Cuomo’s Departure Primes NYC to Emerge From Era of Acrimony
(Bloomberg) -- Andrew Cuomo’s resignation primes New York City’s elected officials and business leaders to shape policy minus the meddling that made the governor a fearsome opponent even for fellow Democrats.
The city soon will be free of a pair of top Democratic leaders known better for sparring than working together. The incoming governor and mayor will be more eager to collaborate on the pandemic, economic recovery, mass transit and other monumental challenges facing the U.S. financial capital, civic leaders say.
Eric Adams, 60, the favorite in the November mayor’s race to replace Bill de Blasio, is the first Black Brooklyn borough president, a four-term state senator and onetime police officer. Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, 62, who will finish Cuomo’s term as the first woman to hold that job in New York, is a former U.S. House member from Buffalo.
Their experience and pro-business records put them in an ideal position to shepherd New York City, the state’s economic driver and longtime battle zone for federal, state and local governments, said Kathryn Wylde, president and chief executive officer of the Partnership for New York City, a nonprofit business advocacy group.
“It couldn’t be a better match in terms of their philosophical positions and their priorities,” Wylde said by telephone.
New York governors historically tangle with the leader of the largest U.S. city. Governor George Pataki and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, both Republicans, clashed on public school buildings, a stadium, the state budget and more. Before them, Governor Nelson Rockefeller threatened to investigate city government while Mayor John Lindsay suggested that the city secede from the state.
Cuomo, 63, who is resigning amid a sexual-harassment scandal, and de Blasio were onetime friends of 30 years. They both worked on policy wins including legalizing gay marriage, a $15 minimum wage, gun-sale restrictions and universal pre-kindergarten.
But during a decade as governor, Cuomo loomed large over the city. He thwarted de Blasio’s push for a millionaire tax, oversaw mass transit as it decayed, and interfered with the city’s attempts to contain and respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
Former Cuomo ally Jeffrey Gural, a casino owner and New York City property magnate, described Hochul as “a breath of fresh air.”
Gural, chairman of GFP Real Estate LLC, had a friendship going back two decades with the governor, but it soured after the two clashed over sports betting and other gambling policies.
“If it’s one thing Andrew was good at, it’s revenge,” Gural said in an interview. “The new leadership will open up discussions on the merits and we’ll be able to make our argument without having to worry about repercussions.”
A standout fight between Cuomo and de Blasio has been the state’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs the city’s transit system. The governor was pressured to take responsibility after trying to blame the mayor for the agency’s troubles around repairs, policing and cleanliness.
Cuomo pledged $1 billion for improvements and hired then-Toronto transit chief Andrew Byford to help fix it. Byford resigned within two years after disagreements with Cuomo, who unsuccessfully sought in recent months to overhaul the agency’s leadership structure to consolidate power.
Hochul, when she takes office in two weeks, will be able to choose her own MTA leader or nominate Janno Lieber, the acting chairman and CEO as of July 31.
The incoming governor will also have to find billions of dollars for MTA operations once federal aid runs out, said Danny Pearlstein, policy and communications director at Riders Alliance, a commuters group.
“What we want to see from her is affording Janno the independence he needs to do a good job and also marshaling state resources to put behind him so that service can become more equitable,” Pearlstein said.
Since the pandemic’s arrival in March 2020, the relationship between Cuomo and de Blasio has been particularly fraught. When de Blasio called for sheltering in place, Cuomo said fear was the bigger issue, and then ordered a lockdown days later. When the mayor wanted to shut schools, Cuomo said only he had that power. As the two sparred over the issue, Adams tweeted for Cuomo and de Blasio to stop the bickering.
“Andrew’s philosophy of politics is a zero-sum game: ‘If I’m winning, he needs to be losing. If someone else is winning, I’m losing,”’ said Peter Kauffmann, a political consultant who worked for Cuomo’s re-election in 2014 and for de Blasio as temporary chief of staff during the pandemic’s height.
Adams, the Democrat nominee for mayor, has pledged to make New York City’s pandemic recovery a national model.
“I look forward to working in partnership with Lieutenant Governor Hochul on the key issues affecting our city and region at this pivotal moment,” Adams said in a statement on Tuesday.
Hochul, from a part of the state where decades of job losses and shrinking population have been met with multibillion-dollar public investments, will immediately recognize New York City’s post-pandemic needs, according to Wylde, of the Partnership for New York City.
“Remote work, the impact of job loss on the Black and Brown communities -- I suspect she’s going to be very sensitive to that and responsive to those needs,” Wylde said.
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