'A case of permanent warfare': The mayor, the governor, and the New Yorkers stuck in the middle

Cuomo and de Blasio
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio Photo credit Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — The rocky relationship between Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo was on full display this past week as the two leaders tried to decide how to deal with rising COVID-19 cases in certain neighborhoods.

As WCBS 880's Steve Burns reported, it's almost the one constant in this strange new world — mixed signals and missed messages from the mayor and the governor.

The mayor first unveiled his proposal for rolling back the reopenings in areas with rising infection rates to prevent any further spread of the virus on Sunday afternoon.

"In some parts of our city, in Brooklyn and Queens, we're having an extraordinary problem," the mayor said. "The plan is to rewind in these nine ZIP codes."

He noted that his plan needed the green light from Albany.

"This can only happen with state approval," he added.

It came as almost no surprise when the governor withheld that approval in favor of his own plan two days later.

"Targeting by ZIP codes is imperfect," Cuomo said when announcing his own plan for determining closures by using a new color-coded system to identify COVID-19 cluster zones throughout the state. "It's not by ZIP code. It's not by census track. It's only by the number of cases."

Baruch College political scientist Doug Muzzio notes de Blasio is almost always at a disadvantage in this relationship thanks to laws that give the state so much authority over the city.

"Cuomo has a fixation with de Blasio. Whether it's personal? It's almost pathological," Muzzio said. "The city is a creature of the state. The state can mandate virtually anything."

Muzzio said the two leaders haven't been on the same page since de Blasio was inaugurated as mayor.

"This looks like a case of permanent warfare," Muzzio said.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams said if Cuomo and de Blasio can't set aside their "male toxicity" in the interest of trying to save lives in New York City, then neither of them should be there.

"People are afraid, people are concerned and just looking for some kind of direction," Williams said. "We've seen amazing incompetency, we've seen amazing one-upmanship. I really don't understand it. There has to be one message, period."

During on of his news conferences this week, WCBS 880's Peter Haskell pressed the governor on why he and the mayor can't present a united front. The governor chalked it up to different styles.

"He has a schedule, I have a schedule. I wanted to get you the information quickly," the governor said.

Back on March 2, the two leaders sat next to each other at Cuomo's office in midtown after New York's first reported COVID-19 case.

They haven't held an event together since, and Burns reports this week exemplified their hallmark in the months that followed: conflicting messages and talking past each other, leaving in their wake scared and confused New Yorkers.