de Blasio shrugs off latest Cuomo diss about NYC mayor’s competence

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio deliver remarks at a news conference regarding the first confirmed case of coronavirus in New York State in Manhattan borough of New York City, New York
Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio at a March 2020 press conference.
REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

In the latest chapter of a partnership less cohesive than oil and water, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday that he didn’t pay very much attention to Governor Andrew Cuomo’s latest swipe at his leadership skills.

Hizzoner was asked at his June 24 briefing about comments Cuomo made during the governor’s Wednesday press conference in which the state’s chief executive suggested de Blasio lacked the confidence of New Yorkers, and demonstrated incompetence in the city’s management.

While Cuomo spoke for several minutes on Wednesday about the mayoral election, the current mayor and the state of New York City — which the governor suggested wasn’t very good due to higher crime — de Blasio offered a curt, 30-word response on the matter Thursday.

“I’m going to borrow from something [Police] Commissioner [Dermot] Shea said some weeks ago after something else the governor said. My message is I stopped listening to him a long time ago,” de Blasio said.

That “something” was a reference to Cuomo’s May remarks about a lack of public safety in the subway system, which Shea promptly dismissed. Weeks later, after repeated calls for more police officers in the transit system, de Blasio agreed to add 250 cops to patrol the subways to reinforce a sense of security.

Cuomo’s latest shot across de Blasio’s bow came Wednesday when he was asked about the impending results of the previous day’s New York City mayoral primary.

The governor heaped praise upon the leader in the wide-open, ranked-choice Democratic primary, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, whom Cuomo suggested had won over city residents concerned about public safety and desiring of competence in government.

“I think Eric Adams, being a former police officer, says ipso facto, he has the experience dealing with crime,” Cuomo said. “He knows the political system because he’s been borough president. He knows the needs of the community culturally and professionally. So I think he represented a combination of confidence and competent management on the pressing issue of the day.”

Adams secured a little less than a third of the votes in the Democratic primary contest, through preliminary results of early and day-of votes cast. There remains up to 200,000 absentee ballots yet to be counted, according to the Board of Elections, and while Adams has a nearly 80,000-vote lead, the ranked-choice voting system itself gives two of Adams’ closest rivals — civil rights attorney Maya Wiley and former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia — plausible paths to victory. 

The governor also said other mayoral hopefuls — including former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan; former Citicorp executive Ray McGuire; and Garcia, who previously worked in the de Blasio administration — demonstrated management competence and confidence in their managerial skills.

But, without ever mentioning de Blasio by name, Cuomo bluntly said the outgoing mayor lacked both traits.

“I think electing a new mayor is very, very positive for the city. We’re trying to get the city back up and running,” the governor said Wednesday. “And I think with a new mayor, you’re going to see both an increase in the confidence in leadership and an increase in the competence in the management of New York City. I think that’s going to be a major, major plus.”

In so many words, Cuomo suggested de Blasio had failed to adequately address public safety in the five boroughs.

“The economy doesn’t come back if people don’t feel safe. … The people won’t come back unless New York is safe,” he said. “The people will not get on the subways if they think the subways are not safe.”

Cuomo and de Blasio haven’t seen eye-t0-eye on many issues for years now, and the rift between them only grew during the COVID-19 pandemic, as they clashed on myriad issues including school closings and openings, nursing home deaths and vaccinations.

At Thursday’s briefing, de Blasio began by addressing the “good news” of the lifting of the state of emergency in New York state — which he said would result “the restoration of democracy in New York state” and the resumption of more home rule on various governmental matters.

Cuomo had announced Wednesday the state of emergency declaration would expire at midnight June 24 without renewal. De Blasio celebrated that by applauding other county executives and mayors across the Empire State who had sought greater liberty to make policy decisions affecting their respective cities, towns and counties.

“This is something that I stood shoulder-to-shoulder with county executives and mayors, all over the state,” the mayor said. “Democrat, Republican, upstate and downstate, we all said we needed local control back. The crisis, thank God, is passing its time to restore normal democracy. It’s going to allow us to do so much more to serve our people.”