Cuomo's collapse smooths path for next New York mayor

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Eric Adams knows the rhythms of Albany and the perennial conflicts between city and state. | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

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NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio spent eight years in office being tormented by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. New York’s next mayor, likely Eric Adams, will be spared that ordeal.

An embattled Cuomo may not have gone as hard against Adams as he did de Blasio, for fear of alienating crucial Black voters in New York City. But Adams stands to have a much easier time navigating Albany with Gov. Kathy Hochul than he would have with her predecessor.

“She’s not going to want a war with the mayor of New York City,” said political consultant Chris Coffey, who has advised Michael Bloomberg, Andrew Yang and other leading Democrats. “Hochul’s biggest liability will be a perceived or real lack of support among people of color, so I would think the last thing she would want would be to be at war with Eric Adams.”

Adams, should he win in November, will be the first former state lawmaker to helm City Hall since Mayor David Dinkins. He knows the rhythms of Albany and the perennial conflicts between city and state, giving him an advantage as he pushes an agenda to curb the influx of handguns into the city, tamp down a surge in crime and get the city economy back on its feet.

But the biggest thing working in Adams’ favor may be Hochul’s promise of a collaborative government — a sharp turn from Cuomo, whom fellow Democrats have dubbed a “tyrant, a “bully” and a “sociopath.”

“She is the kind of woman who will be open to other people’s ideas and recommendations and thoughts,” said Karen Hinton, a former press secretary to de Blasio who also worked for Cuomo, and accused him of hugging her inappropriately two decades ago.

“More estrogen and less testosterone will go a long way,” she added.

Facing impeachment, Cuomo announced his resignation on Tuesday after an investigation by the state attorney general’s office found he sexually harassed 11 women. Hochul, who hails from Buffalo, will become the state’s first woman governor.

Adams and Hochul spoke on Tuesday after Cuomo announced his departure. And on Wednesday, Adams said he was hopeful for a positive working relationship.

“When you turn over the state to an individual, you need someone with a steady hand. She has a steady hand. And I believe that she's going to be able to navigate the challenges we're having, and then voters will decide what's going to happen in the future,” he told reporters.

Adams said he’s developed a rapport with Hochul — who announced she’d run for governor Thursday — since she took over her current role.

“When she became lieutenant governor, we really developed a great relationship during her time,” he said.

Adams had called for Cuomo to resign over sexual harassment allegations — but also appeared alongside him in Brooklyn last month. The embattled governor for his part lavished praise on Adams — not missing an opportunity even as he was engulfed in scandal to needle his old rival de Blasio.

“It’s hard for me to work with an administration that is hyper-political and is not competent,” Cuomo said in June. “I need a competent partner in local government.”

Adams, his backers argue, might have been better positioned to navigate the relationship with Albany even if Cuomo had remained in office. He served as a state Senator before being elected to his current post as Brooklyn borough president.

“He has a different understanding of the way things operate,” said state Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island). “It’s always a shock to a mayor when he realizes he has to negotiate with us. Eric already knew that, so it puts him in a better position. He wouldn’t make those mistakes.”

But Cuomo’s fall means that instead of a third-term incumbent colleagues are now openly describing as a vengeful bully, the next mayor will work with a newly-minted governor likely eager to make friends as she seeks her own term. Hochul’s preferred style is to “listen first,” she said Wednesday.

The relationship between Cuomo and de Blasio, who had described themselves as friends eight years ago, turned sour early in de Blasio’s first term as the mayor pushed for taxes on the rich to fund pre-kindergarten and the governor resisted. The feud has marred New York’s pandemic response, efforts to fix its mass transit system, and ongoing attempts to improve struggling schools.

The mayor and governor even disagreed on how to count the dead at the height of the pandemic. (Cuomo still faces allegations of covering up Covid-related nursing home deaths.)

But Hochul, Savino said, “does not carry that baggage, and neither does Eric Adams.”

“There’s always going to be tension between Albany and New York City for a bunch of reasons,” Savino said, but added, “It will certainly be a different dynamic.”

Alicia Glen, the former deputy mayor for economic development under de Blasio, said Cuomo’s exit would offer the chance for a “do-over” in city- state relations. Hochul, she said, doesn’t have the same relationships in New York City, nor does she have the “deep ties” with business and civil leaders that Cuomo did.

“I think she’s going to be somebody who, in order to get her agenda advanced, is going to have to reach out,” she said. “I generally think women are more rational leaders and maybe can put away some of the petty crap and get things done.”

Yet, despite the rancor, the threats and the bullying, de Blasio didn’t make out too poorly under Cuomo. He ultimately won an early victory with funding for pre-K. He won an extended term controlling schools. Many of Cuomo’s threatened cuts to city funding never materialized. And, in the recent budget, New York City got essentially everything it wanted, though by then, Cuomo was already fighting for his political life and billions in federal aid helped loosen the purse strings.

And while Cuomo had a habit of publicly knocking down the mayor’s suggestions during the pandemic, he also had a habit of adopting them several days or weeks later. But the specter of the governor’s wrath hindered how the city operated even during the height of the pandemic.

“We always had to factor in how Cuomo would f— with us,” said one de Blasio administration official who requested anonymity to speak freely. “That was especially true in all things Covid.”

Curtis Sliwa, the Republican nominee for mayor, said that if he pulls off an upset and defeats Adams, he too would have an easier time with a Hochul administration.

“From everything I’ve heard, she’s not a control freak like Andrew Cuomo, who would wake up and count his enemies list every morning and check it twice,” he said. “She would defer more to the mayor, not being from New York City.”

The power structure between the city and Albany makes some tension between the mayor and governor inevitable. But the dynamic between Cuomo and de Blasio in charge was uniquely toxic.

“There’s a difference between some tension or conflict and outright rooting for failure,” said Rebecca Katz, a political consultant and former City Hall aide.

Téa Kvetenadze contributed to this report.

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