New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (left) and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio discuss the state and city’s preparedness for the spread of coronavirus at a news conference, March 2, 2020, in New York.
(The Center Square) – New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had a simple but direct message Thursday for New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio: Clean it up. Now.
“I’m telling the mayor (that) cleaning up the city is important,” Cuomo said as he wrapped up a press conference with reporters. “You have a lot of negativity in the air now. Positive progress, move forward.”
The governor said issues like graffiti on public buildings and homeless encampments are not helping the image of a city in the midst of recovering from the COVID-19 crisis.
The city’s recovery from the coronavirus is a remarkable story, and it’s one Cuomo said that should be touted as the rest of the country struggles now with the virus. People who left the city months ago for summer homes or other places also need to see that as they consider coming back.
“They certainly don’t need to see deterioration, and graffiti is something we can handle,” the governor said. “We’re not talking about curing COVID. Get the graffiti off the building. Detergent. Power washer. Brush. Get the graffiti off the buildings.”
Getting those residents and workers back is an important part of the city’s, and state’s, economic recovery. If people stay in the suburbs and work from home, it means the city will lose out on vital income tax revenue.
Complicating the matter is that the city emptied the budget for removing graffiti off private buildings and, according to the city’s 311 page, has suspended the Graffiti Free NYC service.
In his news conference earlier Thursday, de Blasio told reporters that city workers are cleaning up the area around City Hall and other public buildings. He also tried to assure the public that the city’s not reverting back to the 1970s, when the image of the city was far less safer.
He also said he doesn’t dwell on the comments of other politicians, including the governor.
“I don’t really get lost in whatever any public official is feeling that day or whatever message they’re trying to put out,” de Blasio told reporters. “I just want to get the work done, and when it comes to getting the work done, the city and state have actually done pretty well together.”
The graffiti is part of a growing crime issue the city’s attempting to handle during the recovery. The recent protests and growing violence has caught the attention of President Donald Trump. On Wednesday, Cuomo noted that he had to talk the president out of sending in federal law enforcement agents as he’s done controversially in other cities.
Cuomo said it would take a public emergency for him to send state police and essentially take over the city. That would need to happen before the federal government would have to intervene. The city’s problems are growing, he said, but not yet to that point.