De Blasio Smooths Over Rift With Mark-Viverito, But Keeps Distance From Cuomo

Bill de Blasio said comparing his relationships with Melissa Mark-Viverito and Andrew Cuomo is like comparing apples and oranges.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, his girlfriend Sandra Lee, Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. (Photo by Mark Lennihan-Pool/Getty Images)
Gov. Andrew Cuomo, his girlfriend Sandra Lee, Mayor Bill de Blasio and New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. (Photo by Mark Lennihan-Pool/Getty Images) Mark Lennihan-Pool/Getty Images

Days after City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito offered a unusual, sharp rebuke of Mayor Bill de Blasio, the two appeared today at the Museum of Natural History today to tout the growth of their municipal ID program, trading whispers, a couple of laughs, and carefully phrased statements about their “honest, respectful relationship.”

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If that sounds different from how Mr. de Blasio has progressed on from a different disagreement—or series of disagreements—with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, that’s because it is, at least according to Mr. de Blasio.

“Have you heard of the concept of apples and oranges?” Mr. de Blasio asked a reporter who wondered whether the two recent rifts had taught him anything about consensus-building.

Apples and oranges or not, Ms. Mark-Viverito’s harsh words for Mr. de Blasio—she ripped into the mayor for downplaying the role she and the Council played in a deal with Uber, which Mr. de Blasio was trying to spin as a win for himself despite his agreement to drop the cap on the company’s service he had demanded—came at a difficult time for him. After months of backing the mayor on many issues, Ms. Mark-Viverito’s decision to reassert her independence came not long after Mr. de Blasio’s ongoing feud with Gov. Andrew Cuomo exploded into the public eye with Mr. de Blasio’s public accusations of vindictive behavior from Albany.

But Mr. de Blasio today rejected the notion there was something to learn about consensus-building after the two very public, but very different spats.

“The speaker and I have worked shoulder-to-shoulder now for a year-and-a-half, and have agreed on the vast majority of issues. It’s been a respectful, honest relationship,” Mr. de Blasio said. “Clearly I respect the City Council: I spent eight years of my life as a member of the City Council, and I understand in all matters before the city council they’re going to make choices about their own agenda.”

If that relationship is the apple, then what of the orange?

“The situation I referred to with the governor is a very different reality, based on different experiences,” Mr. de Blasio said.

Today, the anger evident in Ms. Mark-Viverito’s voice last week—when she implied on Twitter perhaps sexism was to blame for her getting little credit for the Uber (UBER) deal, and when she insisted that it was up to the Council, not the mayor, whether the cap would be back on the table—was gone, though she wasn’t overly effusive when she discussed her relationship with the mayor.

“Effective government and effective governance is being able to collaborate and being able to be clear about your positions, and so the mayor and I have a good working relationship, and it’s always in the best interest of New York City for that to happen,” Ms. Mark-Viverito said.

There are many, many differences between the mayor’s relationship with Ms. Mark-Viverito and with Mr. Cuomo. Though the Council is meant to be a check on the mayor, the body has rarely disagreed with Mr. de Blasio under Ms. Mark-Viverito’s leadership—the mayor has not vetoed a single bill.

Mr. Cuomo, meanwhile, has undermined just about every single priority of the mayor’s, beginning with his push for an income tax to fund pre-kindergarten. Then there were disagreements over charter schools, public housing funding, homelessness money, mayoral control, plans to update the 421-a tax credit, and the extension of rent regulations. More recently—after an abrupt request for more MTA capital funding at the end of the city’s budget process, Mr. Cuomo asked the city to increase its share of payment for the state-run authority again last week—from a planned $657 million over five years to $3 billion over five years.

“The last time we got a formal, timely request from the MTA was early on in our budget process, and we specifically met that request. At the very end of our budget process, literally in the very final days of the municipal budget process, suddenly another request appeared out of nowhere,” Mr. de Blasio said today. “This, too, has come as a surprise and my simple response is: we welcome more information on the financial commitment that the governor is making, and where the state will find the resources, and how they’re going to commit them. And then we’ll be happy to talk about it.”

But after acknowledging in July that his criticism of Mr. Cuomo might lead to retaliation, the mayor would not say whether he thought the latest request for much more cash amounted to retribution from the governor.

“I’ll be in a position to respond better when I see the specifics,” he said. “We literally don’t know where the money is coming from.”

Mr. de Blasio was fielding these questions just a couple hours before Mr. Cuomo was set to appear with Vice President Joe Biden at an Association for a Better New York event to make a major announcement. All of the city’s top elected officials were attending—all of them except Mr. de Blasio.

“My understanding is that they’re doing it in the context of an ABNY event. That’s the kind of event that I go to when I’m speaking but obviously not as an attendee,” Mr. de Blasio said. “But from what I know of it so far, I’m impressed by the announcement.”

Did that mean he wasn’t invited?

“It means an event like that is the kind of an event I go to when I’m doing exactly what the governor will do: when I have something to announce,” he said.

Mr. de Blasio’s press secretary later said he was invited, but declined to attend due to his schedule.

One person who would be in attendance at the governor’s event was Ms. Mark-Viverito. She and Mr. Cuomo have certainly not been close allies, but last week Mr. Cuomo—well-known for his ability to capitalize on animosities between others— went out of his way to praise Ms. Mark-Viverito as deliberative and carefully noted her role in the Uber debate, something the mayor didn’t quite do.

“I know that I had good conversation with speaker Mark-Viverito yesterday. I thought she was being intelligent and deliberative and responsible,” Mr. Cuomo said last week. “She told me she was going to be speaking to Uber about some ideas that she had which reflected, which were reflected in the final agreement with Uber.”

As for the issue that sparked Ms. Mark-Viverito’s ire—the proposed cap on Uber—Mr. de Blasio was today very careful to note it was not his domain alone.

“What I was trying to say and I’ll say it again, is the city government—which unites us all,” he said, gestuing to Ms. Mark-Viverito, “retains all its rights on the situation…Nothing says that the City Council can’t go back and look at that option if they’re unsatisfied with happened at the end of that process.”

Of course, Ms. Mark-Viverito—who largely controls which bills get to the floor and get a vote—can say whether or not the City Council reconsiders its cap idea after a four-month traffic study of Uber. But she wasn’t saying either way today.

“We’re looking to get that information and be deliberative about it,” she said.

De Blasio Smooths Over Rift With Mark-Viverito, But Keeps Distance From Cuomo