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OpinionColumnistsMark Chiusano

Clash of the titans

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew M.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo appear at a joint event in October 2014. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Bryan Thomas

There's no love lost between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio. But even though they don't seem likely to bury the hatchet soon, it will all work out.

When giants clash, it's easy for the little people to get trodden underfoot.

This has been the concern in the continuing feud between Cuomo and de Blasio, two Democrats who haven't been able to play nice.

They are Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, the Mets and the Yankees, Hamilton and Burr. They have ratcheted up the insults, made headlines, even attempted detente — a branzino dinner where at least they agreed on the fish. At times, their differences have been petty.

And, surprisingly, along the way, they've sometimes managed to change policy and make life better for the everyday Joes down here.

A brief history of the feud

Cuomo and de Blasio sparred since de Blasio took office, but the squabbling reached a fevered pitch after a combative legislative session which left the mayor feeling that the city had been short-changed, de Blasio delivered an impassioned fight-them-at-the-beaches defense, decrying the political machinations of a vindictive governor. He explained that he knew he might face "revenge."

The two men are hardly cut from the same political cloth — Cuomo's centrist pragmatism vs. de Blasio's soaring liberal ambitions. But they have known each other for decades and once attested to a real friendship. Unfortunately, things quickly turned strictly professional.

When Legionnaires disease broke out in the Bronx, the mayor and governor held dueling news conferences.

When topless dancers wandered Times Square, the governor hinted that the bad old days were on their way back.

When de Blasio launched an ill-fated offensive against Uber, Cuomo insisted that the ride-sharing service should be regulated by the state.

It took months for the two to come together on a mammoth MTA capital plan agreement, even when the mayor contributed unprecedented funding.

Governing by one-upmanship

After the mayor initially refused to acknowledge the city's homelessness problem last summer, a spokesperson for the governor said, "It's clear that the Mayor can't manage the homeless crisis." The governor vowed to make the issue — traditionally the city's domain — a priority as the weather got cold.

Then de Blasio leapt to action, starting with a boost for the city's street homeless outreach program.

When Cuomo and others decried the conditions in homeless shelters, de Blasio vowed to make them better. He expanded his plans to build affordable and supportive housing: Supportive housing has traditionally been a joint effort between state and city, but de Blasio has committed the city to building 15,000 units of supportive housing on its own.

For his part, the governor promises a comprehensive homeless plan soon, and, in the meantime, just for good measure, he issued an executive order encouraging local governments to get the street homeless indoors in freezing weather. The order didn't change much of anything in the city, but at least it focused attention on street and shelter conditions.

In striving to outdo one another, the titans paid at least lip service to those in need.

Similarly, the governor has moved left on the minimum wage, embracing the Fight for Fifteen movement that is right up de Blasio's alley — tale of two cities rewritten. In the march toward a full minimum wage increase, which would require legislative action, Cuomo is bringing wages for state and SUNY employees, approximately 1600 of whom live in the five boroughs, up to $15, and through a state wage board has won the same for fast-food workers state-wide. Not to be outflanked, de Blasio this week announced a $15 wage for 50,000 city employees, from teachers' aides to crossing guards.

Another legislative season is beginning in Albany. Maybe the terrible twosome can make up.

If not, it's one of the better shows in town and the little people are getting a chicken in every pot.

This is amExpress, the conversation starter for New Yorkers. 


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