Governor Andrew Cuomo and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams described themselves as ideological allies and pledged to work together in their first joint appearance since Adams won the Democratic mayoral primary earlier this month.
The two Democrats stood side-by-side and shared warm words at a press event at the Lenox Road Baptist Church in Flatbush on Wednesday morning. The meeting was ostensibly intended to highlight the governor’s announcement of a new youth jobs program to combat gun violence. But it also offered an early glimpse of how the governor and the likely-future mayor might engage each other in the coming months.
On Wednesday, things appeared to be off to a positive start. Cuomo heaped praise on Adams, and said the two of them "come from the same political philosophy."
“We are progressive Democrats, and we have the same definition of what it means to be a progressive Democrat,” Cuomo said.
Describing what he called “a critical moment in New York City,” Cuomo said that improving public safety called for not the abolition of police but for work to “reform and repair the police relationship with the community.” Tacking that challenge, along with other issues like shootings and homelessness, he suggested, required “courage and competence.”
“I believe Eric Adams has both those elements. And I pledge today to work in partnership with him to solve these problems in New York.”
For his part, Adams described himself as “the original progressive,” and in an apparent broadside against his left-leaning critics on social media, quipped “being progressive is not what you tweet, but what you do to help people on the street.”
“Those countless men and women, everyday workers, they want safe streets,” he said. “They want their children educated, they want to stop hearing gunshots instead of alarm clocks, they want to make sure they’re employed and can live in the city.”
He called for “a holistic model” of policing that was not “heavy-handed” but that included plans for job creation and mental health support, and said he wanted to avoid criminalizing quality-of-life crimes while getting repeat violent offenders into jail.
“We don't want to criminalize poverty,” Adams said, reiterating his call to expand the use of Kendra’s Law to remove mentally ill people from the subways and put them in treatment facilities. “There's a clear line for me between violent crimes, predatory crimes and those crimes that people are doing because of the circumstances they’re in.”
Adams said he and Cuomo “see eye-to-eye that we must put in place real changes for people on the ground.”
That the two see eye-to-eye has not always been apparent. During a mayoral primary debate earlier this year, Adams declined to raise his hand when he and other candidates were asked if they would accept the endorsement of the governor, who is battling myriad allegations that he sexually harassed female employees, hid the true number of coronavirus deaths in nursing homes, and used government resources to secure a lucrative book deal.
When asked about those issues on Wednesday, Adams began by clarifying that “first of all, I didn't get an endorsement today.”
“I think an investigation is taking place,” he said. “Let the investigation go to its outcome. That's the system of justice that I protected in the city and will continue to do so. And the system of the investigation will determine the outcome.”
“The governor said that he would work with me,” Adams added. “And I'm sure he would have worked with any mayor that is in office.”
Recent years have shown, of course, that Cuomo does not always work well with the leader of the state’s largest city. He and current Mayor Bill de Blasio, who previously worked under Cuomo at the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, voiced similar mutual affection in the months after de Blasio was first elected mayor in 2013.
“Bill is going to lead this city in the great progressive, Democratic tradition that made this the greatest city on the planet,” Cuomo said shortly after de Blasio’s primary victory that fall.
The love didn’t last. Cuomo has clashed constantly and bitterly with de Blasio, and their mutual enmity only deepened over the course of the pandemic. After the harassment allegations against Cuomo became public, de Blasio called forcefully for Cuomo’s resignation; as recently as last month, Cuomo referred to de Blasio as “not competent.”
With Adams as mayor, the political calculus may be different. Cuomo, weakened by scandal, is gearing up for what could be a tough re-election fight next year. Adams earned strong support from many of the outer-borough voters that Cuomo will need to secure victory, and his experience as a former State Senator could prove helpful in navigating the complex politics of Albany.
Whether Cuomo and Adams will remain in alignment in the coming months remains to be seen. But for now, the two emphasized partnership and unity.
“I am not going to engage in all the differences and the debates,” Adams said. “I wear one jersey: New York City, and that is who I'm going to stand up for.”