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Cuomo Boasts of 30-Year Friendship With De Blasio Despite Public Spats

By Jeff Mays | February 23, 2015 2:59pm
 Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have had a number of public spats, yet the governor touted their 30-year friendship Monday.
Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo have had a number of public spats, yet the governor touted their 30-year friendship Monday.
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DNAinfo Photo Composite/Nigel Chiwaya

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — I love you, man.

Despite a history of public spats, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he and Mayor Bill de Blasio will go down in history as having the best political relationship between any governor and mayor —and he's willing to bet money on it.

"This will be the best relationship between a mayor and governor in modern political history when all is said and done," Cuomo said at the Audubon Ballroom in Washington Heights.

"I will wager these two go down in history as the best city and state government," Cuomo added, boasting of his 30-year friendship with de Blasio.

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The remarks come after a series of public disagreements between Cuomo and de Blasio. One of the most recent came after de Blasio's State of the City address, where he called for a minimum wage of $15 and announced plans to build affordable housing at Sunnyside Yards in Queens.

Cuomo's spokeswoman sent out a statement shortly after the speech saying that the higher minimum wage was a "non-starter" in Albany and that there were no short-term plans to use Sunnyside Yards for anything other than trains.

The city responded by saying the Metropolitan Transportation Authority did not control access to most of the yards and that the city had been in negotiation with the MTA, which is controlled by the state, about their plans.

Last Friday, the city's Economic Development Corporation sent out a request for proposals to redevelop Sunnyside Yards.

During a major snowstorm last month, Cuomo's office also gave de Blasio just 15 minutes notice that the MTA was shutting down the subway. The two executives did not appear together and each held multiple separate news conferences about storm preparation.

The pair have also clashed on how to pay for universal pre-K, the proliferation of charter schools and how to handle the news that Ebola had arrived in New York City.

De Blasio urged calm over Ebola at a press conference with Cuomo one day and the next Cuomo announced a quarantine at area airports with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Cuomo explained away many of the disagreements as being blown out of proportion by the press, a result of time limitations or minor tiffs between their staffs.

"You wind up in situations where you don't have the luxury of extensive communication sometimes," said Cuomo.

"You get a weather report, the MTA calls up and says we have to act now. If we don't get the trains in they are going to get snowed out. Sometimes you don't have a lot of time to have these conversations," the governor added.

De Blasio, who loves lacing his announcements with adjectives such as "transcendent" and "historical," did not seem to share Cuomo's exuberance about the status of their relationship

"I do not have enough sense of modern political history to fully analyze because I don't know enough honestly about the relationships between the particular governors and mayors," said de Blasio during an afternoon press conference at City Hall.

"I've said many times I've known the governor now almost 20 years, good working relationship and I think we've got a lot done," the mayor added.

Cuomo made a similar comment earlier although he added an entire decade to the length of his relationship with de Blasio.

"Appearances can be deceptive," said Cuomo. "We talk all the time. The mayor is a personal friend of mine. He has been for 30 years."

While that may be true, political consultant Basil Smikle Jr. said there's no denying a professional rift between the governor and the mayor.

"The governor isn't shying away from hyperbole. There clearly is a difference of opinion," said Smikle. "There doesn't seem to be the level of coordination that one would expect from executives of the same party."

And that could have to do with how each man is capable of exercising his political ambitions.

De Blasio has positioned himself as the face of progressive politics here and abroad, criticizing Democratic politicians on their messages following mid-term elections and traveling to Paris and England during his first year in office.

Cuomo is somewhat restrained from taking similar actions because it would immediately raise questions about his national ambitions.

"You have two leaders from the same party who are both very ambitious. They both have an interest in pushing an agenda to show they are the grownups in their respective offices and capable of handling business on behalf of the city and state," said Smikle.

"The climate is ripe for conflict without coordination," he added.

In his only concession, Cuomo said he and de Blasio "don't always agree" on the issues.

"He's got one job, I have another job," said Cuomo.