Governor Cuomo's vision for New York City in 2016 includes a $20 billion housing plan and glitzy, glass-bound, multi-billion dollar infrastructure projects. It also might end up costing the city $1.4 billion.
Since the governor laid out his agenda during Wednesday's State of the State address, he's dismissed concerns about costs to the city, arguing that the focus should really be on the money he's pouring into projects such as the Penn Station overhaul and subway renovations that will shut down 30 stations for up to a year.
Speaking on the Brian Lehrer show Thursday morning, he scoffed at the press's response to the budget announcement, saying that he's offering the best news for the city in decades. "If you want to be fair or objective, the headline should be: Unprecedented Joint Effort Between The State And The City On Major Priorities," Cuomo said.
Yet there are serious reasons why no journalists have taken the governor's suggestion: Cuomo's plan would saddle NYC with $485 million in CUNY costs by 2017 and as much as $1 billion in Medicaid spending by 2020, according to Mayor de Blasio's estimate.
Cuomo, who barely consulted de Blasio on his budgetary plans, is forcing the city to undertake large costs that have long been covered by the state, seemingly in the service of his endless dick-measuring contest with the mayor. In the meantime he's throwing money at projects like the Javits Center renovation, which has already been called a waste of taxpayer dollars.
The governor's budget also included $20 billion over five years for affordable housing, supportive housing, and shelter beds, which could help alleviate the homelessness crisis that is most concentrated in the city. But Cuomo put Comptroller Scott Stringer, who has been vocal in his criticism of de Blasio's handling of homelessness, in charge of reviewing the city's Department of Homeless Services, in yet another politicized jab at de Blasio's approach to the issue.
The money for CUNY and Medicaid as laid out in the governor's plan would have to be diverted from other areas of the city's budget, which the mayor is set to present on January 21st, and he's made his problems with the proposition clear — both to the governor and in an unrelated press conference yesterday.
"We're adding 2,000 more cops," de Blasio said Thursday. "We wouldn't be able to do that in the future if we lost $1 billion from our budget."
De Blasio also rebuffed the governor's suggestion that the city could easily cover these proposed costs with its budget surplus. The mayor said that money cannot come out of city's $6 billion reserves, as that cash will go quickly if and when another economic downturn hits the city.
"When times get tough and the economy goes bad and revenues start plummeting, when I turn around and say to Washington and Albany we're in trouble, the cavalry is just not coming, so we have to protect ourselves," de Blasio said.
On Thursday night, after a day of backlash, Cuomo told NY1 that actually, his budget "won't cost the city a penny" — if it can make CUNY "more efficient from a bureaucratic point of view."
It's hard to see where the city might free up any money from CUNY, given that the university was facing a $51 million budget shortfall as of December. On top of that, the governor did not address whether the city's still expected to foot the bill for Medicaid increases, which is likely to be the heftier sum.
But de Blasio, for now, seems resigned. On Friday, he told reporters that he's taking the governor "at his word."