Mayor Bill de Blasio, who 18 months ago in his inaugural address pledged to stand "shoulder to shoulder" with his one-time boss and friend of more than two decades Gov. Andrew Cuomo, revised his opinion of him on Tuesday in a highly unusual and extraordinarily personal news conference.
"I started with, meaning a year and a half ago, with the hope of a very strong partnership," de Blasio said. "I have been disappointed at every turn, and these last couple of examples really are beyond the pale."
Though the governor has been far more foe than friend to the liberal mayor's agenda throughout his time in office, de Blasio had been reluctant to criticize Cuomo, a fellow Democrat, time and again taking the high road and refusing to hit back at the steady stream of slights emanating from the state Capitol building.
But the disappointing results of the state legislative session, which wrapped up last week, moved de Blasio to change tactics, eschewing his normal hope of building consensus in favor of taking the bold step of directly confronting the state's most powerful official.
The first-term mayor attacked Cuomo for not supporting his tax break plan to create more affordable housing and said the governor played an instrumental role in the legislature reauthorizing the extension of mayoral control of city schools by just one year. De Blasio, who had asked for permanent control, said Cuomo utilized a cravenly transactional style of negotiating to further his own aims and "did not act with New York City's interests at heart."
"There is a kind of deal-making and horse-trading that he engages in that I think often obscures the truth," said de Blasio, who previously worked with Cuomo at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "It gets so convoluted I'm not sure he and the people around him remember where they began."
De Blasio's startling statements, delivered to a small group of reporters summoned to his office at City Hall, were the most direct challenge from a New York mayor to a governor in decades. Aides to the mayor said he chose to break his silence not just to unburden himself but to fight any perception of weakness and make clear he would rally constituents and elected officials to combat the governor's interference.
But the move carries tremendous political risks, as Cuomo wields significant power over the city and the mayor. Cuomo's communications director delivered a shot across the mayor's bow after de Blasio's comments.
"For those new to the process, it takes coalition building and compromise to get things done in government," Melissa DeRosa said. "We wish the mayor well on his vacation."
De Blasio and his family were scheduled to take a weeklong trip to the Southwest on Tuesday night, leaving just hours after he criticized the governor.
Cuomo has frequently blocked the mayor's agenda. He crushed a tax hike on the rich that would have funded a pre-kindergarten expansion; he scuttled the mayor's proposal of affordable housing over a Queens rail yard within hours of its inception; and he did not deny being the unnamed source in a Daily News story that ripped the mayor's leadership style.
In a clear rebuke to that tactic, the mayor stressed Tuesday that his criticisms were on the record. But he said he knew his remarks could have consequences, suggesting Cuomo is frequently motivated by perceived slights and could hold a "vendetta" against City Hall.
"I'm not going to be surprised if these statements lead to some attempts at revenge, and we'll just call them right out because we're just not going to play that way," de Blasio said. "We're not going to accept that as anything like acceptable government practice."