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Know Your Rights
Source: Crain's New York Business
Subject: Immigration
Type: Media Coverage

Liberals ecstatic as de Blasio finds backbone

Liberals who have long chafed under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s centrist governing are thrilled that Mayor Bill de Blasio attacked the governor Tuesday for stymieing the city’s agenda in Albany.

“Democrats are angry with a governor whose word is not trustworthy, and who pursues Republican policies,” said Zephyr Teachout, a Fordham Law School professor who challenged Mr. Cuomo in the 2014 Democratic primary. “Republicans are tired of him, too, as he seems less driven by ideas or governing and more by power and intrigue.”

She added, “This is a big moment for de Blasio. And for the state.”

In explosive, candid interviews with NY1 and the City Hall press corps, Mr. de Blasio upbraided the governor for playing petty politics with important policy issues like affordable housing, mayoral control of schools and rent stabilization. He blasted Mr. Cuomo for a “lack of leadership,” and said he had been “disappointed at every turn” by the governor.

The mayor’s comments sent a surge of electricity through the state’s frustrated progressive advocates, who have been sparring with Mr. Cuomo over taxes, education, housing and other issues, and are suspicious of the governor’s ties with real estate and hedge fund managers.

When Ms. Teachout bid for the Working Families Party endorsement last year, Mr. de Blasio helped persuade the party to give its ballot line to Mr. Cuomo. Still, she said she has no hard feelings for the mayor and is grateful that his dispute with Mr. Cuomo has finally spilled out into the public sphere.

“He made a big mistake [in backing Mr. Cuomo last year], I think, but I generally agree with him and am thrilled he’s standing up,” she said. “Punditry aside, New Yorkers really need leaders who are going to openly have their back, and say what they think. I liked him before, but I like him even better now.”

In the NY1 interview, Mr. de Blasio said “more and more of us [in progressive circles] are saying we’re just not going to be party to” Mr. Cuomo’s political bullying.

“The mayor is reiterating what many of us feel,” said Jonathan Westin, executive director of New York Communities for Change and a member of the Working Families Party. “His comments were a breath of fresh air.”

Mr. Westin spent much of this legislative session protesting against Mr. Cuomo for not pushing harder to protect rent-regulated tenants. He said the mayor’s comments could prove to be a galvanizing moment for those on the political left, who until now have been flailing against the governor or felt snookered by him.

“When we actually have a mayor that has his soapbox and is calling [Mr. Cuomo] out when he is not staying true to his word, then I think we have a much bigger megaphone to go out and push our policies,” he said.

It could be difficult for anti-Cuomo liberals to sustain any momentum from the mayor’s comments over the summer, when New Yorkers skip town and the legislature is not in session. Mr. de Blasio left the city immediately after airing his grievances for an eight-day family vacation.

Javier Valdes, co-executive director of Make the Road New York, a pro-immigration group, said he was concerned the dust-up between the mayor and the governor will obscure the issues underpinning their disagreement.

“It’s a frustration that a lot of us have felt for a long time, and it could give us momentum to change the status quo,” Mr. Valdes said. “What I want is for us not to make it about a fight between the mayor and the governor but about a more systemic change that needs to happen in Albany.”

Karen Scharff, executive director of Citizens Action, agreed.

“New Yorkers don’t care about personal vendettas, we need a government that is driven by the needs of ordinary New Yorkers not the priorities of billionaire donors,” she said, referencing Mr. de Blasio’s quote about the governor’s love of revenge.

Mr. Cuomo’s supporters note the governor has furthered many liberal causes. He won legalization of same-sex marriage, strengthened gun control and is moving to implement higher wages for fast-food workers, and secured rent-regulation changes that the mayor himself cheered. The governor’s more conservative stances on taxes and education are aligned with most voters in the state, who still give him high marks in public polls, though not nearly as high as they once did.

None of the mayor’s liberal allies expressed concern that his comments about Mr. Cuomo could backfire. But a Daily News editorial lambasted Mr. de Blasio for biting the hand the feeds him. The newspaper argued that the mayor did better on many of his policy issues than he likely would have without Mr. Cuomo’s involvement, given that Republicans who despise Mr. de Blasio control the state Senate.

“Lecturing that Cuomo should be more a philosopher king than a transactor borders on egotistical dementia,” the editorial stated. “In fact, although de Blasio doesn’t believe it because he came home from Albany without every last jot and tittle, the mayor made out well in Albany because Cuomo made deals with the Republicans.”

Asked to comment Wednesday, a Cuomo spokesman referred to communications director Melissa DeRosa’s response Tuesday about the first-term mayor: “For those new to the process, it takes coalition-building and compromise to get things done in government. We wish the mayor well on his vacation.​​”

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