Tension has spilled over into the public in recent weeks as officials try to allay concerns about the unfolding crisis. It also underscores the delicate politics of the migrant crisis for a mayor battling Republican governors across the country and fellow Democrats in his backyard.
But behind the scenes, this is just the latest point of contention between the city’s two leading Democrats. The speaker and the mayor have not met or spoken to each other in an official capacity since a phone call more than four weeks ago, according to his spokesman, Mandela Jones. The mayor’s spokesman, Fabien Levy, noted that the two officials appeared together during a school name change on Oct. 6, but declined to cite their last scheduled meeting.
In fact, the speaker only appeared twice on the mayor’s official schedule in his first five months in office: for a 30-minute budget briefing on the morning of February 16 and on a note to postpone a meeting scheduled for April 21. Then, as budget negotiations heated up before the June 30 deadline, they met three more times, including over dinner at the Gracie Mansion, the mayor’s official residence. The detailed itinerary, disclosed through a public records request, does not capture spontaneous discussions among staff members. Councilor Tiffany Raspberry, for example, has briefed Council officials weekly since the crisis emerged.
It also represents a break in custom. While previous speakers and mayors have often butted heads publicly, they have still carried out regular checks.
In sum, what was presented as a friendly alliance when they took up their respective positions in January has turned into an icy partnership, according to their public statements as well as interviews with 10 people working on the migrant crisis, including the most requested anonymity to speak. freely on sensitive personal matters.
“As we try to find hotels, I can’t tell you how many Council members, local voters, who are shouting ‘House people’ but saying ‘Not in my district,'” the mayor said recently as he declared a state of emergency.
“The loudest have been the least benevolent,” he added at a press conference last week. “You can’t have it both ways. Either we are in the same boat or we are not.
The mayor declined to identify uncooperative council members, and examples were hard to come by. Republican Councilwoman Vickie Paladino voiced opposition to a proposed facility in her district of Queens weeks ago, for example, and plans have been scrapped. She said in an interview that she would support an emergency shelter elsewhere in her district, and the town hall attributed the cancellation of plans to a problem with a contractor.
In response to the mayor’s insinuations, the speaker released a list of 10 Manhattan hotels that City Hall might consider as temporary shelter for asylum seekers. A person with knowledge of the situation said administration officials were talking to the operators of at least four such sites.
“The mayor and I communicate. Our schedules, of course, are really busy right now with everything going on, but we’re definitely in communication,” the speaker said in a brief interview shortly after the mayor’s “not in my neighborhood” remarks. “.
When asked when she last met him or spoke about the migrant crisis, she added: ‘We haven’t talked about this topic, per se, for a little while. We met and saw each other at several places and activities throughout the city, so those conversations are still ongoing. »
The mayor and president began their terms on a friendly note, touting their shared roots in southeast Queens and take a picture together at their mutual alma mater, Bayside High School. The mayor has even dubbed their partnership the law firm Adams & Adams – although he pushed last year for a different candidate to lead the body, which serves as a check on his power. But a fight over public school funding erupted just as they were shaking hands over a municipal budget deal in June, and the rift between them has widened ever since.
Now the Council – still angry at education cuts – is preparing to pass a bill banning solitary confinement in city jails despite objections from the mayor and a personal appeal from the commissioner of the corrections department of the city, Louis Molina. The two branches of city government are arguing over which agency should control outdoor dining. And they fought over how to redraw the Council’s maps during a decade-long redrawing process.
The row deepens as the city bends under the weight of a national crisis that has taken hold here and threatens to undermine the authorities’ response. Council members say the administration kept them in the dark about its plans to put up temporary shelters in their districts, leading the mayor’s team to choose unsuitable locations, such as a tent installation in the Orchard Beach section. from the Bronx which was hastily moved before it even opened. Emergency Management Commissioner Zach Iscol told reporters this week the city spent $325,000 to demolish the site and another $325,000 to rebuild the facility on Randall’s Island.
The mayor, meanwhile, says the city would have more space to house migrants if lawmakers offered pitches in their neighborhoods — though he has not yet specified who he believes is exempt from responsibility.
Both sides privately complain that the other is intentionally misrepresenting their position: the mayor’s team claim that the Council is publicly taking credit for the solutions that the town hall was already implementing, such as the increased use of hotels, while that lawmakers claim they have not refused to house asylum seekers in their neighborhoods.
Some mayoral aides were particularly annoyed that the speaker, pointing to a New York Times op-ed pushing for a more forceful response, seemed to take credit for the suggestions.
“When you’ve decided you don’t want to engage in the real critical work, gaslighting and finger-pointing is a useful thing to do,” said board member Alexa Avilés, one of the most progressive members of the organization, about the mayor. “I already have 15 shelters in my community. We have always been part of the solutions the city attempts, even when it comes to inadequate solutions. My community has mobilized.
Avilés joined advocates and other council members at a rally outside City Hall last week to call on the mayor to scrap the planned tent installation on Randall’s Island. Lawmakers also asked the city to fill vacancies in key departments and free up more rental vouchers to move people into permanent housing and free up space at transient homeless shelters.
“Throughout this process, we have worked with our City Council partners and will continue to do so to address this crisis,” Mayor’s spokesman Fabien Levy said in a statement. “As the Mayor said, we are facing an emergency situation that often requires last minute emergency responses, but Council is always notified before each emergency shelter opens. We will continue to work as quickly as possible to fulfill our moral and legal mandates.”
In the months to come, the Council’s influence on the Mayor will be on full display. The 51-member body will have a say in a number of its priorities: mid-year budget cuts, the citing of casinos in all five boroughs, and a package of reforms intended to make way for more development of accommodations.
Jones, the council spokesman, took issue with the mayor and speaker being trapped in a protracted fight and cited the new visitor center, which will open in a hotel in Midtown, as an example of coordination.
“We are not interested in a counterproductive back-and-forth because it does not help any New Yorkers get out of the shelter system or ensure adequate support services for asylum seekers,” said Jones. “It is positive that the administration is looking for an interior location for a new [relief center]in line with Council’s policy suggestion for a more humane approach.