After Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an emergency declaration to speed repairs in the city Housing Authority, Mayor Bill de Blasio warned the move would add more bureaucracy and slow the work. He also insisted Cuomo put himself on the hook for the results, just as he had by seizing control of the MTA.
“I think in both cases, this clarifies the governor’s responsibility,” de Blasio told NY1. “You want it this way? OK, he’s got it this way.”
In the long run, the mayor is right. But Cuomo’s not worried about the long run. He’s worried about September and November.
In the midst of a re-election campaign for this third term, the Democratic governor is trying to create a Mr. Fixit image that would propel him to victory in the September primary over actress Cynthia Nixon and in the November general election over any Republican.
That the image-building comes at the expense of de Blasio is icing on the cake. On a personal level, the governor finds boundless joy in reminding the mayor who’s the bigger boy in New York.
Yet the personal is also the political, with Nixon a stalking horse for de Blasio. They are close, and her fundamental criticism of Cuomo aligns with de Blasio’s in that both say the governor is not progressive enough.
By that, they mean he doesn’t tax and spend enough and is not as committed as they are to class, race and gender warfare.
As esoteric as their argument must sound to New Yorkers who struggle for daily life’s basics, Cuomo can’t afford to underestimate the argument’s appeal to liberal primary voters. His strategy is to redefine what it means to be a progressive.
“I don’t think a progressive administration leaves people in NYCHA housing with mold or takes 10 years to close Rikers,” he said last month. “It’s not what you say, it’s what you do. The reason why people turned on the progressive parties, the progressive Democrats, is because they talked a good game but they didn’t produce.”
It’s no coincidence, then, that Cuomo’s actions involve the Housing Authority and subways. Many of New York’s poorest are dependent on both, and both are in serious decline.
Any real progressive, Cuomo is saying, would fix them, not just spout coded slogans about income inequality and fairness. He also took a shot at de Blasio’s habit of throwing money at problems, saying that without better leadership, giving more money to the Housing Authority “is like throwing money out the window.”
It’s an aggressive move, but if Cuomo can produce even minimal improvements in services over the summer, that should help him among city primary voters in September against Nixon….