Michael Goodwin: Goodbye, Cuomo and de Blasio – here's how new leadership can save New York City

Gov. Groper is almost gone and Mayor Putz is moving toward the exit. Who says there’s no good news?

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Gov. Groper is almost gone and Mayor Putz is moving toward the exit. Who says there’s no good news? 

Andrew Cuomo’s resignation and the term-limited end of Mayor de Blasio give New York state and city much-needed chances for fresh starts. While the slate isn’t wiped clean, the unusual near-simultaneous changes at the top create an opening to clean up the mess the two men helped create and reverse the sharp decline of recent years. 

Put it this way: Kathy Hochul in Albany and, presumably, Eric Adams in City Hall can’t screw up more than Cuomo and de Blasio. 

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Over the last eight years, their performance confirmed them as the worst team of governor and mayor in modern times. 

Successful teamwork doesn’t require the top officials to like each other, and most don’t. Oddly, the screeching is loudest when they hail from the same party. 

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Democrats Mario Cuomo and Ed Koch were born to battle, and Republicans George Pataki and Rudy Giuliani had a blood feud that wouldn’t quit. 

Yet they and nearly all other combinations over the last 50 years understood they had to work together toward common goals. They realized, in broad terms, that what is good for the five boroughs is good for the whole state, and vice versa. 

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Cuomo and de Blasio didn’t see it that way. They were former friends who became bitter enemies and let their personal hatred interfere with their public duties. They rarely spoke. 

Most of the blame falls on Cuomo, whose dark mind and towering ego led him to spend more effort trying to one-up de Blasio than helping the city. 

During the COVID crisis, for example, there were times when de Blasio proposed an idea, only to have Cuomo ridicule it one day and adopt it the next day, as if he thought of it. 

The more the city suffered from crime, education rot and the virus, the more petty Cuomo became. He acted as if his only job was to criticize de Blasio as incompetent. 

He was right, and you can add corrupt and lazy, too. But de Blasio’s failings are an argument for why Cuomo should have gone the extra mile to help. A governor who cared about the population and economic center of the state would have done something besides throw bombs from the sidelines. 

Cuomo's bullying and obsession with revenge had become a drag on New York long before the groping scandal ended his toxic tenure. 

Had Gov. Hugh Carey behaved that way when Mayor Abe Beame flopped during the ’70s fiscal crisis, the city would have gone belly up and might not have recovered. Instead, Carey engineered solutions and city and state both benefitted.

Cuomo, on the other hand, actually hurt the city in three critical areas over recent years. 

First, although de Blasio is anti-police, Cuomo embraced an equally bad idea by signing the so-called bail-reform law that turned courthouses into revolving doors. 

Second, de Blasio is upfront about his virulent opposition to charter schools and turned the Department of Education over to the rapacious unions. 

Cuomo claimed to be for charters but stabbed the organizers and the poor families who count on them in the back. The governor once fought for increasing the number of charters and vowed to be the students’ lobbyist. But in recent years, he surrendered to the teachers unions on raising the number of available charter slots, with the result that no more schools can open in the city. 

Third, on taxes, de Blasio believes the more the merrier and never said otherwise. Cuomo took office in 2011 saying New York had no future as the nation’s tax capital, but 11 years later, it retains that destructive distinction. 

Fortunately, the city’s limit of two terms saved Gotham from the prospect of more de Blasio. But Albany has no term limits and had he not been pushed to resign after the attorney general’s finding that he sexually harassed 11 women, Cuomo would have been in office for another year and might have won a fourth term in 2022. 

His bullying and obsession with revenge had become a drag on New York long before the groping scandal ended his toxic tenure. But never to be forgotten is his lethal order sending infected COVID patients to nursing homes and his corrupt attempts to hide the truth.

Against that grim record, Hochul will benefit just from not being him. Her pledge to rid the government of anyone who behaved unethically during the harassment saga sets the right tone, as did her first press conference where she took more questions than Cuomo did in several months. 

Her reputation for commonsense initiatives will be tested by the radical, spendthrift Legislature, but a public sick of Cuomo will give her a honeymoon. 

Her top order of business must be to align with Adams, whose focus on fighting crime will increasingly take center stage as the general election nears. Her support for his agenda would be a powerful symbol and bring practical results in Albany that could be replicated in upstate cities also facing crime waves. 

And imagine the impact if they combined forces to press for an increase in the charter cap. 

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Another key area is rebuilding the MTA leadership, which Cuomo destroyed. The subways are especially critical to the city’s recovery, but the MTA is a state agency, so teamwork is vital. 

In these and other ways, seeing the new leaders working together to make New York safe and vibrant again would create a much-needed spirit of public optimism across the Empire State. Their cooperation would also be the perfect antidote to the long nightmare of Cuomo and de Blasio.

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