Bill de Blasio

Cuomo On Friendship And The ‘Soap Opera’

deblasiocuomoGov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio are friends again.

That’s according to the governor himself, who today once again downplayed the feud between the two Democratic leaders that erupted this month following the conclusion of the legislative session.

“He’s a friend,” Cuomo said. “I’ve known him 30 years and I’ve worked with him for many years.”

Cuomo had previously said his relationship with de Blasio — who accused the governor in an interview with NY1 of undermining his agenda and siding with Senate Republicans — as “professional” and not “love-dovey.” More >

Awakening the Sleeping Giant

If aliens decided to attack earth, we would probably come the closest to world peace we have ever been on this plant. The materializing of a common enemy would likely force the entire globe to band together to fight that common enemy.

As frightened as I am of alien invasion – (I mean, let’s be honest…it’s terrifying, right? ) – in many ways it would be beautiful. At least in how it brought us all together here on earth. Picture us on a hill in Big Sur singing the 1971 “Buy-the-world-a-Coke” song recently featured in Mad Men, only instead of selling soft drinks we’d be preparing for a Battle Field Earth type smackdown with a bunch of flesh gnawing Extra Terrestrials who have NO IDEA just who they are messing with.

I realize that’s a far-fectched example (or is it???), but my point is the absence of a common enemy sometimes forces people to turn on each other. It’s not our best attribute as human beings, but let’s face it…this is who we are.

The fact that politics in New York is largely dominated by Democrats these days, more so than it has been in 20 years when you had Republican governors and mayors, does not mean all is well. In fact, Democrat-on-Democrat violence may be at an all-time high. The takeaway here is that one party rule doesn’t lead to a Pax Democrata. In fact quite the opposite. And the absence of a strong Republican Party to challenge any of this Democratic rule has resulted in the left sowing its own seeds of destruction.

The origins of the fight between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio really go back to before de Blasio was even elected. Insiders say things got off on the wrong foot when de Blasio kept insisting on taxing the wealthy to pay for universal pre-kindergarten. Sources say Cuomo actually called the mayor before the election and assured him that he would deliver the money. Whatever the mayor needed from the state, Cuomo would secure it to help the mayor fulfill his campaign promise.

The catch? De Blasio merely had to stop saying the word “tax.”

Cuomo was headed into re-election mode and he didn’t need a liberal New York City mayor already unpopular in those coveted suburbs blowing up his spot. The mayor didn’t listen. He kept banging the tax drum. Now, one could argue that if de Blasio hadn’t done that, he may not have gotten the full amount of pre-K cash he was seeking, since Albany is all about posturing and deal making. But the damage was done. The die had been cast. Things deteriorated from there, culminating with the governor making all kinds of promises to the mayor to help secure the Working Families Party endorsement in May 2014, only to face backlash from the left when he was accused of not fulfilling those promises.

That likely set the mayor off. And not getting much of his agenda fulfilled in Albany this year only worsened the situation. Although in fairness, once again the mayor was calling for a tax on the wealthy to fund his 421-a tax abatement plan for developers, and that was a non-starter as far as the Governor and Senate Republicans were concerned.

What’s noetworthy here is that since the popular narrative was established that Cuomo is feeling estranged from the left, something very different appears to be happening. While the mayor was off galavanting in Rome, the governor managed to win the week here at home with liberals – supposedly the mayor’s base. And not just with the Uber fight, but also by using his executive authority to accomplish what the mayor has been harping on but has no real power to deliver, which is raising the minimum wage for some workers to $15 an hour.

It’s ironic, dontcha think? (It’s like rain!!! on your wedding day!!!)

Cuomo also managed to drive a wedge between the Mayor and one of his closest allies, City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. The speaker and the governor spoke again recently, even after their conversation last Wednesday. Cuomo clearly sees opportunity to make inroads with those who once wrote him off as too conservative.

In the last few weeks Cuomo has signed the sex assault legislation, securing his support among women’s group; established a special prosecutor for cases of civilians who die at the hands of police; and spoke at the NAACP National Convention in Philadelphia. I think it’s fair to say that the battle to win the mantle of the true left is in full swing.

Back in March, the governor went to war with the teachers union over major reforms he wanted to enact in the state budget that greatly undermined teacher’s ability to achieve tenure, and avoid being fired. It was a tough fight, and while he won the battle, in some ways he lost the war. The backlash was intense. Teachers are organized and they fight with no mercy. The governor’s poll numbers began to sink. But supporters of the governor point out that whatever personal hit he took on this issue, it was worth it for the collective good. It was the right fight to wage, even if it cost him in popularity.

What’s curious with the Uber battle and de Blasio, is that the Mayor kinda picked the WRONG fight. Not only did he lose, but he ended up alienated from his base of white progressives, blacks and latinos and New Yorkers who reside in Brooklyn and Queens. At one point the mayor even tried to paint his battle with Uber as something akin to doing battle with oil companies.

One observer points out that may have been bad advice from Press Secretary Karen Hinton, who spent some time battling Chevron for their actions in Ecuador. Uber was not the same fight. Not even close.



De Blasio’s Office: Flanagan Stopped Returning Calls

After Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan accused Mayor Bill de Blasio of not lobbying forcefully enough on extending mayoral control of city schools, de Blasio’s team says that wasn’t the case.

Instead, it was Flanagan who failed to return personal calls made by de Blasio on the issue.

“The mayor and his team conducted a great deal of outreach with Senator Flanagan, his team, and Senators in his conference, especially those from New York City, throughout the legislative process,” said spokeswoman Karen Hinton. “At a certain point Senator Flanagan simply stopped returning the mayor’s personal calls. The mayor also repeatedly offered to attend a hearing in Albany and testify on the merits of mayoral control. The mayor always welcomes the opportunity to remind individuals of the broad, bipartisan support mayoral control has historically enjoyed in New York City, as well as its proven track record of success.”

De Blasio traveled to Albany in June to lobby for an extension of mayoral control, as well as changes made to the 421a tax abatement and an extension and strengthening of rent control laws in New York City.

The mayor sought a permanent extension of mayoral control, but ultimately received a 12-month extension of the program.

Speaking with reporters earlier in the day, Flanagan sidestepped questions about the ongoing feud between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and mayor, but said de Blasio holds some blame for the short extension.

“If you care that deeply about mayoral control, I think you should free up your schedule and make yourself available,” he said.

De Blasio, Gloves Off, Blasts Cuomo

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio blasted Gov. Andrew Cuomo in an exclusive interview with NY1’s Errol Louis, blasting the governor he says is consumed with “transactional” politics.

“What I found was he engaged in his own sense of strategies, his own political machinations and what we’ve often seen is if someone disagrees with him openly, some kind of revenge or vendetta follows,” de Blasio said of the governor.

The broadsides against Cuomo are the culmination of an increasingly tenuous relationship between the state’s top elected official and the more liberal Democrat who was elected with a wave of progressive support in the city.

The relationship between Cuomo and de Blasio publicly had been one in which the two men carefully sought to avoid any on-the-record critiques, even as the governor was seen as purposefully undermining the mayor on key issues such as an Atlantic Yards land deal, the terms of extending the 421a tax abatement, mayoral control of New York City schools, universal pre-Kindergarten and a city-wide increase in the minimum wage.

De Blasio was likely venting both exasperation with his fellow Democrat, but also demonstrated a willingness to critique a governor who has fallen out of favor with liberal advocates, especially when it comes to economic issues and elected a Democratic-controlled state Senate.

In the interview, de Blasio knocked Cuomo for working to closely with Republican-led Senate at the expense of the Assembly, which is dominated by Democrats from New York City.

“I don’t believe the Assembly had a real working partner in the governor or the Senate in terms of getting things done for the people of this city and in many cases the people of this state,” de Blasio said.

In one stinging rejoinder during the interview, de Blasio took aim at the Cuomo administration’s habit of conducting background briefings and providing anonymous jabs at the mayor and his policies.

“And I want to hasten to say there was some interesting back and forth last week and some unnamed sources well-placed in the Cuomo administration had a few things to say. I’m here in front of you on record saying what I believe,” he said.

De Blasio vented that policy proposals are undermined or in some cases “rejected or manipulated” when he tries to find common ground with the Cuomo.

“I find that to be a lack of leadership because here was an opportunity actually to get something done for people,” de Blasio said.

The mayor is hardly the first Democrat this year to criticize Cuomo, who has been knocked by state lawmakers and city council members for the better part of the year following his re-election last November. But de Blasio is also the most prominent elected Democrat to do so, representing a broader falling out between a governor who is moderate on fiscal issues and a liberal wing of the party that sees itself ascending ahead of the 2016 elections.

Mayors and governors of New York over the last half-century have always had contentious relationships, dating back to Nelson Rockefeller and John Linsday, Ed Koch and Mario Cuomo and George Pataki and Rudy Giuliani.

But both Cuomo and de Blasio insisted they would be different, emphasizing their history together at the Department of Housing and Urban Development and ties to the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party.

In the early days of the de Blasio administration, the mayor sought to carefully cultivate Cuomo as a potentially ally in Albany, where Senate Republicans have been especially hostile to his proposals even before he sought to actively campaign for a Democratic-led majority in the chamber.

De Blasio personally vouched for Cuomo with the labor-backed and liberal Working Families Party, which only 13 months ago openly considered not giving the centrist governor its ballot line. Weeks after the WFP fight, de Blasio endorsed Cuomo for a second term as governor and introduced him as the state Democratic Convention in Suffolk County.

But the era of good feelings do not last, nor did it truly materialize for Cuomo and de Blasio.

This year, Cuomo pushed back against efforts to allow local governments to set their own minimum wage after pledging to back some version of municipal control.

He rejected de Blasio’s call for a permanent extension of mayoral control of New York City schools and initially supported three years before settling on 12 months with the Legislature.

At the same time, Cuomo distanced himself from the mayor’s push to expand affordable housing opportunities under the 421a tax abatement extension, frequently citing the AFL-CIO’s concerns about the lack of a prevailing wage provision for the construction sector.

The mayor was not without his own faults: De Blasio, in turn, had been increasingly frustrated with the byzantine politics of Albany, which he found difficult to navigate.

Adding to the tensions, de Blasio was said to have hired Karen Hinton, the wife of former top Cuomo aide Howard Glaser, without giving the governor a heads up on the appointment.

The bad blood culminated last week, when a Cuomo administration official — who appeared in direct quotes to speak in the recognizable cadence and syntax of the governor himself — blasted the mayor in a background briefing.

“He is more politically oriented in terms of his approach … and then he makes it almost impossible for him to achieve success,” the Cuomo official said, according to The Daily News.

The interview comes just as de Blasio is about to leave the city for a summer vacation through the west and southwest. It airs tonight on NY1’s Inside City Hall at 7 p.m.

Updated: Cuomo spokeswoman Melissa DeRosa responded in a statement.

“For those new to the process, it takes coalition building and compromise to get things done in government,” she said. “We wish the Mayor well on his vacation.”

Senate Holds Up de Blasio, Cuomo MTA Appointees

In yet another “screw you” to NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, the Republican-controlled Senate departed Albany without acting on the mayor’s appointees to the MTA Board, multiple sources confirm.

De Blasio had three nominees pending with the Senate to serve on the state-run authority, which manages transit – buses, subways, trains, bridges and tunnels – in New York City and surrounding areas including, Long Island: David Jones, a leader with the nonprofit Community Service Society who has advocated reduced transit fares for low-income New Yorkers; Manhattan Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who chairs the chamber’s Transportation Committee; and Veronica Vanterpool, director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign and a member of the MTA’s “reinvention” commission.

The trio would bring some diversity to the Board. Jones is black, and Vanterpool and Rodriguez are Latino. The mayor’s decision to tap the councilman did raise some eyebrows, with questions about whether him doing double-duty as both a board member and chair of the committee that oversees the MTA would present a conflict of interest.

The mayor’s appointees were supposed to replace two holdovers from the Bloomberg administration – John Banks and Jeffrey Kay – and give de Blasio control of the four seats on the MTA Board that are afforded to City Hall.

A Senate spokesman said members of the majority are “performing our due diligence on the mayor’s selections.” He did not confirm or deny that the majority’s decision not to act on the mayor’s appointees was born of the Republicans’ ongoing anger with de Blasio for his failed effort to assist the Senate Democrats in taking back the majority during last year’s elections. The bad blood between the conference and the mayor (not to mention the difficult relationship between Cuomo and the mayor) made this an unusually difficult session for de Blasio in Albany.

The Senate did not hold up everything having to do with the MTA, which is always a bit of a sticky wicket – especially for the downstate members – due to its long-running financial issues. (The authority a $14 billion funding gap in its five-year capital plan, which Albany did not address before the session ended).

MTA Chairman Tom Predergast was confirmed earlier this week for a new six-year term. During his confirmation hearing, he warned that if lawmakers don’t do something about the capital plan gap by the end of the year, the agency might have to delay contracts for some projects.

The Senate also confirmed one of Cuomo’s two MTA Board nominees – Larry Schwartz, a former top aide to the governor who is now working in the private sector for an airport services company called OTG Management, to replace Republican Andrew Saul. Schwartz could not travel to Albany to attend his confirmation hearing in person, and so participated via video conference.

Cuomo’s other nominee, Peter Ward, president of the small (but growing in both numbers and clout) New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council. Ward was supposed to replace Allen Cappelli, a Democratic operative from Staten Island who was selected to serve on the board by former Gov. David Paterson in 2008.

News of Cuomo’s decision not to reappoint Cappelli, who has demonstrated an independent streak during his time on the board, angered both Staten Islanders and transit advocates. Cappelli himself expressed disappointment about his imminent removal.

The Senate could not immediately provide an answer as to why Ward was not confirmed, but Schwartz was. (I’m told a few other gubernatorial appointees were also held up due to the fact that they could not appear in person before the Health Committee, as desired by its chairman, Sen. Kemp Hannon). Sen. Diane Savino, an IDC member from Staten Island, said she had not pushed for the delay, saying she believes the “clock just ran down.”

Cappelli said he has no idea why he was spared – at least in the short term – and believes he will continue to serve on the board until the Senate confirms a replacement. At the moment, lawmakers have no plans to return to Albany before next year’s session, which begins in January.

“At least I can continue to serve and fight for capital projects and service enhancements for a period of time,” Cappelli said. “We’ll see what happens.”

Cuomo Queried on Relationship With de Blasio

Governor Cuomo took shots from the press, Thursday, over a “personal friend” of his, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio butted heads this session over New York City’s decades-old tax abatement program, 421-a.

The Mayor’s plan placed an increase in affordable housing as the top priority, while the Governor wanted changes to wages earned by workers involved in those projects.

“There’s no doubt we had a difference of opinion on this package of bills and how it was handled and the proposal for 421-a’s renewal,” Cuomo said “I did not support the mayor’s 421-a renewal. I don’t believe it could have passed.”

The tumultuous relationship between the governor and Mayor Bill de Blasio has been a famous one in Albany this year. A Cuomo administration official was even quoted in The Daily News Wednesday criticizing the mayor. At a press conference Thursday, Cuomo was asked directly if he was the source of that criticism.

“I said a lot of things, I don’t know exactly which one you’re referring to,” Cuomo said.

When pressed on why he’s chosen to speak out against the mayor’s plan – privately or not – Cuomo said that’s just what he prefers.

“If I don’t believe a proposal makes sense, I say that it doesn’t make sense,” Cuomo said. “I think it’s better to be clear upfront about a situation rather than let it develop and then you say down the road ‘well how did this happen?’ 421-a was not going to happen.”

Cuomo went on to publicly criticize the mayor’s proposal for 421-a, saying the program is now “not only renewed, it’s improved.”

“It is a better bill than the proposal we received, and the proposal we received, I don’t think it was viable from a legislative point of view,” Cuomo said. “You need a good idea that can also be accepted as a good idea.”

Mayor de blasio also fell short on control of New York City schools. The final deal includes a one-year extension.

Senate Majority Leader John Flanagan said that short-term extender is due, in part, to a lack of cooperation on the mayor’s part.

“Earlier in the year, we had endeavored to set up some hearings, and we didn’t really have any cooperation,” Flanagan said. “So, I think a year’s time will allow everyone to have more in-depth discussions. I think doing it for a year is a good thing to do, and I expect that we will have very intense discussions.”

Needless to say, Mayor Bill de Blasio may have gotten less than what he wanted this time around. But Cuomo says the final deal appropriately addresses the needs of New York City.

“I think the city of New York does very, very well in this package. You look at what the city asked for – that’s what the city received,” Cuomo said. “The mayor of the city of New York controls the education system and continues to control the education system. The rent reform package is the best rent reform package in history. Well, some people say it’s still not enough – it’s the best in history.”

Heastie: de Blasio “Okay” With One-Year Extension

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie says New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was “okay” with a one-year extension to mayoral control of city schools.

The final deal between legislative leaders and Governor Andrew Cuomo includes a one-year extension for the mayor, two years short of what the Assembly was seeking.

The Assembly had already passed a three-year extension earlier this session. The Senate came back earlier this month with a one-year extension, which ultimately won out in the final deal.

Despite approving the three-year extension, Heastie says his members ultimately agreed to just one year.

“Members were fine giving mayor three years, but again, this is not a unicameral legislature and the Senate would only want to give one year,” Heastie said. “I spoke to the mayor, he said ‘we’ll live to fight another day’. He was okay with one year.”

That means Mayor Bill de Blasio will be back in Albany next year to seek another extension to mayoral control. That could prove tricky for some downstate lawmakers during an election year.

But Speaker Carl Heastie says the Senate wasn’t willing to compromise.

“There comes a point that the other house refuses for whatever reason,” Heastie said “I think it is wrong to not want to give stability to New York City schools and you’d have to ask Senator Flanagan why they refused to move.”

If the legislature ultimately approves another one-year extension for Mayor de Blasio next year, he’ll be stuck lobbying Albany during his own election year in 2017.

De Blasio Holding Out Hope on Rent, 421a

There’s a general consensus around Albany that NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio got the short end of the stick in the so-called framework deal announced yesterday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislative leaders, but the mayor is trying to put a positive spin on things, saying today there’s still time for things to change while the deal remains open.

Speaking to reporters earlier today, de Blasio heaped praise on the Assembly Democrats, (even though his support among conference members has reportedly been eroding steadily over the past several weeks), saying they have been “consistently responsive to the city’s concerns,” and adding: “They’ve been serious, they’ve been resolute, and they’ve gotten a lot done, particularly on issues like rent regulation.”

De Blasio went out of his way to thank Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, who stressed during his own chat with reporters that the framework deal is just that – a framework – and nothing has been nailed done just yet.

The mayor said there are “very promising signs” at the Capitol when it comes to rent regulation, and that 421a is “very much on the table.”

“There’s a real dialogue happening on that right now,” de Blasio continued. “So I think we all need to step back and see where this process is leading us…And, you know, we don’t know if the session is going to end today, tomorrow, or some other day, but, you know, we’re focused right now on what’s going on with both the rent issue and the 421-a issue.”

De Blasio was asked whether it was a mistake for him to campaign on behalf of, and raise money for, the Senate Democrats in their failed effort to re-take the majority, given the fact that it angered the Republicans and made them predisposed against his Albany agenda. His response? “No.”

(It should be noted that the Senate Republicans aren’t the mayor’s only problem – or even his biggest problem – at the Capitol these days. His on-again, off-again relationship with the governor appears to be very much off, and some Democratic lawmakers who are disappointed with the rent deal as it currently stands are accusing Cuomo of siding with the Senate GOP against the Assembly Democrats during negotiations in large part to spite the mayor).

The mayor was also asked about the fate of his affordable housing plan if the 421a tax abatement program for real estate developers lapses. (The framework deal includes a four-year extension, but the whole thing will expire if the labor unions and real estate industry fail to reach a prevailing wage agreement within six months). Again, de Blasio was reluctant to accept that the framework is the final word on this issue, saying:

“There’s a real dialogue going on right now on 421-a. Our focus is on greatly intensifying the affordability that can be achieved through 421-a. I’ve spoken to this issue many times, as to the vision we have for making 421-a a real vehicle for greater affordability for New Yorkers. Some very serious discussions are happening right now and we have to see where that leads us.”

Capital NY’s Laura Nahmias reported earlier this afternoon that some Assembly Democrats are pushing for changes to the rent agreement, including an increase in the threshold for vacancy decontrol, though the governor’s office denied that was the case.

AQE Apologizes For Misattributed Quote

The union-backed advocacy group Alliance for Quality Education on Thursday apologized after incorrectly attributing a quote to Senate Majority Leader John Flanangan that was actually uttered by the Senate GOP’s political nemesis, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“We wish to extend our apologies to Senator Flanagan for misattributing a quote to him that was not his regarding charter schools in an email and twitter post earlier today,” said Billy Easton, the group’s executive director. “The quote came from an article focused on Senator Flanagan’s position on the charter cap, but it was not a quote from him. This is a mistake for which we are sincerely sorry. We are taking all of the posts down and issuing this correction. Further we will not be undertaking the planned social media campaign.”

The group had hinged its campaign on a bill introduced by Flanagan this month that would have raised the statewide cap on charter schools by 100 and linked it to a 12-month extension for mayoral control of New York City schools.

AQE had initially today planned a social media campaign knocking Flanagan for an apparent “flip flop” based on a quote given to Capital New York in November that was critical of increasing the number of charter schools: “Why don’t we go to the root of the problem and fix traditional public education? That’s where our energy should go, not in an ever-increasing number of charters.”

The quote was actually said by de Blasio, who is still seeking an extension of mayoral control, which is due to lapse later this month.

Despite the mix up, AQE says it still has concerns with Flanagan’s legislation.

“However, we still have concerns about the inconsistencies of Senator Flanagan’s position and the policy implication of his efforts to expand the number of charter schools. In November he did speak against raising the charter cap, yet just a few weeks ago he put in a bill to expand the cap by 100 charter schools,” the group said.

In a separate quote, AQE pointed to a previous Flanagan statement that they said demonstrated less enthusiasm for raising the charter cap.

“That certainly has come up,” Flanagan said, referring to the cap. “There’s been a discussion about it. But I think it somewhat begs the question—if you look right now, the cap is at 460, and I may be off by one or two, but there’s still like 160 slots available. So if you told me, ‘Hey listen, we’re bumping up against the cap. We have 452. We have applications pending. We have to do something.’ That’s a lot different.”

De Blasio: Albany Had Ample Time To Consider 421a

After Gov. Andrew Cuomo earlier on Wednesday effectively backed a straight extension of the 421a tax abatement without any changes to the current structure, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio disputed the contention he didn’t present his proposal in time.

De Blasio, speaking with reporters in the Bronx following Cuomo’s comments outside of the Capitol building in Albany, said Albany had “plenty of notice” and had a lot of backing.

De Blasio wants to extend 421a by expanding affordable housing under the abatement, which was part of an agreement struck with the real-estate developers, normally allied with Cuomo.

“I think we cut a great deal,” de Blasio said. “I think we demanded of developers what should have been demanded of them long ago. We would no longer provide tax breaks for condos, you know, luxury condos – imagine, right? Luxury condos getting a tax break in New York City. That doesn’t make any sense to me.”

But the mayor’s proposal ran afoul of the AFL-CIO, which sought a prevailing wage for construction workers, not just service workers, as de Blasio supported.

Cuomo had not laid out specifically what he would do with 421a, but he had sounded sympathetic to the arguments being raised by the AFL-CIO.

On Wednesday, Cuomo for the first time tamped down talk of changes to the abatement, adding that de Blasio didn’t give state officials enough time to put together an agreement at the state level.

De Blasio disagrees.

“We gave all of the different elements in Albany plenty of notice of the vision,” he said. “Obviously it had a lot of support. So, I’ve never bought into the notion there wasn’t time to get to the larger plan. But I have said, if they don’t’ want to get to a larger plan and they don’t want to get to the larger reform, then we should just go ahead and end the 421-a program once and for all.”

Still, Cuomo could be posturing in the final days of the legislative session as state lawmakers express little willingness to reach broad agreements beyond deal with the “have-tos” of straight extensions be it either the real-estate abatement, rent control or mayoral control of New York City schools.

Cuomo has been known to re-ignite negotiations at the last minute in the past and some lawmakers have not ruled that happening this year.