Mark-Viverito Won’t Criticize Governor But Other Council Liberals Will

Councilman Jumaane Williams. (Photo: William Alatriste/NYC Council)

Councilman Jumaane Williams. (Photo: William Alatriste/NYC Council)

Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito repeatedly refused to criticize Andrew Cuomo today–but that didn’t stop at least one liberal council member from jumping on the governor after his latest dispute with Mayor Bill de Blasio.

Ms. Mark-Viverito, a liberal allied with Mr. de Blasio, refused to answer the Observer‘s question today about whether she believed Mr. Cuomo had abandoned his progressive principles in the wake of growing criticism from the left.

“I’m not going to answer that question,” she replied.

Mr. Cuomo has frustrated many liberal Democrats with his refusal to grant Mr. de Blasio’s signature campaign proposal allowing the city to raise taxes on its richest residents to fund universal prekindergarten, as well as his focus on reducing taxes, his commitment to charter schools and his efforts to work with state Republicans. This week, he ruffled more feathers when he declared that it was “too late” to change language in the state budget that would allow the city to use state funds to pay for rental subsidies to help homeless families leave the shelter system.

Councilman Jumaane Williams, a leading member of the council’s Progressive Caucus, however, criticized the governor for the stance and went on to declare himself tired of people–including the governor–whom he said call themselves Democrats but “have not pushed what Democrats say that they believe.”

“I’m concerned about many of the people in state government who call themselves Democrats but have not pushed what Democrats say they believe so that has concerned me for a whole host of things,” Mr. Williams told the Observer.

Mr. Williams also implied he was dissatisfied with the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of breakaway Democrats who now govern the State Senate with the Republican Party.

“The Advantage [homeless housing subsidy] program is one. The Dream Act is another. I was very happy when I heard what [Mr. Cuomo] was doing with prisoner education, that may be on the chopping block now,” Mr. Williams lamented. “I’m talking about all the people who say they are Democrats, who have chosen to be Democrats, and are not really fighting for the issues to move forward.”

Councilman Brad Lander, a deputy leader in the council and co-founder of the Progressive Caucus, was more diplomatic than Mr. Williams when it came to Mr. Cuomo, but nonetheless hinted at growing frustrations.

“I mean I think it’s very important those things move forward and [Mr. Cuomo] has not yet taken steps to move them forward. In some cases he’s taken steps to move them backward,” said Mr. Lander when asked whether he was satisfied with Mr. Cuomo’s approach to the big-ticket items in Mr. de Blasio’s liberal agenda.

“Hope springs eternal,” Mr. Lander added. “I am eager to see them move forward.”

Mr. Cuomo’s office did not immediately return a request for comment, but an administration source said the governor “is trying to actively resolve the homeless issue,” and noted the governor’s “long legacy of combatting homelessness.”

“He has worked on homeless issues nationwide and is exploring different ways to resolve this problem,” the official said.