1 billion cash relief program. He dated it 2022 and signed it in the Bronx on Thursday.

Democratic mayoral candidate Andrew Yang, right, on June 17, 2021, with a symbolic check for his proposed $1 billion cash relief program. NY1/Courtney Gross.

"Where is that money gonna go?” Yang said at the event. ”It's gonna go right back into the Bronx."

It was all part of his push for his signature policy: cash relief for New York's poorest, $2,000 per year for about 500,000 New Yorkers.

It's the crux of his campaign.

But he was getting questions about something else Thursday. Yang was put on the defensive after some controversial comments on the debate stage the day before.

"Yes, mentally ill people have rights, but you know who else has rights? We do! The people and families of our city. We have the right to walk the streets and not fear for our safety because a mentally ill person is going to lash out at us,” Yang said in a Democratic primary mayoral debate on WNBC on Wednesday night.

Crticis, including some of his rivals on the campaign trail, have called those comments insensitive.

"I was really disturbed,” fellow Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams said. “Don't criminalize mental health illnesses."

"I was sad and disappointed and I thought they were cruel statements,” Democratic mayoral candidate Maya Wiley said.

NY1 asked Thursday if he regretted the comments.

Yang: Again: everyone agrees that people who are struggling with mental illness on our streets should be in better, more caring environments where they can get the help that they need.

Gross: So you don't regret anything that you said last night about this?

Yang did not respond to that question.

Yang was also touting a celebrity endorsement on Thursday from actor John Leguizamo, who voted for Yang this week.

"I am for Andrew for a lot of different reasons,” Leguizamo said at the Yang campaign event Thursday.

We asked who he ranked number two:

"My second choice? Close your ears. Garcia,” he said, referring to Democrat Kathryn Garcia.

Yang has been slipping in the polls, and as of this point he needs to win over every voter that he can; after all, Primary Day is Tuesday.


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