Rachel Noerdlinger, the top de Blasio administration aide enmeshed in controversy over her relationship with a convicted killer, has decided to take a leave of absence from her post to spend more time with her son, according to a statement released by the mayor's office.
Noerdlinger, chief of staff to First Lady Chirlane McCray, said Monday that the past two months have been extraordinarily difficult for her and her 17-year-old son Khari, who was arrested Friday on a criminal trespass charge in a Washington Heights apartment building with three other youths. Two of the youths were allegedly found with marijuana; Noerdlinger's son wasn't one of them.
Noerdlinger said that her son's arrest Friday "heightens the need for me to devote my full attention to Khari, my number one priority." Her leave will not be paid, according to a source familiar with the plans.
"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," Noerdlinger 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. I do not want to be a distraction -- the work at hand is far too urgent."
Noerdlinger's decision to take a leave of absence comes after months of questions about her boyfriend Hassaun McFarlan, a convicted killer and drug trafficker, tax liens and traffic stops involving her, her boyfriend and her then-underage son. She has been in a relationship with McFarlan since 2010 and the two have lived together for nearly two years, DNAInfo.com first reported last month.
Noerdlinger had been under scrutiny over allegations she filled out her official city background information form inaccurately by not mentioning she lived with McFarlan, who has been arrested at least five times -- twice after he began dating Noerdlinger -- and was convicted in the fatal 1993 shooting of a teenager over a down jacket.
A Department of Investigation probe found Noerdlinger committed no wrongdoing in failing to disclose the relationship with McFarlan, and Mayor de Blasio and his wife have staunchly stood by Noerdlinger's side amid the controversies.
They did so again Monday.
"The Mayor and First Lady thank Rachel for her service," Rebecca Katz, special advisor to the mayor, said in a statement. "She has been a great asset to the administration and the people of New York City over the past year, and everyone wishes her all the best during her leave."
It wasn't clear when Noerdlinger planned to return to work, but in a statement, she thanked the Blasios for their unwavering support and to “everyone who has helped me weather this difficult period."
"I look forward to fighting for social justice on behalf of New Yorkers once I feel my pressing obligations to my son have been met," she continued.
The administration said McCray would fill the position in the meantime.
Melissa Russo contributed to this report.