Cuomo lavishes praise, Adams plays it cool in first joint appearance

Brooklyn Borough President and New York City mayoral candidate Eric Adams, right, speaks to the media accompanied by Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a news conference in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Wednesday. | Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/AP Photo

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NEW YORK — Gov. Andrew Cuomo lavished praise on Democratic mayoral nominee Eric Adams during a joint appearance in Brooklyn Wednesday — and so did Eric Adams.

The glad-handing — expected between like-minded Democrats following an election — comes as Cuomo is in a battle for his political future and Adams is still basking in his primary win, fresh from a meeting this week at the White House.

While the governor gushed over Adams during a joint press conference on gun violence, the Democratic nominee was decidedly more cautious in returning the compliments. Adams agreed the two, both moderate Democrats who have been targets of the left, are longstanding “progressives,” united on public safety and criminal justice. But Adams focused more on his own record than that of a governor whose compounding scandals have imperiled his political future.

“Eric Adams … is going to be the next mayor of the city of New York, and I am very, very excited about that,” Cuomo said. “He is going to be extraordinary. I believe that.”

Adams appeared to think so, too, and kept the attention on himself.

“I am the face of the Democratic party,” he said during his turn at the podium. “I am the original progressive voice in this city.”

Cuomo pledged to “work in full partnership” with Adams, but very little in the past eight years of rancor between Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio would indicate that will be the case. When the current mayor took office in 2014, there was a brief honeymoon before a long cold war that continues to this day.

Cuomo is facing an impeachment investigation, a probe by state Attorney General Tish James and separate inquiries following a series of accusations over the past year.

For Cuomo to hold on to power, should he choose to run for a fourth term next year, he needs the Black and Latino city voters Adams just marshaled to victory in the June primary. And that means, for the next year or so, he needs an alliance with Adams.

“At this particular moment, Andrew Cuomo is paying top dollar for political friends,” Democratic consultant Eric Phillips said, but added the long-term relationship between the two will be determined largely by what they need from each other — and those needs will likely conflict sooner than later.

“There is no macro rule for how they will dance,” said Phillips, a former top aide to de Blasio. “When their interests align, they’ll govern together. The next day, that will be very different.”

Cuomo is fending off a battery of accusations that he sexually harassed women who worked for him, that he hid the full number of Covid-related nursing home deaths from the public and that he used his staff and government resources to help secure a lucrative book deal.

During a recent mayoral debate, Adams did not raise his hand when he and fellow candidates were asked if they’d accept the governor’s endorsement. When asked Wednesday if he’d changed his thinking, Adams didn’t directly answer.

“Well, first of all, I didn't get an endorsement today,” he said. “I think an investigation is taking place. 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.”

He added, “The governor said that he would work with me, and I'm sure he would have worked with any mayor that is in office.”

While the dynamics have changed somewhat, Cuomo voiced similar optimism in 2014 when de Blasio was first elected.

“Fortunately, my longtime friend and former HUD colleague Bill de Blasio is now mayor of New York, and being able to work cooperatively will be a major asset,” he wrote in his autobiography at the time, “All Things Possible.”

That cooperative spirit, like the book itself, had a very limited shelf life.

Faced with a common foe in Covid-19, the relationship between Cuomo and de Blasio only deteriorated. As Cuomo was beset with scandal, de Blasio was among the most ardent in calling for him to step down — a call he repeated Wednesday when asked about the joint appearance.

“Each leader has to make their own decision out of respect … I have the greatest respect for Eric Adams. That’s well known,” de Blasio told reporters Wednesday morning. “I’ve been very clear. Yes, the governor should resign. Period.”

He also said the relationship between governor and mayor is largely dependent on what governors can do for the city.

“Sometimes the governor does something to help New York City, sometimes they don’t. We’ve seen that vividly over the years,” de Blasio said. “When a governor does something good that helps New York City, thank them, appreciate them, work with them. When a governor, any governor, works against the interests of New York City, you’ve got to push them, you’ve got to call them out, you’ve got to be tough, because you’re not going to get anything out of Albany without fighting back when you have to.”

Adams’ first order of business will be reversing the uptick in shootings and gang violence — an issue on the top of voters’ minds and one that helped propel Adams to victory. That mindset will play out as a different slate of candidates — including Cuomo — gear up for 2022. The most recent polling from Siena College Research Institute found that crime topped education, infrastructure, economic equity, and racial equality as the most important issue when surveying voters of all parties, ethnicities and genders.

Adams advocated “not a heavy-handed policing model” but “a holistic model” that includes job opportunities and mental health support. He added that Cuomo's recently announced program complemented his discussion with Biden on the issue: “I look forward to the partnership with this administration, as well as the partnership with Washington, D.C., to finally turn around the systemic poverty and crime that’s pervasive in far too many communities in the city.”

The appearance preceded a meeting Cuomo had with community and faith leaders to discuss his program, designed to stem the flow of guns into the state and divert young people from gun violence. Cuomo appeared again with pastors and a slate of lawmakers following the meeting.

The appearance further emphasized a sentiment relayed by Adams’ earlier comments: The urgency is serving to unite those who might otherwise find myriad points of moral and political difference with Cuomo. Brooklyn Democrats, state Sen. Zellnor Myrie and Assemblymembers Diana Richardson and Latrice Walker, were among the local elected officials applauding Cuomo’s plan on Wednesday.

When a reporter asked about Myrie and Richardson’s statement in March demanding Cuomo’s immediate resignation even before the investigations conclude, due to “patterned, abusive behavior unbecoming of the office,” Richardson called that question “inappropriate for this press conference.”

“This is not the time for us to be in our emotions and personal endeavors,” she said, earning a grin from the embattled governor.

Amanda Eisenberg and Terry Golway contributed to this report.

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